01/14/2005 1:00AM

Can't afford to overlook Shamardal this year


Jaws dropped from coast to coast when Wilko defeated America's best 2-year-olds in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but the reaction might not have been necessary if handicappers had been aware of the exploits of Shamardal, who beat Wilko into second place in the Vintage Stakes three months earlier at Goodwood.

Having followed his 2 1/2-length victory in the Group 2 Vintage with a victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket a week before the Breeders' Cup, Shamardal is the odds-on favorite to be named the highweight juvenile on the International Classification, the annual ratings game that will be announced in London on Tuesday. Faith in Shamardal, a son of Giant's Causeway, would have revealed Wilko as a live chance in the Juvenile instead of a 28-1 overlay, especially as Shamardal was beating Oratorio, previous winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, in the Dewhurst.

Shamardal won all three of his 2004 starts under the tutelage of Mark Johnston, helping Giant's Causeway to the top of Britain's first-crop sire list with earnings of $915,000. Among all sires of 2-year-olds in Britain, Giant's Causeway trailed only Danehill and Pivotal. He looks ready to make at least as big a mark as a stallion as he did as a racehorse, when he won seven Group 1 races and narrowly missed in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his lone try on dirt.

With all that he accomplished at 2, Shamardal is expected to do at least as much this season at 3, despite having gone through a number of connection changes. Originally owned by Abdullah Bul Haleeba, Shamardal was switched to Gainsborough Stud, the nom de course of Maktoum al Maktoum, shortly before the Dewhurst. A Dubaian businessman, Bul Haleeba and his brother had fallen out of favor with the Maktoums over profligate business practices. Shamardal had been leased to Bul Haleeba by the Maktoums, who have called in their chips.

Bred in Kentucky by Brilliant Stable, Shamardal has since become a part of the Godolphin team. He is in Dubai with Saeed bin Suroor but won't race again until after he returns to England in April. Shamardal will likely not reappear until the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30. His dam, the Machiavellian mare Helsinki, is a full sister to Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry, so his future may include dirt racing.

Godolphin also has high hopes for Dubawi, perhaps the best of Dubai Millennium's sole but promising crop. From the family of Epsom Derby winner High-Rise and Breeders' Cup Turf winner In the Wings, Dubawi was 3 for 3 at 2. With wins in the Group 3 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket and the Group 1 National Stakes at The Curragh, both at seven furlongs, Dubawi gives Godolphin the pleasurable dilemma of finding spots on the track not already occupied by Shamardal.

Berenson is another off-season acquisition for Godolphin. An Entrepreneur colt trained by Tommy Stack, Berenson followed his victory in an 18-runner Curragh maiden with a three-length second behind Dubawi in the National Stakes. That was enough for Godolphin to pull out their checkbook and send him to Dubai for the winter, when he will be prepared for Europe's big miles.

Entrepreneur, meanwhile, is headed to Russia. After spending the last two seasons in Japan, he has been purchased to stand at Voshkod Stud, the farm that produced Anilin, the Soviet star who finished third to Kelso in the 1964 D.C. International.

Aidan O'Brien came up short with Scandinavia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but in Ad Valorem he has a talented son of Danzig out of the Grade 3 winner Classy Women who looks very much like a Guineas prospect. Undefeated in three starts, Ad Valorem capped his season with a sharp score in the six-furlong, Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 1, defeating Rebuttal by three quarters of a length.

Motivator is another promising young British-based 3-year-old with an American pedigree. By Arc winner Montjeu, he is out of the Gone West mare Out West, a half sister to Wavering Monarch. A six-length winner of a one-mile Newmarket maiden in his debut, Motivator followed with a 2 1/2-length victory in the one-mile, Group 1 Racing Post Trophy over Albert Hall, who had previously landed the one-mile, Group 2 Beresford Stakes for Aidan O'Brien. Trained in Newmarket by Michael Bell, Motivator is a candidate for the Epsom Derby.

Etlaala raised eyebrows with his half-length victory in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September. A son of Selkirk trained by Barry Hills, Etlaala overcame a ton of trouble that day but subsequently failed as the favorite when eighth behind Shamardal in the Dewhurst.

Montgomery's Arch may have a British name, but he is as American as apple pie. By Arch out of a Seattle Slew mare, he took the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood before finishing third by a neck to Oratorio in the Jean-Luc Lagardere and third by 2 3/4 lengths to Shamardal in the Dewhurst.