10/01/2007 12:00AM

This time, Fabulous Strike takes the heat

EmailELMONT, N.Y. -- With the possible exception of Curlin, the most impressive performance turned in Sunday at Belmont Park was by Fabulous Strike, whose 5 3/4-length romp in the Grade 1 Vosburgh re-established his credentials as a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

While Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup off an eight-week layoff, Fabulous Strike returned to form off a 12-week layoff following the worst race of his career, a fifth-place finish in the Smile Sprint Handicap on July 7. Fabulous Strike suffered from severe heat exhaustion that day, but he came out of Sunday's Vosburgh in excellent shape and even endured a 6 1/2-hour van ride back to his home base at Penn National. The van trip usually takes just over three hours, according to trainer Todd Beattie, who drove the van,

"We just sat on the parkway," Beattie said Monday. "We got in at 1oa.m., but he ate everything this morning."

Fabulous Strike earned a Beyer Speed Speed Figure of 114 for his Vosburgh score, a number indicative of what he was running prior to the Smile. Fabulous Strike had run figures from 115 to 119 in four victories before the Smile, albeit three of them coming at Mountaineer Park.

"Obviously the competition at Mountaineer was hard to judge," Beattie said. "That was impressive yesterday. I was really happy for him to give [a performance] to me like that. I was real confident when I saddled him in the paddock."

Beattie said Fabulous Strike would do the bulk of his training at Penn National, at a private barn Beattie had built.

Meanwhile, Vosburgh runner-up Talent Search did well to hold on to second after dueling with Fabulous Strike for the first half-mile. Talent Search held off 4-5 favorite Discreet Cat by a neck. Trainer Mark Shuman said Talent Search came out of the race well and will also be pointed to the Sprint.

"I thought he ran a great race; the winner, he's something else," Shuman said Monday from his headquarters in Fair Hill, Md. "I just hope he didn't look as good this morning as [Talent Search]."

In the Breeders' Cup, Talent Search will be returning to a Monmouth Park surface over which he won the Teddy Drone Stakes by 6o1/4 lengths.

"You hope you come out and improve a little bit," Shuman said. "If the other horse is that good, that's what we have to live with. We'll give him a shot at Monmouth and hope we can draw the rail and he can draw the 14-hole."

Discreet Cat to BC dirt mile

Discreet Cat, who finished third in the Vosburgh in his first start since March 31, looked like a horse in need of a race on Sunday. He emerged from the Vosburgh in good order and will be pointed to the $1 million BC Dirt Mile on Oct. 26.

"He cooled out fine, scoped clean, seemed fine," said Rick Mettee, the assistant who oversees Godolphin's New York operation. "He was pretty tired on the racetrack when he came back, but I couldn't be happier with him this morning."

Though he won his debut at six furlongs, Discreet Cat's best races have come at mile in last year's Cigar Mile and Jerome.

The Vosburgh was a place to get started after he came out of the Dubai World Cup with a severe throat infection. Discreet Cat was a stalking third, but did not fire down the lane.

"I think we hit a bunch of horses at the top of their game," Mettee said. "Our horse definitely needed the race. It was a pretty tough stop to come back in. I could see he was beat turning for home. It was nice to see him battle on in that photo and grind out for third."

Pletcher loaded for BC

On the morning after a highly successful weekend, trainer Todd Pletcher said he will likely be pointing 11 to 13 horses to the 11-race Breeders' Cup series on Oct. 26-27.

The group will include Any Given Saturday and Lawyer Ron (Classic); Indian Vale, Unbridled Belle and Octave (Distaff); Ready's Image and The Roundhouse (Juvenile); Wait a While and Honey Ryder (Filly and Mare Turf); English Channel (Turf); The Leopard (Juvenile Turf). Possible starters include Sunriver (Turf) and Why Tonto (Juvenile Turf).

Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale finished heads apart when first and second in Sunday's Grade 1 Beldame. The victory was key for Unbridled Belle not only because it was her first Grade 1, but also it was her first important victory away from Delaware Park.

She earned a 104 Beyer Speed figure, equaling her career-high achieved winning the Delaware Handicap two starts back.

Indian Vale, meanwhile, battled on after dueling with Ice Cool Kitty early on, and though she suffered her first defeat at 1 1/8 miles, she is still 6 for 6 at the distance around two turns. The BC Distaff at Monmouth Park is at 1 1/8 miles around two turns.

"Unbridled Belle has shown she doesn't have to have Delaware to be successful," Pletcher said Monday. "Indian Vale is still undefeated around two turns going a mile and an eighth. From that standpoint they should both appreciate going to Monmouth."

English Channel, who won his second straight Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, will also appreciate going to Monmouth. He has won the last two runnings of the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth, setting a course record of 2:12.89 for 1 3/8 miles when he won it earlier this year.

English Channel finished third in last year's BC Turf at Churchill and fifth in 2005 at Belmont.

"I think he's a little more relaxed this year than he was, which helps," Pletcher said. "It's obviously encouraging he's had two big Grade 1 wins there. It'll be interesting to see which Europeans show up."

Frankel on Ginger Punch: Blame me

Bobby Frankel blames Ginger Punch's lackluster third-place finish in Sunday's Beldame on himself, saying he ran the filly back too soon after her victory in the Ruffian on Sept. 8. He also said that no decision has been made on whether Ginger Punch would be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Distaff at a cost of $180,000.

"I think I ran her back too soon," Frankel said. "She tried; she was a little dull. I wasn't very smart about it. I take the blame for [Sunday]."

Pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup don't have to made until Oct. 15 and Frankel said it is possible he and owner Frank Stronach would wait until that deadline before making a decision whether to supplement.

Majestic Warrior amps up

Hopeful winner Majestic Warrior completed preparations for Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes by working five furlongs in 1:03 Monday morning over Belmont's main track.

Meanwhile, one of his chief competitors, J Be K, was declared out of the race by trainer Bob Baffert due to a temperature.

Also, Pletcher said Monday that Ready's Image, the Hopeful runner-up, could start in the Champagne. Pletcher said he is likely to send The Roundhouse to Keeneland for the Breeders' Futurity, though a final decision would be made on Tuesday.

Majestic Warrior, with Garrett Gomez up, worked in company with the unraced 2-year-old Dream Smart. Majestic Warrior began his breeze about a length behind Dream Smart and went his opening three furlongs in 37.66 seconds. Majestic Warrior finished about a half-length ahead of Dream Smart while in hand. Track clockers said Belmont's main track was dull Monday morning, as the fastest five-furlong drill was 1:00.84.

"He was doing it very easily and he didn't ask him for really too much in the stretch," trainer Bill Mott said. "I think [Gomez] thought the track was a little deep and he felt he was doing enough. I always work him in company. He's just a big, laid-back colt - does a little more when he has something to go with."

Mott said Majestic Warrior has done "excellent" since the Hopeful.

Etched impressive in debut

Overshadowed by all the weekend stakes races was the impressive debut of the 2-year-old colt Etched, who romped to a 6 3/4-length victory on Saturday, covering six furlongs in 1:09.72 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

Etched is a Darley Stable home-bred son of Forestry out of Unbridled Elaine, who won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont and earned $1.7 million.

Etched, who wore blinkers for his debut, raced six wide early, shied away from a horse to his inside entering the far turn, then made a huge move to strike the front by the five-sixteenths pole. He came into the stretch with a 1 1/2-length lead, increased it to eight by the eighth pole, and finished 6 3/4 lengths in front.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Etched could be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile or the $100,000 Nashua at Aqueduct on Oct. 28.