07/05/2006 12:00AM

Sun King preps for Whitney


ELMONT, N.Y. - Following Sun King's heart-breaking head loss to Silver Train in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, trainer Nick Zito said he would seek an easy race before tackling Grade 1 company again in next month's Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

Zito appears to have found what he was looking for in Friday's $65,000 Albert the Great, one of two overnight stakes on a nine-race card at Belmont Park. First post for the Friday card is 3 p.m. There is a pick-six carryover of $81,707 entering Friday's card.

Five opponents were entered against Sun King, but the connections of Sinister G said Tuesday they plan to scratch. Still, with Kennel Up and Lieutenant Danz coming out of the inside two post positions, there should be ample speed to set up Sun King's late kick.

It has only been in his last two starts that Sun King has developed into a late-running closer. As a 3-year-old, Sun King won the Leonard Richards in gate-to-wire fashion and was second in the Haskell Invitational after setting the pace.

Zito, who trains Sun King for Tracy Farmer, said he decided to change tactics with Sun King after he continued to fight on despite getting carried out when running last in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in March. Sun King rallied from 12th place to win the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at notoriously speed-favoring Keeneland before his late rally fell just short in the Met Mile.

"If he kept coming even though he was being pushed out, maybe when I sprint him he'll come with that charge, and that was the deal,'' Zito said. "He's a tremendous horse."

Zito said he wants to run Sun King in this 1 1/16-mile race because he didn't want to run against Flower Alley in the Whitney off a nine-week layoff. Rafael Bejarano is named to ride Sun King from post 5.

Premium Tap could be the main threat to Sun King. A son of Pleasant Tap, Premium Tap comes off a third-place finish to 2005 Gotham winner Survivalist as the even-money favorite in a one-mile allowance race here on June 16. Two starts back, Premium Tap beat Survivalist in an allowance race at Gulfstream. John Kimmel, who trains Premium Tap, is one win shy of 1,000 career victories.

In the $65,000 Ziggy's Boy Stakes, Fabulous Strike tries to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup. Fabulous Strike won a stakes such as this on May 10. Luxembourg and Urban Guy loom the main threats.