05/25/2006 11:00PM

Wilko returns from England for Met Mile

Wilko returns from England to start in Monday's Grade 1, $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The last time Wilko shipped to North America from England, he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, upsetting the likes of Afleet Alex, Sun King, and Roman Ruler.

Of course, that was 19 months and 10 races ago. Since then, Wilko has been a disappointment, going winless in 10 stakes tries, though he did finish third in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March.

After spending the last seven weeks in England, Wilko has returned to North America where he will run in Monday's Grade 1, $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park. Wilko is expected to face six rivals in the Met Mile, including Sun King, Bandini, and Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Silver Train.

Jeremy Noseda trained Wilko as a 2-year-old, running him in 10 grass races, winning two of them. Just before Wilko's last turf race in England, California-based owner Paul Reddam purchased a majority interest in Wilko with the express purpose of bringing him to the United States and pointing for the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Wilko stamped himself a legitimate Derby prospect by winning the Juvenile, his first start on dirt.

Things did not work out for Wilko as a 3-year-old. After running fourth in the San Felipe and third in the Santa Anita Derby he finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and 12th in the Preakness. He suffered an ankle injury and was away from the races until the following December. After running third in three of four stakes tries, Wilko was shipped to Dubai, where he finished third in the Dubai World Cup.

A week after the World Cup, Wilko was shipped to Noseda's barn in England. Noseda said the plan was for Wilko to return to America in either the Met Mile or the Stephen Foster Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race run at Churchill Downs on June 17.

"The fact is in our mind we don't feel that he maybe truly gets a mile and a quarter," Noseda said Friday from England. "Most probably the Stephen Foster at a mile and an eighth is a spot-on trip, yet the Met Mile to me - looking from England - is one of the standout races on the American calendar."

What Noseda didn't see in the prospective Met Mile field is a standout favorite.

"Maybe it'll produce a standout horse," Noseda said. "At this moment I would most likely look at ourselves as a 6-1 or 7-1 shot going into the race. There's no horse in there that I can sit here and say that will definitely beat me. It's a huge race. I feel he had a hard race in Dubai, and he's in great order and it's such a big event we have to give it a go."

Noseda said Wilko has been training mostly on turf in Europe, something that may benefit him, as he has always had issues with his feet.

"I would say that training on our kinder conditions I hope would show a benefit on the race on Monday," said Noseda, who has retained Kent Desormeaux to ride.

Noseda said the Met Mile would play a pivotal role in determining Wilko's future.

"I think that's very much open," Noseda said. "All the balls are up in the air until we see how things pan out on Monday."

Discreet Cat back on work tab

Discreet Cat, the undefeated 3-year-old owned by Godolphin Racing Inc., worked three furlongs in 39.69 seconds Friday morning over Belmont Park's main track. It was his first timed work since arriving here from Dubai in late April.

"I was happy with him," said Rick Mettee, who runs Godolphin's Belmont stable. "He went off in hand and we really just let him stretch his legs a little bit. He'll step up to a half-mile next week."

Discreet Cat debuted last summer at Saratoga, winning a six-furlong maiden race for then-trainer Stanley Hough. Godolphin bought him after that race, and brought him Dubai, where he won two races, including the UAE Derby.

Mettee said Discreet Cat is being pointed to the Dwyer Stakes here on July 4.

Oh So Awesome gears up for Belmont

Oh So Awesome, the Team Valor-owned colt who has shipped in from England to run in the Belmont Stakes, worked four furlongs in 50.41 seconds Friday over Belmont Park's training track.

Oh So Awesome, a son of Awesome Again, arrived here in early May and finished third in the May 19 Match the Hatch, an overnight stakes rained off the turf to the dirt. In that race, he was well off the early pace before finishing with interest along the rail. He was beaten 3 1/2 lengths.

"We gave him a little something today and will work him harder next week," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Jerkens is of the belief that the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes will suit Oh So Awesome just fine.

"He's used to running a mile and a half in turf up to his kneecaps," Jerkens said. "It seemed like he was just getting warmed up at the end of the race [last time]."

Mike Smith will ride Oh So Awesome in the Belmont.

As of Friday, there were eight runners considered definite for the Belmont: Bluegrass Cat, Bob and John, Deputy Glitters, Hemingway's Key, Jazil, Oh So Awesome, Steppenwolfer, and Sunriver.

* For the first time, Belmont Park will offer full-card simulcasting from out-of-state venues on Belmont Stakes Day. Wagering will be available on races at Monmouth, Churchill, Finger Lakes, and Hollywood Park.