07/30/2007 11:00PM

Minus top rival, Gold and Roses stands out

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With his arch rival Big Apple Daddy passing the race, Gold and Roses appears to have five other New York-bred rivals at his mercy when he defends his title in Thursday's $80,000 John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga.

Gold and Roses finished second, beaten a length by Big Apple Daddy, in his 2007 debut in the Say Florida Sandy Stakes at Belmont on June 30. The start was the first for Gold and Roses since he won the Hudson Handicap eight months earlier.

"It's probably in the plus column for us that Big Apple Daddy is not in this one," said Thomas Bush, who trains Gold and Roses for Henry Gregory. "They've beaten each other back and forth several times over the last couple of years."

Gold and Roses had four victories in 2006, all stakes, to swell his career earnings to nearly $700,000. He has won 2 of 3 tries over the Saratoga strip, including the 2006 John Morrissey by six lengths over runner-up Big Apple Daddy.

"He had run two years without a break, so I decided to give him some time off, and I'm sure he needed his last start to some extent," said Bush. "I'm very pleased the way he's been acting for his second start off the layoff. He's shown a lot of energy in the morning and finished well in both breezes since his first start this year."

Yankee Mon and Executive Search, third and fourth in the Say Florida Sandy, also return. The Morrissey also includes Starcastic, Karakorum Thunder, and Coined for Success.

The Morrissey is the only stakes on Thursday's card, but the best race might be the eighth race, a $79,000 optional claiming race at a mile on the inner turf which drew a stakes-caliber field and marks the return of Grade 1 winner Shakespeare.

Shakespeare has not started since finishing far back in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf. The loss was the first in six outings for the son of Theatrical, who had won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational four weeks before the Breeders' Cup.

Shakespeare will make his first start Thursday for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who also entered the graded stakes winner Nkoski Reigns for the main track only.

Bill Mott, Shakespeare's former trainer, runs Grade 1 winner Gun Salute, who hasn't raced since finishing far back in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22. Other contenders are Grade 3 winners Art Master and Gigawatt, Take the Bluff, Rousing Victory, and Electric Light.