08/06/2004 11:00PM

Roses in May perfect

Perfect Drift (left) briefly led in the stretch of the Whitney, but Roses in May fought back to win by a nose.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Roses in May didn't make it to the race his connections had in mind when they named him. But, on Saturday, Roses in May demonstrated the potential that owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey thought he had by turning back a challenge from the Grade 1 winner Perfect Drift to win the Grade 1, $750,000 by a nose before a crowd of 33,776 at Saratoga.

The victory was the fourth in as many starts this year for Roses in May and his sixth from nine career starts. Saturday's first-place purse of $450,000 was more than he had earned in his eight prior outings.

After stalking the hot early pace - six furlongs in 1:08.92 - established by Yessirgeneralsir, Roses in May took the lead approaching the eighth pole. Perfect Drift, who had weaved his way through horses under Pat Day to gain contention turning for home, hooked Roses in May at the eighth pole. Perfect Drift stuck a head in front at one point in deep stretch, but Roses in May, under left-handed urging from Edgar Prado, battled back to win a head bob.

It was 2 1/4 lengths back to Bowman's Band, who nosed out Sarava for third. Gygistar, Peace Rules, Newfoundland, Yessirgener-alsir, and Seattle Fitz completed the order of finish.

Roses in May, trained by Dale Romans, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.51 over a fast track and returned $16.80 to win.

Roses in May had been on the lead at every call in all five of his prior victories. In the Whitney, Romans was content to let Yessirgeneralsir have the lead.

"I wanted us to pretend he wasn't in the race, and just try to be in front of everybody else and just not get trapped behind him," Romans said. "I knew my horse wasn't going to quit."

For Prado, it was his third Grade 1 win of the meet. Last Saturday, he won both the Diana and the Test.

Day, who had ridden Roses in May on five previous occasions, said he may have cost Perfect Drift the race by moving when he did.

"I had a choice to make, to sit and wait or go on with him, and I chose to go on with him, and I think it cost us the race," Day said. "As soon as he makes the lead he thinks the race is over, and if you look at the rerun 40 yards out, he makes the lead, his ears went straight forward, and he quit running. He just goes limp underneath you."

* The pick six was hit on Saturday, returning $26,862. There was a two-day carryover of $207,278 entering the card. The pick-six pool exceeded $1 million. The winning combination was 8-11-7-4-2-11.