07/01/2005 11:00PM

Familiar names in Dwyer


ELMONT, N.Y. - The 3-year-old division has broken down into two groups. Afleet Alex. Everybody else.

While Afleet Alex awaits next month's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, several 3-year-olds seek to run themselves to the head of the second group in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park.

A condylar fracture suffered by Peter Pan Stakes winner Oratory left a seven-horse field for the Dwyer, a 1 1/16-mile race run around one turn. . Longshots Freedom Isnt Free and Biloxi Palace complete the field.

Roman Ruler was one of the top two 2-year-olds of 2004, winning the Best Pal and Norfolk. He went off favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but finished fifth. Quarter crack problems limited Roman Ruler to one start this year, a last-place finish in the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 19.

Trainer Bob Baffert scratched Roman Ruler out of a seven-furlong allowance race here Wednesday. That was a good call, considering Commentator almost equaled the track record while winning by 16 1/2 lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 121.

"He didn't need that," Baffert said. "I would have lost another six months with him."

Roman Ruler was given another work, and Baffert said he now sees the Dwyer as a good place to get started.

"At this point he's doing well, and his feet look good," said Baffert. "His biggest problem is getting out of the gate. In the morning he flies out of there. In the afternoon, he gets off a step slow. The thing about that horse is the talent is there. He's a really good horse if he shows up."

The only Dwyer entrant who was on the Triple Crown trail is Flower Alley. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Flower Alley won the Grade 2 Lane's End in his third career start and then advanced to the Kentucky Derby after finishing second behind Afleet Alex in the Arkansas Derby.

Pletcher added blinkers to Flower Alley's equipment for the Kentucky Derby, and Flower Alley chased a hot pace. Flower Alley had to steady entering the far turn and was beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Giacomo.

"The blinkers focused him in a touch more the first quarter than I wished they would have," said Pletcher, who will use shorter-cupped blinkers on Flower Alley for the Dwyer. "The thing I was most disappointed about was he got stuck behind Spanish Chestnut at the five-sixteenth pole and had to steady a couple of times."

Flower Alley will carry high weight of 123 pounds Monday, 4 to 8 pounds more than the rest of the field.

Pletcher will also send out Proud Accolade, who beat Afleet Alex to win the Grade 1 Champagne the last time he ran 1 1/16 miles at Belmont. Since winning the Hutcheson to begin his 3-year-old season, Proud Accolade caught wet tracks in the Rushaway and Withers and raced very wide when fifth in the Riva Ridge.

Mr. Congeniality won an entry-level allowance race June 5, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.19, a time that would have won 7 of the last 11 Dwyers.

Middle Earth finished third behind Lost in the Fog and Egg Head in the Riva Ridge.