05/16/2005 11:00PM

Frankel: Ghostzapper ready

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Trainer Bobby Frankel with Ghostzapper, the reigning Horse of the Year who is aiming to race in the Met Mile.

ELMONT, N.Y. - On Monday morning, less than 24 hours after Ghostzapper arrived at Belmont Park from Kentucky, trainer Bobby Frankel had a worried look on his face, lamenting how tough a time he has had keeping weight on the reigning Horse of the Year.

Tuesday morning, Frankel had a much different expression after watching Ghostzapper drill six furlongs in 1:11.93 as he moves closer to his 5-year-old debut in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 30. Javier Castellano was aboard for the work, which was nearly five seconds faster than the only other six-furlong move of the morning.

"I guess he's ready now," said Frankel, who reasoned that Ghostzapper's leaner appearance on Monday "might have been from the shipping. It's probably better bringing him back that he's not too heavy and let him put weight on as he races."

Ghostzapper has not run since winning the Breeders' Cup Classic, a victory that capped his 4-for-4 campaign in 2004. He was being pointed to a return in the Oaklawn Park Handicap in April before he suffered a sinus infection.

After not breezing for three weeks, Ghostzapper has worked five times since April 16, including a six-furlong move in 1:10.80 on May 10 at Churchill Downs.

Frankel said Ghostzapper would have one more breeze next week before the Met Mile.

Saint Liam a Met maybe

Ghostzapper's toughest opponent last year was Saint Liam, who came within a neck of defeating Ghostzapper in the Woodward Stakes. Saint Liam did not run in the Breeders' Cup. He won the Donn Handicap in his 2005 debut and finished sixth in his last start, the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

Though his trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., said he is pointing Saint Liam to the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 18 at Churchill, he opened the door for a possible start in the Met Mile.

"There's a chance I go," Dutrow said Tuesday morning. "I would rather do the race in Kentucky; I'm figuring it would be easier on him."

Dutrow is considering the Met because, he said, "our horse is doing so good." Saint Liam has worked seven times since the Santa Anita Handicap, including a six-furlong drill in 1:11.17 on Saturday at Aqueduct.

Dutrow also thinks his horse could beat Ghostzapper.

"I'm not overly impressed with the horse even though he's supposed to be the best horse," Dutrow said. "He's coming off a big, long break; I would certainly not be afraid to run against him at Belmont. Then again, the race in Kentucky, being two turns, might be safer for us. In the Met, you got to run from gate to wire, so I just don't know. No way we would be looking to duck any horse with Saint Liam."

Dutrow also said Tuesday that longtime assistant Juan Rodriguez would be in charge of his stable and will be the listed trainer in the program while Dutrow serves a 60-day suspension beginning June 1. Dutrow said Larry Walters will serve in the same capacity for him in New Jersey.

Frankel believes in First Word

While Frankel hopes to win the Preakness with High Limit, he might have designs on the Belmont Stakes with a different horse. First Word, who only recently won a maiden race at Churchill, drilled five furlongs in 58.43 seconds Tuesday morning, the best of 17 at the distance. Tony Graell was aboard for the move.

Frankel is torn between running him in an allowance race this weekend or the Peter Pan on May 28. "I was going to run him in an allowance race but I may just run in the Peter Pan," he said.

It took First Word four starts to win his maiden. He did it with blinkers added, running the one-mile distance in 1:37 on April 30 at Churchill and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 87.

First Word is a son of Chester House out of the Grade 2 stakes-winning mare Harpia.

Godolphin runners on the mend

Blues and Royals, Balletto, Stellar Jayne, and Ruler's Court are among the 11-horse Godolphin Racing contingent settled in barn 12A at Belmont Park. Just don't expect to see many of them race soon.

Balletto, who won the Grade 1 Frizette here last fall and was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, suffered a serious case of colic upon her arrival three weeks ago and is only being hand-walked.

"That knocked her out a lot, it really set her back," said Richard Mettee, the former California-based trainer who is now overseeing Godolphin's New York contingent. "She would be a month away from even going to the track, so we're looking at later in the year for her."

Blues and Royals, who was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby after his 12-length win in the UAE Derby, is still recovering from a low-grade bacterial infection that forced him to miss the Derby. He is just walking under tack and won't be seen until "later in the summer," Mettee said.

Stellar Jayne, who won two Grade 1 races at Belmont last year and was third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, is the furthest along of the group. She breezed once before leaving Dubai and went three furlongs in 39.18 seconds on Friday at Belmont.

"She's still a ways away but she's taken the ship well," Mettee said. "It doesn't surprise me that she ran well here because she seems to have gone forward from Dubai."

With victories in the Mother Goose and Gazelle - both nine-furlong races here last year - Stellar Jayne could be a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Distaff, which this year is being held at Belmont Park.

Ruler's Court won the 2003 Norfolk by 14 lengths but missed his entire 3-year-old year season and has not run well in two starts since.

Other notable Godolphin runners here include Botanical, third behind Saratoga County in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, and Dubai Escapade, a 3-year-old half-sister to Madcap Escapade by Awesome Again who won her maiden by 5 1/4 lengths in Dubai on March 5. Dubai Escapade cost $2 million at the Barrett's Sale in March 2004.

Thursday: Lemon Drop Gal drops

Lemon Drop Gal, fourth as the 3-2 choice in Pimlico's Xtra Heat Stakes last out, takes a drop in class and looks to rebound in Thursday's eighth race, a six-furlong allowance for fillies who have never won two races.

Lemon Drop Gal, who was a step slow from the rail in the Xtra Heat and never got close to front-running winner Missile Bay, moves to the outside post in a field of six and will be reunited with apprentice Channing Hill.

Hill was aboard for Lemon Drop Gal's front-running maiden win in the mud at Aqueduct two starts back, when she bobbled at the break but rushed up to contest a fast pace and widened to a 5 1/2-length score.

Darn That Girl, an impressive maiden winner at Belmont last July, but winless ever since, turns back to a dirt sprint after forcing the pace and fading to seventh in a turf route at Keeneland. She breaks from post 5 with Richard Migliore.

Fourth in the Schuylerville and Matron, and sixth in the Frizette at 2, Darn That Girl caught a wet track at Gulfstream in her only attempt at this level on dirt, and rallied mildly for third.

The others, from the rail out, are: Career Oriented, My Favorite Angel, Intense Desire, and Atticus's Woman.

- additional reporting by Dave Litfin