05/23/2008 11:00PM

Zito has confidence in Commentator

Bob Coglianese
Commentator could become the first 7-year-old since the legendary Forego to win the prestigious Met Mile.

ELMONT, N.Y - When he's on his game, Commentator can be freakishly fast and blazingly brilliant. He has been on his game 11 times in 17 starts, including victories in the Grade 1 Whitney in 2005 and, most recently, the Grade 2 Richter Scale Handicap in March.

When he's off his game, Commentator can be quite ordinary. He finished 10th of 11 in the Grade 1 Forego in 2006 and sixth of eight in the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt in 2007.

Trainer Nick Zito said he believes fans who attend Belmont Park on Monday will see the good Commentator when he takes on eight rivals in the Grade 1 $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap, the centerpiece of an 11-race Memorial Day card that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern.

"He's Commentator right now,'' Zito said Saturday morning. "No Grade 1's are easy - they never are - but he's a great horse. If everything goes good we'll be happy.''

If everything goes well, Commentator could become the first 7-year-old since the legendary Forego to win the prestigious Met Mile. He would also join a select group of horses to have won the Met Mile and Whitney in their career. That group includes Equipose, Eight Thirty, Devil Diver, Gallorette, Stymie, Kelso, State Dinner, Criminal Type, and In Excess.

Commentator, a son of Distorted Humor owned by Tracy Farmer, has been great in his two starts this year, both at Gulfstream Park. In January, he won a classified allowance race by 14 lengths and came back 51 days later to win the Richter Scale. John Velazquez was the jockey for both of those starts and will be back aboard Commentator, the 122-pound highweight, from post 8 on Monday.

"Basically I just let him do whatever he wants to do,'' said Velazquez, who noted that he let Commentator sit off Elite Squadron in the Richter Scale. "I stayed off of him for a little while without letting [Commentator] know I was taking a hold of him - I had him in the six path and left him alone. By the half-mile pole he got head and head with the other horse, and at the three-eighths pole he started getting away from the other horse, and he just went on.''

Elite Squadron, who finished third to Commentator, came back to win the Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day.

Commentator may have caught a break when Monterey Jazz came up with a hind end problem that precluded his connections from shipping cross-country. Monterey Jazz had the speed to keep Commentator entertained on the front end.

Now, the only other horse in the field with real speed is First Defence, who seeks to give trainer Bobby Frankel his fifth victory in the Met Mile. First Defence sustained a chip in a knee after running seventh in the Grade 1 Vosburgh last September. He made a nice 4-year-old debut, winning a classified allowance race at Churchill Downs by a neck after dueling through quick early fractions.

First Defence may have run the best race of his life when he was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Hard Spun in last year's Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga. He pressed Hard Spun before giving way late. Frankel said he's not so sure Commentator is faster than Hard Spun.

"He's not as quick as you think,'' Frankel said of Commentator. "Every time I've seen him run with real good sprinters he doesn't fare as well.''

Frankel said he would let Javier Castellano decide where to put First Defence early in the race. First Defence, owned by Juddmonte Farms, breaks from post 5 and gets seven pounds from Commentator.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the defection of Monterey Jazz may force him to instruct jockey Alan Garcia to keep Divine Park closer to the pace. Divine Park, who breaks from post 3, is coming off a five-length victory in the Grade 3 Westchester here on opening day, when he ran one mile in 1:32.74.

"Commentator is very, very good when he is good; he's shown brilliance and he's a fast horse and an outstanding horse on his day,'' McLaughlin said. "We hope we have a real good day. He came out of his race excellent and the five pounds helps us.''

Trainer Tony Dutrow sends out Premium Wine and Lord Snowdon, both of whom would benefit from a lively pace. Premium Wine and Lord Snowdon finished third and fourth in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct.

Global Hunter, Z Humor, Kiss the Kid, and Council Member complete the field.