09/25/2001 12:00AM

A Classic preview at Meadowlands

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A funny thing happened on the way to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

With the World Thoroughbred Championships to be held at Belmont Park this year, the New York fall championship races were supposed to be the proving grounds for big-name contenders, while races like the Meadowlands Cup were expected to attract longshots.

That changed somewhat when Point Given went to the sidelines and horses who were not nominated to the Breeders' Cup won some early preps. Suddenly, the compact field of five that is expected for Friday night's $500,000 Meadowlands Cup could provide an important preview of the Classic.

The 1 1/8-mile race has attracted a Grade 1 winner in Include, who is looking to make a late-season comeback and Broken Vow, a Grade 2 winner, testing his mettle against this kind of competition.

The three others expected are Gander for trainer John Terranova and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan; Generous Rosi, trying for his third dirt victory for trainer Niall O'Callaghan and jockey Lonnie Meche; and Open Sesame, a winner of two straight allowance races in New York with Jorge Chavez in the saddle. Dixie Dot Com, who had been a possibility, could not get a plane flight from California.

Include has been off since finishing third in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont. The Bud Delp-trained 4-year-old has a chance to get right back to the top of the division - a place he stood earlier this year while riding a five-race win streak with scores in the Pimlico Special, Massachusetts Handicap, and New Orleans Handicap.

Broken Vow has overcome both obstacles put in front of him by trainer Graham Motion since finishing a disappointing third behind Include in the Mass Cap, winning both the Skip Away and the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

"The timing is great and the race gives us options toward the Breeders' Cup," said Motion. "We've had this race in mind all along since winning the Iselin. We know he needs to step up and prove he can beat these kinds of horses. I think he can, but he has to prove it."

Broken Vow and regular jockey Ramon Dominguez will have a clear strategy to turn the tables on Include, and Motion says Broken Vow's last two wins showed very positive signs.

"We knew early that if we could ever get this him to relax he would become a very good horse," said Motion. "It looks very much like he's done that in his last two races. If he can relax, he can step up to this kind of competition."