10/27/2004 11:00PM

Sun King has potential to spring upset

Sun King, jogging at Lone Star Park on Monday, should get a ground-saving trip from the rail as he tries to come from off the pace in the Juvenile.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Nick Zito believes that one day a winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile will go on to win the Kentucky Derby. He hopes he's the next trainer to try to accomplish the unprecedented double.

Zito sends out Sun King in Saturday's $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park. Though Sun King has just a maiden win to his credit, he has displayed immense talent in three starts. If he can take another step forward, Sun King may just be able to upset a field that includes four graded stakes winners.

Though the eight horses lined up for the Juvenile equals the smallest field in the 21-year history of the race, the participants in the race believe it could be the most competitive.

Proud Accolade is the undefeated winner of the Champagne. Roman Ruler is 3 for 4 and lost the Del Mar Futurity by a neck. Afleet Alex won the Sanford and Hopeful and was beaten a half-length in the Champagne. Consolidator, in his first try around two turns, won the Grade 1 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity.

"Afleet Alex, Proud Accolade, Roman Ruler, in any given year any one of them could be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup,'' said Tim Ritchey, trainer of Afleet Alex.

Sun King, a son of 1999 Derby winner Charismatic, has not done enough to be called outstanding. Not yet. But what he has done leads one to believe he could be special.

He was beaten nine lengths in a debut that was better than it looks on paper. He came back to win a maiden race at Belmont on Sept. 17, fending off a quarter-mile challenge from Patriot Act, who came back to be second in the Breeders' Futurity.

In the Champagne, Zito wanted Sun King to come from off the pace. Instead, he broke so sharply that he wound up pressing the pacesetting Silver Train. He did well to hold third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Proud Accolade.

"He had every right to quit,'' Zito said.

Zito is making a switch to Edgar Prado, in hopes he can get Sun King to come from off the pace. Sun King should get a ground-saving trip from the rail.

Of his 40 Breeders' Cup starters, Bob Baffert has run 13 horses in the Juvenile. He ran one-two-four in the 2002 Juvenile with Vindication, Kafwain, and Bull Market. Saturday, he sends out the favored Roman Ruler, who owns wins in the Best Pal and Norfolk and suffered a narrow loss in the Del Mar Futurity.

Roman Ruler is a son of the high-strung 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Roman Ruler did not impress winning the Norfolk, a race in which he was equipped with blinkers for the first time. Baffert is taking the blinkers off for this.

"He's nothing like his sire, believe me,'' Baffert said. "I think he's learned to relax. It was just to get him to focus a little bit. We feel he doesn't need them.''

Proud Accolade successfully stepped up from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles when he won the Champagne. Now, he must show he can be successful around two turns, something trainer Todd Pletcher believes is overrated.

"A mile and a sixteenth is a mile and a sixteenth, no matter how you slice it,'' Pletcher said. "From the first time they step on the track they're going around two turns every day. I don't think it's a big deal. A lot of times horses will run their best two-turn race the first time they do it.''

Ritchey said he believes Afleet Alex would be undefeated if not for some traffic trouble in the Champagne. He found room at the three-sixteenths pole, but still couldn't run down Proud Accolade.

"I still think we probably had the best horse in the race,'' Ritchey said.

D. Wayne Lukas has won the Juvenile five times and will send out Consolidator on Saturday. Consolidator was twice beaten by Afleet Alex in Saratoga, but showed great improvement when stretched out around two turns in the Breeders' Futurity.

European shipper Scandinavia has never raced on dirt, but is a half-brother to Composure, who finished second in the 2002 Juvenile Fillies. He hails from the barn of Aidan O'Brien, who won this race in 2001 and finished third in it in 2002.

"He's a horse that loves the dirt at home,'' O'Brien said. "He's a horse very much on the upgrade. Whether this is one step up too quick we're not sure.''

Wilko, who also makes his dirt debut, and Twice Unbridled, a maiden, complete the field.

The field

Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Purse: $1.5 million; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 1

1Sun KingE. Prado6-1
2Roman RulerC. Nakatani2-1
3Afleet AlexJ. Rose7-2
4ConsolidatorR. Bejarano6-1
5ScandinaviaJ. Spencer12-1
6Proud AccoladeJ. Velazquez5-2
7Twice UnbridledV. Espinoza100-1
8WilkoL. Dettori20-1

* All starters carry 122 pounds
* Odds by Mike Watchmaker