03/08/2007 12:00AM

Liquor Cabinet in class test


NEW ORLEANS - At age 6, Liquor Cabinet has made but 12 starts, and he has several lengthy gaps between races during his career. His feet, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. admits, are still not perfect. But the way that Liquor Cabinet won the Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 20 has emboldened Dutrow to see where Liquor Cabinet ranks on the national level, and that is why he is here at Fair Grounds for the biggest race of his career, the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on Saturday.

Liquor Cabinet will be racing outside of the East Coast for the first time in his career, and he will have to get past the razor-sharp Master Command, who figures to be favored in the 1 1/8-mile race following his runaway victory in the Mineshaft Handicap here four weeks ago. But Liquor Cabinet comes off a race in which he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113, and has had seven weeks to recover from that effort.

"His last race was so unbelievable it makes you want to go to a race like this," Dutrow said. "I know he's moving up, but if he runs his race he'll be tough to handle."

Dutrow picked up Liquor Cabinet last summer, and he has raced just twice for Dutrow, winning both races over the inner track at Aqueduct.

"In his first start for me, he blew a frog," Dutrow said, referring to the sole of the foot. "We put pads on him to keep the frog covered. He trains and races with them. The frog's still not 100 percent, but he wore the pad last time he raced and he was fine."

Liquor Cabinet is usually forwardly placed, as is Good and Lucky, who has scored front-running wins on sloppy tracks here in his last two starts. Dutrow said if Good and Lucky is sent, Liquor Cabinet will sit.

"His best game is to sit just off the lead," Dutrow said.

Master Command, who starts from the outside in the field of seven, also figures to be part of the early pace. He was on or near the lead throughout in the Mineshaft before drawing clear late to win by six lengths. Master Command has recorded Beyer Figures of 110 or better in two of his last three starts. He carries top weight of 122 pounds, four more than Liquor Cabinet.

Sandburr, fourth in the Mineshaft, was cross-entered in the Razorback Handicap on Friday at Oaklawn Park, but trainer Michael Stidham on Thursday said Sandburr would remain at Fair Grounds.