08/17/2001 12:00AM

E Dubai comes into his own for Midsummer Derby


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - When Godolphin Racing made its third unsuccessful bid at winning the Kentucky Derby last spring, its best 3-year-old was in a barn at Belmont Park.

E Dubai, who had sore shins last summer after his second start, was not ready to run in the Derby, according to his connections. Three months and three races later,

E Dubai now is ready to be a factor in the 3-year-old division.

E Dubai, a son of Mr. Prospector who cost $1.35 million as a yearling, will have his first test against what's left of the upper echelon of the division when he runs in next Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

"It's unfortunate we didn't have our horse ready for the Kentucky Derby," said Tom Albertrani, the former Bill Mott assistant who now works as an assistant for Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

Albertrani will not be as brazen as fellow Godolphin assistant Eoin Harty was when he predicted E Dubai would win an allowance race at Belmont Park by five lengths, but he does like E Dubai's chances in the Travers, even if Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Point Given runs.

"I think we'll give him a race for his money," Albertrani said. "With a little bit of luck, I think our horse can win it."

E Dubai has run in two stakes in this country. On May 26, just two weeks after his allowance win, E Dubai was run off his feet by Hero's Tribute in the Peter Pan, finishing 2 3/4 lengths behind that rival in the slop.

Six weeks later, E Dubai returned the favor, dueling Hero's Tribute into defeat en route to a 5 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes. In that race, also run over a sloppy track, E Dubai ran fractions of 22.26 seconds, 44.09, 1:07.93, and 1:33.54, and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.38.

"The last race was incredible, he went 1:07-and-four for the first three-quarters and Jerry [Bailey] was motionless on him," Albertrani said. "He's a very talented horse. I think we could win this one."

E Dubai was purposely kept out of the Jim Dandy, the traditional Travers prep, because his connections did not want him to run twice in three weeks. In the Jim Dandy, Bailey rode Scorpion to an upset victory. However, Bailey had already committed to E Dubai for the Travers.

Bailey, who has ridden several of Godolphin's horses, said E Dubai " is probably as nice a 3-year-old that's come to this country."

Since the Dwyer, E Dubai has had six workouts, including a pair of seven-furlong breezes. On Friday, he breezed five furlongs in 1:03.05 over a fast Saratoga main track.

That was Albertrani's first look at E Dubai since the Dwyer.

"He looks as good as when he ran in the Dwyer, maybe a little better," Albertrani said. "To me, he looks picture perfect. He couldn't be doing any better."

Free of Love may go in Travers

Following Free of Love's second-place finish in the Jim Dandy, trainer Rick Violette said it was doubtful that he would run the horse back in the Travers. But, Free of Love has done so well since the Jim Dandy, that Violette said Friday "I'm leaning toward running in the Travers."

Violette is also considering running Free of Love in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 3. "I still have one more work to get through and I still have to evaluate the competition in both races."

If he runs in the Travers, Free of Love will need a new rider. Richard Migliore has committed to riding Volponi.