10/24/2001 12:00AM

Affirmed Success back to go the extra mile


ELMONT, N.Y. - The Old Pro is back for his fourth appearance in the Breeders' Cup, and he appears to have as good a chance as any in the Mile.

Affirmed Success raced on the dirt during much of his career, and the six furlongs of the Sprint was a bit too short for him. In two attempts, at 4 and 5, he wasn't close. Last year, in a bid to keep him going in top form, he was switched to grass. His people zeroed in on the Breeders' Cup Mile and he gave a rousing performance. He was beaten a neck and two noses.

He will try again on Saturday in a race that looks as competitive as any on the program. His hole card is his consistency. In his last 12 starts, he won six times, was second twice, and finished third three times. He has been a bulldog in battle, earning $1,777,395 for his owner-breeder, New York investment banker Albert Fried Jr.

Jerry Bailey, one of the world's best, has ridden Affirmed Success, a 7-year-old Affirmed gelding, in his limited campaign this season and helped him win the Jaipur and Poker handicaps.

"The old boy's best race was probably the Atto Mile in Canada last month, even though he was beaten a nose," said trainer Rick Schosberg. "They set a course record of 1:32.60 and he lost a heartbreaker by a bob. He never stopped trying. Any signs of aging? I think he's getting better, and how scary is that?"

Affirmed Success handles almost every type of footing, and has the tactical speed so important in mile races. His trainer doesn't fret over weather conditions or post positions. The competition? Schosberg expects it to be keen in a world-class race like the Mile, with its million-dollar purse. He hopes for a good trip and thinks that will be all the edge that is necessary.

Lailani stands out among turf females

Lailani, impressive in winning the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap at Belmont Park last month, will have strong support on Saturday when she challenges for the Fully and Mare Turf.

There is a lot to like in Lailani, an attractive granddaughter of Northern Dancer who races for Sheikh Maktoum's English stable and is trained by Edward Dunlop. She has raced seven times this season and won them all, including the Irish Oaks and the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Thus she is a Group/ Grade 1 winner in three countries, a ringing testimonial to her class and ability.

Some observers express reservations over the length of her visit to the United States, noting that some horses coming here from overseas will run a good race the first time and then bounce in the second appearance.

"I don't know," trainer Dunlop said the other day. "There is no sign she is going the other way. She is eating a lot better than she did before and has trained nicely. We elected not to bring her home after the Flower Bowl because of the political situation. In addition, the weather in England now is cold and wet. She had a little time off after the Flower Bowl and seems to have done well here. We won't really know about the acclimatization factor until she runs."

England's Legend, who was second to Lailani in the Flower Bowl and who won the important Beverly D. at Arlington Park, should be a leading challenger in the Filly and Mare Turf.

The fast-closing Spook Express, Diana Handicap winner Starine, and the promising French filly Spring Oak are others with credentials. But if Lailani holds her form, she will be tough to beat.