08/22/2001 11:00PM

Best Travers subplot: E Dubai


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There is an enormous sum at stake in connection with Saturday's 132nd running of the Travers that makes the $1 million purse look like small potatoes.

The main story line for the Travers is Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and possibly the best horse in training in the United States. He was life and death to win the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park three weeks ago. Following his Belmont victory, he developed an abscess in his left hind foot, which limited his preparation for the Haskell. When there are no stars to make news, racing feels the lack of interest. The best illustration we can cite is the flood of attention that developed in the Travers when it became known last week that Point Given would run. Ticket requests went through the roof, and one of the biggest crowds in the long history of this track is anticipated for Travers Day.

What can we expect from Point Given? The classics say he is a very good horse, and a very good horse should win the Travers. There have been so many notable upsets at Saratoga over the years, however, that the racing community is gun-shy about odds-on choices such as Man o' War and Secretariat.

Of those who will line up against Point Given in the Travers, one who commands considerable interest is E Dubai, the Dwyer winner. An eye-catching colt by Mr. Prospector, a $1,350,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin stable, E Dubai missed the Triple Crown races because of sore shins. Since returning to the U.S. from Dubai this spring, he has gone from strength to strength, coming from just off the pace to finish second in the Peter Pan and going to the front to account for the Dwyer.

"He looks better than ever," assistant trainer Tom Albertrani said. "And he is training better than ever. He received a good position in the draw. We will play it as it goes. We're the speed of the race. If someone else wants to lead badly, they can have it. If they don't want it, we'll take it and see how far we can go."

One of the many attractive aspects of E Dubai's bid for the Travers is the presence of his partner, Jerry Bailey. Bailey rode Scorpion to win the Jim Dandy and could have ridden him back in the Travers. The brilliant jockey opted for the mount on E Dubai, however, and his decision bears consideration. Bailey is known for taking charge in a race, particularly when his mount has some speed. E Dubai has speed, and Bailey will try to make the most of it.

It is not possible to write about the Travers without mentioning the 1930 renewal, for which the Triple Crown winner, Gallant Fox, owned by the Belair Stud of William Woodward Sr., was a prohibitive favorite. His principal opponent in a small field was Harry Payne Whitney's Whichone, the 2-year-old champion of 1929 after beating Gallant Fox in the Champagne Stakes. Others in the Travers field included Willis Sharp Kilmer's Sun Falcon and a complete outsider, Chaffee Earl's 100-1 Jim Dandy.

Jim Dandy, as a 2-year-old the previous season, won the Grand Union Hotel Stakes at Saratoga on a muddy track. But this information was widely dismissed by the crowd of 30,000, despite the muddy conditions on Travers day following heavy rains Friday and Friday night. Gallant Fox won the Belmont on a muddy track, and his backers were confident he could handle the situation.

Jim Dandy had been cross-entered in a mile race preceding the Travers, and would have run in it had the track been fast. When the rains came, he was scratched from the mile race and ran instead in the Travers.

Sonny Workman hustled Whichone to the lead, but Earl Sande quickly responded, sending Gallant Fox abreast of Whichone. They dueled down the backstretch and around the turn when suddenly they were both passed by Jim Dandy. He kept running away from them and won by eight lengths. Trainer Jimmy McKee accepted the Travers trophy from Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt as a stunned crowd looked on in disbelief. It happened in Saratoga.