10/23/2005 11:00PM

BC Classic: Saint Liam puts in final prep

Shakespeare, a main contender in the BC Turf, was one of the nearly two dozen Breeders' Cup runners who worked at Belmont Park on Monday. He went five furlongs in 1:03.80 over yielding turf.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Aqueduct is only a few miles down the Belt Parkway from Belmont Park, but the week of the Breeders' Cup, it might as well be on another planet.

While most of the international stars preparing for Saturday's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are at Belmont, where nearly two dozen Breeders' Cup runners were among the 323 horses who were credited with works on a frenetic Monday morning, it was business at usual at Aqueduct, where only a small group of interlopers gathered in the chill to watch the likely favorite for the $4 million Classic, Saint Liam, go through his final workout.

Saint Liam, with exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez aboard, breezed through five furlongs in 1:01.67. He went off easily, came home strongly, and left a big smile on the face of his trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr.

"We're good, babe," said Dutrow, whose placid demeanor belies the fact he's about to run in the biggest race of his life, with Horse of the Year potentially in the balance. "He does it effortlessly. He galloped out good, finished up good. That's what he's going to do in the race.

"I'm all in, babe. I'm all in."

The Classic will be the eighth and last of the Breeders' Cup races run Saturday at Belmont Park. Final entries for all eight races are due Wednesday morning; horses pre-entered last week in more than one race must be declared for a specific race. After that, post positions will be drawn.

The draw will be shown live on HRTV, beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern.

In two of the races - the Juvenile and Classic - more than the maximum of 14 horses are expected to be entered. In those races, horses who were not prominent on a list selected by an international panel of racing officials will be left out, as there is no also-eligible list for Breeders' Cup races. In the Classic, there would be two exclusions - Lord of the Game and A. P. Arrow. They will need defections from the main body of the race by entry time Wednesday to get in.

Sir Shackleton and Starcraft were pre-entered in both the Classic and the Mile, but both are expected to enter the Classic. In addition, Starcraft must be supplemented to the Classic for $800,000, of which $720,000 would go into the purse, bringing the Classic's overall purse to $4.72 million.

Weather has been a major factor in training schedules in recent days for the Classic. No one worked here Sunday because of rain Saturday, and with heavy storms predicted for Monday night and Tuesday, the other Classic horses now in New York got their final workouts in Monday on a fast main track at Belmont.

Borrego, Flower Alley, and Sun King all worked five furlongs. Borrego loped around in 1:02.54 with his regular exercise rider, Andy Durnin. Flower Alley, with Angel Cordero Jr., was timed in 59.97 seconds, the best time of 76 at the distance. Sun King and exercise rider Maxine Correa were given a time of 1:00.07. In addition, Lord of the Game zipped a half-mile in 46.09.

At Churchill Downs on Sunday, Suave breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60. And at Santa Anita on Sunday, Choctaw Nation worked six furlongs in 1:12.40, the best time of 13 at the distance.

Rock Hard Ten had his left front foot re-shod Monday after bruising it late last week. He is scheduled to travel from California on Wednesday.

The 14 expected runners to make the field when entered Wednesday, including jockeys, are A Bit O'Gold (Jono Jones the rider), Borrego (Garrett Gomez), Choctaw Nation (Victor Espinoza), Flower Alley (John Velazquez), Jack Sullivan (Frankie Dettori), Oratorio (Kieren Fallon), Perfect Drift (Mark Guidry), Rock Hard Ten (Gary Stevens), Saint Liam (Jerry Bailey), Sir Shackleton (Javier Castellano), Starcraft (Patrick Valenzuela), Suave (Edgar Prado), Sun King (Rafael Bejarano), and Super Frolic (Eibar Coa).

The forecast from the National Weather Service for Monday night and Tuesday was grim. Remnants of Hurricane Wilma, plus another storm, were expected to combine to bring an inch of rain to the area near Belmont Park. Wind gusts, some predicted to reach 50 miles per hour, were forecast for Tuesday along with rain, which was expected to last into Wednesday.

After that, though, the forecast was quite promising. It was expected to be sunny and cool Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with highs in the mid-50's. If that forecast holds, expect the main track to be fast Saturday, with the turf course soft.