09/09/2005 11:00PM

Rabbits do their job for Saint Liam

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Helped by a pair of rabbits, Saint Liam grabs an easy two-length victory in the Grade 1 Woodward.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.'s double-team worked brilliantly as Show Boot and Crafty Player softened up Commentator and Saint Liam cruised to an easy two-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 before 8,365 at Belmont Park.

The victory not only avenged Saint Liam's neck loss to Commentator in last month's Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, but also establishes Saint Liam as one of the favorites for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic to be run here on Oct. 29.

Dutrow didn't want Commentator to get loose on the lead in the Woodward as he did in the Whitney. So he entered Crafty Player as a rabbit and then added Show Boot as well when he learned that Todd Pletcher planned to scratch Shaniko.

Show Boot, under Raul Rojas, went straight to the front while Crafty Player latched onto Commentator early. When that happened, Commentator took off with Gary Stevens and made a brief lead before Show Boot came back on him again.

"He switched to his left lead and he was very rank with me," Stevens said. "My tack went forward, I had to give him his head, and that was it."

Meanwhile, Jerry Bailey had a snug hold of Saint Liam, who sat in fourth position early. After Commentator finally shook clear of the rabbits entering the far turn, Saint Liam was right on Commentator. Saint Liam ($2.80) cruised past Commentator turning for home and easily held Sir Shackleton at bay while under a tight hold from Bailey. Sir Shackleton finished second, 12 1/2 lengths ahead of Commentator.

"It worked out to perfection," Dutrow said. "I never felt we needed those horses to kill the speed, but for his next start I didn't want him to get down on his belly and give it all that he had."

Saint Liam, who has now won three Grade 1 races this year, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.07.

Bailey said the victory was so easy, "I feel bad taking the money. But I will."

Nick Zito, the trainer of Commentator and Sir Shackleton, felt that one rabbit would have been sufficient for Dutrow to use.

"I think he would have won anyway with one rabbit," Zito said. "With two rabbits, obviously there's no question he was double-teamed. There's nothing against the rules."

* The all-stakes pick four returned $55.50 for a $1 wager. The winning combination of 3-5-1-4 included In the Gold ($5.90), Luas Line ($5.90), Better Talk Now ($8.10), and Saint Liam ($2.80). NYRA barely met the $500,000 guarantee as the pool was $506,934.