09/15/2004 11:00PM

Chasing after 'Roses'

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Roses in May comes into Saturday's $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic off a game victory in the Whitney at Saratoga.

FLORENCE, Ky. - If it is purely a matter of numbers, the Kentucky Cup might have trouble living up to its lofty standard. With a mere 33 starters spread among five races, horseflesh certainly is in short supply for the 11th running of the $825,000 series.

Still, what remains to be seen is whether quality will prevail when the dust kicked up around Turfway Park has settled Saturday evening. One of North America's hottest handicap horses, Roses in May, will run in the richest of the races, the $350,000 Classic, and all it may take is another spectacular effort by the speedy colt to give the series another shot of credibility.

has risen toward the top of the handicap division by winning all four of his starts this year, the latest an extremely game triumph in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 7.

"Off that really tough race at Saratoga, I'd rather this be a race where he doesn't have to duplicate that effort," said Dale Romans, who trains Roses in May for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. "That usually doesn't happen for $350,000, but maybe it will Saturday. I just want him to get around there the right way, come back sound, and then we'll go from there to the Breeders' Cup."

Roses in May is pointing for the BC Classic at Lone Star on Oct. 30.

With John Velazquez in from New York to ride on Saturday, Roses in May is sure to be a short price when he carries high weight of 118 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Classic. In recent races, the 4-year-old Devil His Due colt has earned Beyer Speed Figures (113, 99, 113, 114) far superior to those achieved by the five horses he will face.

Of those challengers, maybe Adreamisborn is the most capable. As a left-field closer dependent on a fast pace, the 5-year-old Adreamisborn surely will need some help from either Pie N Burger or Stratostar in softening up Roses in May. But if that somehow happens, then look out, said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

, winner of the Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs in his last start, is a "very improved" horse, said Hollendorfer.

"I know we're running into a very tough horse in Roses in May, but we've been wanting to bring him back East for a while now to see what he can do," he said.

, an earner of more than $840,000, shipped to Turfway from Louisiana on Tuesday for Cole Norman, who also has a healthy respect for Roses in May.

"I know he may be a notch or two above us," said Norman. "But my horse is training great, and we figured why not take a chance?"

But the most probable scenario will have Roses in May separating himself from the field once the real running begins. Romans said he is looking for the colt to take another step toward joining a Kentucky Cup pantheon that includes such standouts as Thunder Gulch, Silver Charm, and Point Given.

"I certainly hope we can keep moving in that direction," said Romans.

The rest of the Classic field is Country Be Gold and Sonic West.

The Classic is the third of the five Kentucky Cup races, carded as races 9-13 on a 14-race program that also includes four interspersed simulcasts from Turfway's sister track, Kentucky Downs.

Admission is free Saturday. Television Games Network is providing live coverage of the races.

Rain was forecast for this region for Thursday night and into Friday, but the Saturday forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 74.