06/12/2002 11:00PM

Heels healed, E Dubai returns ready

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ELMONT, N.Y - A long time between drinks.

E Dubai, who won the Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds here at Belmont Park last summer and was second in Saratoga's Travers to Horse of the Year Point Given, could be the one to beat in Saturday's $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at nine furlongs, though he hasn't started in almost 10 months. Cracked heels that took longer than usual to heal were responsible for his being away so long, but he has trained forwardly and his people expect a good performance.

"He's done enough work to be ready," Tom Albertrani, assistant trainer for the Godolphin Stable, said at the barn. "In addition, he loves the Belmont track. He's run three races here, won twice and was second in the Peter Pan when he bobbled at the start. The heels are fine and we are looking forward to the resumption of his career."

The Brooklyn is a traditional New York feature and will have its 114th running.

Another attractive participant is Free of Love, who won the Westchester Handicap at a mile here last month in what trainer Richard Violette describes as a turn-around performance.

"As he went from 3 to 4 he changed into a one-paced horse," Violette said. "He disappointed in two stakes in Florida, so when he returned to New York for the Westchester, we put blinkers on him. He won his first stake. The Brooklyn should tell us if we're headed in the right direction."

Free of Love races for Anthony Aprilante and Ralph Evans, who purchased him privately as a 2-year-old at Philadelphia Park. The partners, both with Wall Street backgrounds, have been successful with similar purchases in the recent past.

The Brooklyn is one of three major handicaps, all at nine furlongs, to be run Saturday. The others are the $750,000 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs and the $500,000 Californian at Hollywood Park. Some critics have urged action designed to avert similar conflicts in the future. Mike Lakow, racing secretary and handicapper at the New York Racing Association tracks, has a different outlook.

"When we plan our racing program," he said, "it is for an entire year. We are obliged to accommodate the horsemen racing with us, and for those who may want to run in the Suburban, for example, we have to offer a bridge race like the Brooklyn at this time to help the horses get ready for the Suburban on July 6."

Lakow says he has no problem with similar races at other tracks.

"Some of the horses participating in those races will probably be racing with us later on in the Suburban, the Whitney at Saratoga, the Woodward, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup," he said. "There is a need for handicap races to help fill these fields."