01/17/2007 12:00AM

Liquor Cabinet looks a young 6 in stakes bid

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Most horses at the age of 6 are winding down their careers. The way trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. sees it, Liquor Cabinet may just be getting started on his.

"He's got a future in front of him, it looks like to me," Dutrow said.

Dutrow hopes the future is now, as in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap, where Liquor Cabinet will likely be favored to win his first stakes. A 6-year-old son of Hennessy, Liquor Cabinet did well for trainer Mark Hennig, winning 3 of 10 starts and finishing second in five other races, including last winter's Stymie Handicap.

Owner Ed Evans turned Liquor Cabinet over to Dutrow last spring after the horse finished fourth to West Virginia in the Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup. Dutrow said the horse needed time off for a "minor injury."

Liquor Cabinet returned to the races on Nov. 29, opening day of Aqueduct's inner-track meet, and the horse ran down stablemate Mr. Whitestone to win an allowance race by a neck. Under John Velazquez, Liquor Cabinet ran a mile and 70 yards in 1:39.46, still the fastest time for that distance run over the inner track this winter. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

"Whitestone got away with an easy lead with slow fractions," said Dutrow, who trains Mr. Whitestone as well. Liquor Cabinet, said Dutrow, "kept running him down; he's the one that had to make the whole race go. Johnny was very happy with the horse, and he's been training good, he's coming into the race good. I expect him to run good.''

Because Liquor Cabinet ran such a strong race off an eight-month layoff, Dutrow wanted to make sure he had ample time to recover from the race.

"I'm figuring in order for him to develop the right way, he's going to need plenty of time to get over that," Dutrow said. "Nothing was ever on my mind other than this race."

Among those considered definite to run in the Aqueduct are Angliana, Mayan King, Silver Prospector, and Who What Win. Possible starters include Naughty New Yorker, Carminooch, New York Hero, and Shuffling Maddnes.

Margie's Smile honors Cordero

This weekend will mark the six-year anniversary of the untimely death of Marjorie Cordero, the wife of Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero.

Cordero's memory lives on in many ways, most notably a garden alongside the Anna House Daycare Center at Belmont Park named in her honor. Now, there is a horse who honors Cordero's memory, and she appears to be a talented runner.

Margie's Smile, a 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Wheelaway owned and bred by Gabrielle Farm, made it 2 for 2 on Sunday, winning a first-level allowance race for statebreds by two lengths. In November, she won her maiden at first asking by three lengths.

"The owner, Chip [Acierno], was friends with Marjorie and Angel, and he always wanted to name something after her," Dutrow, the filly's trainer, said. "He asked Angel if he could."

Dutrow said Angel Cordero breezed Margie's Smile one morning at Saratoga, but she came out of that workout with bucked shins.

Dutrow said he would look to run Margie's Smile in the Busher Stakes on Feb. 25 and then aim for the New York Stallion Series, which begins on April 22.

If Capossela goes, Bill Place will run

Bill Place, emphatic winner of Monday's Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, will be pointed to the $65,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes on Feb. 19, trainer Tony Dutrow said.

After the Winkfield drew only five entrants, however - two of whom scratched - Dutrow understands there is a chance the Capossela may not draw enough entrants to fill. So be it, is Dutrow's attitude.

"Obviously, if that race fills he'll be there," Dutrow said Wednesday. "If not, it doesn't matter to me. It's a long year. I'm in the Maryland, Delaware, Jersey, Philadelphia Park area. He's going to be a useful horse if you're realistic with him. If the next race doesn't fill, maybe it's a blessing in disguise."

Bill Place ran a strong race in the Winkfield, dueling with odds-on favorite Wollaston Bay for four furlongs before pulling away in the stretch. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.44 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

"The horse is such a good horse, if he needs to be off the pace he can be off the pace," Dutrow said. "If we got to get involved a little early, he's game for that."

Dutrow also reported that his undefeated New York-bred Ferocious Fires is healed from an abscess in his hind foot. He was scheduled to breeze on Thursday and will be pointed to the Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct on Feb. 18.

Branch out indefinitely with neck injury

Apprentice jockey Kyle Branch is expected to miss "a couple of months" because of a neck injury sustained in the starting gate before Monday's first race, his agent, Doug Hatten said.

Branch was aboard Meadow Belle, who was acting up in the gate and even broke through it before the official start of the race. According to Hatten, Branch hit his head in the side of the gate and became disoriented, causing him to fall off the horse even though it was corralled by an assistant starter.

Hatten said Branch had "irritated" his neck, which the jockey broke about 18 months ago. Hatten said Branch also suffered a twisted knee, but that injury was considered minor.

Branch was the leading apprentice here this winter with 5 wins from 72 mounts.