Updated on 09/16/2011 9:11AM

Room at the top

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Lido Palace (above) is out for a Woodward repeat, while With Anticipation heads the Man o' War, and Take Charge Lady returns in the Gazelle.

ELMONT, N.Y. - With career-ending ailments suffered by Left Bank and Street Cry, the handicap division is starving for a new leader. Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park affords Lido Palace - a handicap division leader in the summer of 2001 - the opportunity to regain his position.

In attempting to repeat his Woodward win of a year ago, Lido Palace will face a field made up of second- and third-tier older horses, many of whom were looking to run elsewhere before this field lost its luster.

With two North American Grade 1 wins on his resume, Lido Palace is certainly the class of a group that includes Cat's at Home, upset winner of the Iselin Handicap; Express Tour, the third-string Godolphin handicap horse; Baseball Champion, a non-stakes winner; and New York-breds Gander and Sherpa Guide.

The Woodward, run at nine furlongs, is one of three Grade 1 races on Saturday's 10-race card. It shares billing with the $250,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, featuring the return of Take Charge Lady and Bella Bellucci, and the $500,000 Man o' War featuring last year's winner, With Anticipation.

Lido Palace is winless in four starts since last year's Woodward. His connections opted not to pay the $800,000 supplement to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic and instead ran him in the Japan Cup Dirt, where he finished eighth. In his 5-year-old debut, he finished fourth in the San Antonio Handicap and came out of the race a bit stiff.

Following a 153-day layoff, Lido Palace couldn't catch a loose-on-the-lead E Dubai in the Suburban, losing by three-quarters of a length. Despite running his career-best race speed-figure-wise, Lido Palace finished third in Saratoga's Whitney Handicap, 1 1/4 lengths behind Left Bank.

"I think that was the best race of the year for handicap horses," Frankel said Thursday from California. "I thought he ran good; probably the best race he's ever run."

Frankel said everything "seems fine" with Lido Palace since the Whitney and that he is looking for a big effort. Jorge Chavez will ride.

Frankel added that if Lido Palace were to run well in the Woodward and possibly the Jockey Club Gold Cup, owner John Amerman may put up the $800,000 to run in this year's Classic.

Despite the small field, there looks to be ample speed in the Woodward. The best race Express Tour has run came in last year's Jerome Handicap, when he widened to a 5 1/4-length victory after setting fast early fractions.

Though Express Tour did defeat Street Cry and Lido Palace in the 2001 United Arab Emirates Derby at nine furlongs, his connections have always viewed him as a miler.

"Hopefully, we can control his speed a little bit and, hopefully, he produces the same kind of race when he ran in the Jerome," said Tom Albertrani, who runs Godolphin Racing's New York barn.

Cat's at Home and Gander were both being pointed to the Meadowlands Cup, but their connections altered course when this field came up light. Cat's at Home spent the summer at Monmouth, where he seemed to excel around two turns, especially in the Philip Iselin Handicap, where he posted a gate-to-wire upset.

Trainer Mark Hennig said the reports from his Monmouth-based assistant Rob Rader indicate that Cat's at Home is ready to go. Add the fact Hennig was able to secure the services of Edgar Prado, Saratoga's leading rider, and it was an easy decision to run.

"You don't get that many opportunities in a Grade 1 where there's not that many Grade 1 horses in it," Hennig said.

Gander finished third behind Lemon Drop Kid and Behrens in the 2000 Woodward and has recorded five of his 11 wins at Belmont. He appeared to come out of the Saratoga Breeders' Cup - a race in which he stumbled and lost his rider - unscathed.

Baseball Champion has yet to live up to his pedigree for Shug McGaughey. Trainer Tom Bush believes Sherpa Guide, winner of three straight including the restricted Evan Shipman here on July 21, deserves a shot in the Woodward.

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