Updated on 09/17/2011 10:39PM

Saint Liam solidifies credentials

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Saint Liam (second from left), under Jerry Bailey, launches his rally in the stretch to overtake eventual runner-up Flower Alley (third from left) and win the Classic by a length.

On an afternoon when longshots largely ruled the day at Belmont Park, order was restored as dusk settled on the 22nd Breeders' Cup. Saint Liam, the favorite in the $4,680,000 , overcame a disadvantageous post and 12 rivals to win the nation's richest race by one length before 54,289 and make an emphatic claim that he is the Horse of the Year.

Saint Liam ($6.80) collared Flower Alley at the top of the stretch and outran the Travers Stakes winner to prevail by one length in 2:01.49 for 1 1/4 miles on the fast main track. Flower Alley was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Perfect Drift. Super Frolic was fourth and was followed, in order, by Suave, Choctaw Nation, Starcraft, Sir Shackleton, Sun King, Borrego, Oratorio, Jack Sullivan, and A Bit O'Gold.

Rock Hard Ten was scratched from the race on Friday after injuring his right front hoof.

The Classic was the fourth win in six starts this year for Saint Liam, who also captured the Woodward Stakes, Stephen Foster Handicap, and Donn Handicap. He has been expertly handled by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who has had to deal with a top-class horse who has bargain-basement feet.

Saint Liam was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who won the Classic for the fifth time, but the first since Cigar at Belmont Park in 1995. Bailey also has hinted for the past two years that he is nearing retirement, and acknowledged that the Classic might have been his last appearance in the Breeders' Cup.

"If this is my last Breeders' Cup race, then it's a great way to go out," Bailey said.

Bailey took over as Saint Liam's rider after Saint Liam finished second in the Whitney Handicap with Edgar Prado, who had ridden Saint Liam in his nine previous races. The decision was made by William Warren, who owns Saint Liam with his wife, Suzanne.

Dutrow, who also won the Sprint with Silver Train, was one of several trainers and jockeys to record firsts in the Breeders' Cup. Trainers Doug O'Neill, who won the Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy, and Jimmy Jerkens, who won the Mile with Artie Schiller, won their first Breeders' Cup races. So, too, did jockeys Edgar Prado and Garrett Gomez, who each won two races, and jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Christophe Soumillon, who won one apiece.

But the biggest first may have been the first loss suffered by Lost in the Fog, who finished seventh in the Sprint after winning his 10 previous starts.

One of the biggest winners of the day might have been a horse who wasn't racing. Afleet Alex, the winner of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, clinched the 3-year-old title because of the day's results.

The Classic figured to determine Horse of the Year, especially if either Saint Liam or Borrego, the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, were to win. But while Saint Liam fired his best race, Borrego sputtered, winding up 10th.

"He really had a good trip," said Gomez, his jockey. "He was into the bridle early, had clear sailing, but just flattened out. He just threw in a clunker today. He didn't show up with his 'A' game."

Saint Liam, by contrast, was at his best. He even overcame an awkward start while breaking from post 13. Although there was a scratch, the inside stall in the starting gate was left open. Only Starcraft, who had to have his saddle adjusted at the starting gate, started farther out than Saint Liam.

"He broke to the right and continued that way three or four jumps until I could reel him back in," Bailey said. "Instead of breaking well, I was losing ground. Thus he ended up further back than people might have expected.

"He had to run a mile and a quarter and then some because of the post."

Sun King, pressured by Suave, led through fractions of 23.98 seconds, :47.68, and 1:12.23 for the first six furlongs. Flower Alley and Saint Liam were stalking, then moved in tandem on the final turn. Saint Liam put his head in front just outside the furlong marker, and gradually edged away from a stubborn Flower Alley.

Asked if had ever had a better day, Dutrow cheekily replied, "Not in racing."

"I just go off. I love the feeling you get when you win," he said.

Dutrow, who is an affable yet controversial figure, was overjoyed with his good day. He has been suspended for medication violations, and wins at a percentage that often has invited suspicion. But on racing's biggest day, when security is at its optimum, he shined.

"I couldn't be happier," Dutrow said. "I'm very lucky to be in this position."

Dutrow said Saint Liam's performance in the Classic, and all year, should make him the Horse of the Year.

"We have the best horse around," Dutrow said. "Any horse left standing, they were here today. We didn't duck any kind of horse in any race all year. I've always felt he was the best horse. I have so much confidence. I don't think anybody can beat him."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch