08/16/2004 11:00PM

Sulamani back on right track

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Sulamani returned to his winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Norse Dancer in the $841,000 Juddmonte International Stakes at York on Tuesday, while handing the favored French invader Bago the first loss of his career.

Winless in three starts since taking the Turf Classic at Belmont last October, Sulamani was aided by rain softened ground to notch his fifth Group/Grade 1 triumph. He hooked Norse Dancer at the eighth pole and battled under Frankie Dettori for a three-quarter-length victory. The winning time for Sulamani, the 3-1 second choice, was 2:11.82 for 1 1/4 miles, 88 yards on ground officially labeled good.

Bago came into Tuesday's race with a 6-for-6 record, including a win last out in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on June 27. Tuesday, he threatened approaching the final furlong but was always held by the first two, finishing third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths in his first start against older horses.

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said a decision about Sulamani's next race would not be made until after stablemate Doyen's run in the Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 11.

It was Godolphin again in the $247,000 Great Voltigeur Stakes, in which Dettori gave Rule of Law a brilliant front-running ride to land the 1 1/2-mile Group 2 contest by 2 1/2 lengths from Let the Lion Roar. Rule of Law was clocked in 2:37.10. Both Rule of Law and Let the Lion Roar are earmarked for the classic St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster on Sept. 11.

York's three-day Ebor Meeting concludes Thursday, when One Cool Cat, fresh from a victory in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes at six furlongs, faces 15 rivals in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes. The Nunthorpe is a five-furlong dash worth $366,000.

With Group 1 sprint winners Somnus and Frizzante missing from the lineup, One Cool Cat must still deal with Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Fayr Jag, most recently 13th in Frizzante's July Cup.

Group 2 winners Avonbridge and The Tatling will contend, but the big threat could be Balmont. A son of Stravinsky trained by Jeremy Noseda, Balmont won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at last year's Ebor Meeting, as well as the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. He returned from a nine-month absence to be third in the July Cup before finishing a neck second to Bahamian Pirate in a six-furlong allowance. Bahamian Pirate is also entered in the Nunthorpe.

In the six-furlong Group 2 Lowther Stakes for juvenile fillies, Soar, the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes winner, and Salsa Brava, second in the Group 2 Cherry Hinton Stakes, face a stiff challenge from sharp maiden winner Suez.