10/04/2001 11:00PM

Sunray Spirit's Beyers tower over opponents

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ELMONT, N.Y. - If the California-based juveniles are as good as they seem, Sunray Sprit is the one to beat in Sunday's $100,000, Grade 3 Cowdin Stakes at Belmont Park.

A son of 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Hennessy, Sunray Spirit comes to New York off a two-length maiden victory at Del Mar in his third career start. His final time of 1:03.10 was the fastest 5 1/2 furlongs of the Del Mar meeting, and he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101, nearly 20 points higher than any of his Cowdin rivals have registered.

Eoin Harty, the head trainer for Godolphin's California- and

Chicago-based string, said he was pointing Sunray Spirit to last weekend's Arlington-Washington Futurity.

But he scrapped the plan when the horse worked poorly before the race. Harty said he has worked the colt twice since then and has been pleased with what he's seen.

"He's worked very well, he deserves a shot,'' Harty said. "He's run into some decent company. Out there, every time you run, you're running against somebody good.''

At Saratoga, Harty was successful with two of three juveniles that he shipped in from California, winning with Imperial Gesture, who took a maiden race at Saratoga before winning the Grade 1 Oak Leaf last weekend Harty also won a maiden race at Saratoga with Burnt Ember.

California-based Came Home shipped East to win the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and Officer, a California shipper trained by Bob Baffert, was the odds-on favorite for Saturday's Champagne.

The Call of Duty may offer Sunray Spirit his toughest challenge in the 6 1/2-furlong Cowdin. After winning his maiden first time out at Saratoga, The Call of Duty finished second behind loose-on-the-lead Heavyweight Champ in a seven-furlong allowance race on Sept. 19.

"I think we needed the out not physically, but mentally,'' said Mike Marlow, assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "Gary [Stevens] said he was a little green. He ran good though. He settled back, made a nice move around the turn and into the stretch. If he runs that race back and moves up a little, we'll be okay.''

Harmony Hall, David's Expectation, and Cat's Delight complete the field.

Forest Heiress tops Astarita

Forest Heiress, unbeaten in three starts, heads a field of five

expected to run in the $100,000, Grade 3 Astarita Stakes, the featured event on Monday's Columbus Day card at Belmont.

Forest Heiress, a daughter of Forest Wildcat owned by New Farm and trained by Ben Perkins Jr., is 3 for 3 including a victory in the Grade 3 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth. Perkins believes she is better around one turn and is not pointing the filly to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Others expected to run include sharp maiden winners Argentina, Bella Bellucci, Speed to Burn, and possibly Madame X Ski.

With Belmont open Monday, it will be dark Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Red Bullet breezes

Red Bullet, the 2000 Preakness winner, breezed three furlongs in 38.26 seconds Friday morning over Belmont's training track. It was his first move since suffering a muscle tear in the glutteal muscle of his right side while finishing last in the Woodward.

"Bullet went excellent; I was real happy with that,'' trainer Joe Orseno said. "I just wanted to see him stretch out. It was his first breeze since we did a little bit of work to his hind end and we let him stretch those muscles. He's doing very well, he's very sound. Hopefully, we're on the right path.''

Red Bullet is being pointed to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.

Orseno said Macho Uno returned to the track Friday for the first time since his disappointing third-place finish in the Ohio Derby on Sept. 29. He galloped 1 1/2 miles. Afterward, Orseno had blood drawn on the colt to make sure there was nothing amiss, in part because of Red Bullet's bout with colic two weeks ago. Orseno was awaiting the results of the blood work.

Kimmel targets Pegasus for Bowman's Band

Bowman's Band, who won the Summing Stakes at The Meadowlands on Sept. 22, breezed six furlongs in 1:13.45 over Belmont's main track Friday in preparation for the Pegasus Stakes on Oct. 19.

"He's on target,'' Kimmel said.

Bowman's Band, a son of Dixieland Band earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the Summing Stakes, his third win in as many starts.

Kimmel also worked his promising juvenile filly A New Twist, who went five furlongs in 1:01.51. The first foal out of Twist Afleet, A New Twist was an impressive maiden winner during the Belmont spring/summer meet but was bothered by sore shins which forced her to miss the summer.

Kimmel said A New Twist is still "a couple of works away" from a race.

*Fans at Belmont can wager on Sunday's Arc de Triomphe from Longchamp, but only via SAM machines beginning at 11 a.m. Advance wagering was to be available on Saturday.