10/23/2005 11:00PM

BC Turf: Shakespeare looks fine on yielding turf


ELMONT, N.Y. - Already proven to like races over 1 1/2 miles on turf and to not mind a fight, Shakespeare showed another dimension on Monday at Belmont Park, easily handling a yielding turf course in a five-furlong workout.

The workout, accomplished in 1:03.80, gave trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey a sense of relief, since it is very likely that Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf will be run on less-than-firm going.

Shakespeare, 4, has run only on firm turf in his brief career.

"He looked fine to me," Mott said. "He was bucking and kicking coming off the track."

Unbeaten after five starts, all for owners Dell Ridge Farm and William Schettine, Shakespeare won his second consecutive stakes in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 1. In that race, run over the same distance as the BC Turf, Shakespeare rallied from fifth to battle with English Channel for the final quarter-mile before winning by a head.

Bailey was aboard for the Turf Classic. Monday, Bailey said he was happy with the way that Shakespeare handled the course, but worried that wet weather this week could leave it even softer by race day.

"I didn't want him laboring through this test," Bailey said. "He passed this test. I don't know if it was indicative of what we'll have."

A full field of 14 is expected for the BC Turf. Aside from Shakespeare, the top American contender is defending champion Better Talk Now, who worked seven furlongs with BC Mile hopeful Funfair in 1:33.40 at Fair Hill, Md., on Sunday.

Three of the European-trained runners arrived early Monday: Azamour, the likely favorite; Bago' and Shirocco.

Azamour won two Group 1 races in England in the summer and finished fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 10. He emerged from that race with a pulled muscle in a hind end, but has recovered from that injury, trainer John Oxx said late last week.

Shirocco, trained by Andre Fabre, finished fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 2. The 2004 German Derby winner has run only twice this year.

Bago won the 2004 Arc and was third in the race this year.

While Bago and Shirocco are considered top contenders, the outsiders Fourty Niners Son and Leprechaun Kid worked in California on Sunday.

Fourty Niners Son worked six furlongs on turf in 1:17.80 at Santa Anita, while Leprechaun Kid worked five furlongs on dirt in 1:03.80 at Hollywood Park.