08/03/2005 11:00PM

Chase is on for Saint Liam

Saint Liam trains at Saratoga on Thursday under exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez for Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though Richard Dutrow Jr. would like Saint Liam to face the easiest competition possible, the trainer believes the presence of the speedy and talented Commentator in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 may actually help Saint Liam.

"I believe Saint Liam's best race is when he has a target," Dutrow said. "If Saint Liam runs his race and he likes this track, you're liable to see him run the best race he's ever run. He's going to have a target, that's for damn sure. If he likes that track, you guys are going to see Saint Liam run a huge race."

Saint Liam, a known quantity around two turns, versus Commentator, undefeated around one turn, is the main storyline for the Saturday's 78th Whitney Handicap. The Whitney, run at 1 1/8 miles, tops a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Test for 3-year-old fillies.

Since being transferred to Dutrow in the fall of 2003, Saint Liam has won 5 of 8 starts, including this year's Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap - both Grade 1 events. In the Donn, he beat last year's Whitney winner and this year's Dubai World Cup winner, Roses in May.

In between those Grade 1 wins, Saint Liam finished sixth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap. Dutrow said he had no plausible excuse in that race. His only fear entering Saturday is whether Saint Liam likes Saratoga. In his one start here in the summer of 2003, Saint Liam finished sixth in a second-level allowance race.

"That's the only thing I see getting in his way," Dutrow said.

Commentator, a New York-bred gelded son of Distorted Humor, is 6 for 6 around one turn. In his only two-turn start, he finished seventh in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope, but came out of that race with a fractured shin. In his comeback race, Commentator won a seven-furlong allowance race by 16 1/2 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 121.

Trainer Nick Zito said he is as anxious as anyone else to find out if Commentator can be successful around two turns. Zito said that jockey Pat Day, who rode Commentator in a one-mile allowance victory last November, told him "he definitely could go the distance."

Gary Stevens will ride Commentator from post 4. He will be in receipt of seven pounds from Saint Liam and looms the main speed in the race.

Commentator will be coupled in the wagering with Sir Shackleton, who won the West Virginia Derby the last time he raced at nine furlongs around two turns. Javier Castellano rides Sir Shackleton from the rail.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the uncoupled entry of Limehouse and Pollard's Vision in the Whitney. Limehouse was a decisive winner of the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on June 11 before finishing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup.

In the Gold Cup, Limehouse acted up in the paddock and the gate and then broke poorly, leading Pletcher to call the race "a complete throw-out."

"It was not a taxing race on him," Pletcher said. "He came back with good energy, his appetite's been good, he looks well, he hasn't lost any weight, and trained forwardly."

Pollard's Vision has earned more than $1.4 million but is still in search of his first Grade 1 win. He chased a loose-on-the-lead Record Buster in the Suburban and then lost second place by a neck to Tap Day. Jerry Bailey, who won the Leonard Richards aboard Pollard's Vision last year, has the call on Saturday from post 8.

"I thought he ran his usual hard race, gave us a big effort," Pletcher said of the Suburban. "A mile and a quarter is probably not as good a distance for him as a mile and an eighth."

Eurosilver, who ducked in at the start and raced wide throughout, finished with interest to be second to Saint Liam in the Stephen Foster. Eurosilver won his maiden at Saratoga two years ago.

Wiggins is a 5-year-old Illinois-bred who trainer Dale Romans says "couldn't be doing any better." Romans won last year's Whitney with Roses in May.

Swingforthefences, who won the 2004 Iowa Derby, completes the field.

The field

Whitney Handicap
Purse: $750,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1Sir ShackletonJ. Castellano1153-1
2Saint LiamE. Prado1226-5
3WigginsM. Guidry11230-1
4CommentatorG. Stevens1153-1
5SwingforthefencesE. Coa11320-1
6EurosilverR. Albarado11410-1
7LimehouseJ. Velazquez1177-2
8Pollard's VisionJ. Bailey117n6-1

* Coupled: Sir Shackleton and Commentator
* Odds by Art Gropper