10/05/2004 11:00PM

Dynever's year, so far a disappointment, ain't over yet


The way Dynever won the San Bernardino Handicap to start his 2004 campaign was indicative of a horse who was going to be among the leaders of his division this year. He had won the Lone Star Derby in 2003, finished that year with a third-place effort in the Breeders' Cup Classic, then romped to an easy victory in the San Bernardino, while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 113.

He has not won since.

In three subsequent starts, the best Dynever could do was finish second in the Brooklyn Handicap. Twice he has finished out of the money. Illness sent him to the sidelines for the past three months.

All, however, might not be lost. There is still time for Dynever to return to the high level at which he has flirted during his career. According to his trainer, Christophe Clement, Dynever has trained sharply for his return to the races, which will occur in Friday night's Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes. A victory there would make Dynever an intriguing play in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30, as he could be the only horse in the Classic with a prior race over the Lone Star track.

"Let's see how he does Friday," Clement said from his barn at Belmont Park. "I hope he will be competitive. He has to earn his way to the Breeders' Cup. I don't think he's at his peak, but he's coming close to his peak. He looks well. He's dappled. He's a fresh horse. That might not be a bad thing."

Dynever suffered from tender feet much of last year, and that again plagued him heading into this year's Pimlico Special, in which he was a well-beaten fifth. "He was sore after the race, and he shed a frog," Clement said.

The foot problems cleared up, enabling Dynever to run a sharp second in the Brooklyn Handicap, but he took ill after finishing sixth in the Suburban Handicap on July 3. He has not raced since.

"He got pretty sick," Clement said. "The problem was, we never could find out what it was. We believe it was some type of bacteria. We thought it was salmonella, but it was not."

Asked if the year with Dynever had been a disappointment, Clement said, "I will let you know on December 31."

Seven others were entered on Wednesday in the Meadowlands Cup, including front-running Balto Star, but he is more likely to head to the Breeders' Cup Turf than the Classic.

Bago earned his way to the Classic with a late-running victory in last Sunday's Arc de Triomphe in France. If he runs in the Classic, it will be his first start on dirt.

The top two finishers in the Jockey Club Gold Cup - Funny Cide and Newfoundland * are headed to the Classic, but third-place finisher The Cliff's Edge suffered a career-ending injury in the race. Evening Attire also was removed from consideration for the Classic after finishing fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but fifth-place finisher Bowman's Band is expected to try again in the Classic.

- additional reporting by David Grening

Classic Contenders
3-year-olds & up, 1 1/4 miles. Purse: $4 million.

1GhostzapperR. Frankel4-1
Beat Newfoundland, a close second in Gold Cup, by 18 in Woodward
2Pleasantly PerfectR. Mandella7-2
Working purposefully, but the 69-day layoff gives cause for pause
3Saint LiamR. Dutrow Jr.15-1
Gave Ghostzapper quite a battle in Woodward; has improved tons
4BagoJ. Pease8-1
It's sporting for Arc winner to cut back in distance, and switch to dirt
5Roses in MayD. Romans10-1
Regressed fig-wise in Ky. Cup; must bounce back big to contend
6BirdstoneN. Zito6-1
Is best when fresh, but he will be coming off a 63-day layoff
7DyneverC. Clement15-1
Returns in Friday's Meadowlands Cup; won Lone Star Derby last year
8Funny CideB. Tagg10-1
There's no question, he is game; the issue is, is he good enough?
9NewfoundlandT. Pletcher20-1
He illustrates the gap between the first and second tier older horses
10Perfect DriftM. Johnson30-1
After Hawtthorne, it may be time to wonder if he will ever win again

- The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.