05/18/2006 11:00PM

Uruguay champ Invasor the real deal

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Invasor, under Ramon Dominguez, rallies to capture the Pimlico Special by 1 1/4 lengths in his first U.S. start.

BALTIMORE - Invasor was a champion in Uruguay, but what he was capable of doing in North America was a mystery even to his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.

Mystery solved.

Making his North American debut, Invasor rallied inside of odds-on favorite Wanderin Boy in deep stretch and drew clear to a 1 1/4-length victory in Friday's Grade 1, $500,000 . Wanderin Boy held second, 3 3/4 lengths over West Virginia.

Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, was scratched to run in Saturday's William Donald Schaefer Handicap.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum bought Invasor last winter after he went 5 for 5 in Uruguay. McLaughlin received the horse in December and began to get high on him as he watched him train.

"We had more people tell us he might be a $10,000 claimer than a Grade 1 winner,'' McLaughlin said. "They thought he might have been running against really cheap horses; you just don't know. But the owner and the breeder were high on him and I'm just fortunate Sheikh Hamdan bought him and sent him to me.''

Because he was bred in the Southern Hemisphere, Invasor was eligible to run in the March 25 United Arab Emirates Derby, where he finished fourth behind Discreet Cat. McLaughlin hadn't necessarily planned on running him in the Pimlico Special, but put him in when the field came up with just six horses.

"We just wanted to see how good he really was and how he stacked up and it looked like a good spot," McLaughlin said.

Wanderin Boy, coming off two monster wins at Keeneland, looked like the lone speed in the race and was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. As expected, Wanderin Boy, under Javier Castellano, made the lead and set fractions of 24.07 seconds, 47.48, and 1:10.88 with Invasor, under Ramon Dominguez, stalking from second.

Approaching the quarter pole, Invasor began to drop back while West Virginia rallied into second as Wanderin Boy continued on the lead. Wanderin Boy had a three-length lead at the eighth pole, but was beginning to drift. Meanwhile, Invasor re-rallied and came up the inside of Wanderin Boy. Invasor appeared to come over on West Virginia and Norberto Arroyo, who claimed foul. The stewards took no action.

Invasor covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.40 and returned $15.40 to win.

Nick Zito, the trainer of Wanderin Boy, was disgusted. "That's one of the toughest races I ever lost as a trainer, very disappointed," Zito said.