06/18/2005 12:00AM

Saint Liam takes aim at top

Saint Liam pulls away to a 2 3/4-length victory under Edgar Prado in Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster. The victory places him in the upper echelon of the handicap division.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saint Liam ran himself squarely into the chase for North America's top older horse with a dominating, 2 3/4-length victory Saturday in the Grade 1, $828,000 at Churchill Downs before a crowd of 12,014.

Getting virtually the identical trip that he took in winning the Clark Handicap here last fall, Saint Liam completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.52 over a fast track. From 24 runnings of the Foster, only Victory Gallop's 1:47.24 in 1999 was faster.

Eurosilver rallied late to finish second, another 2 3/4 lengths before Perfect Drift. M B Sea was another three-quarters of a length behind in fourth, followed by Gouldings Green, Badge of Silver, Colonial Colony, and Presidentialaffair.

Saint Liam, owned by William K. Warren Jr., returned $3.80 as the favorite in a field of eight older horses. In his last start, the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap, Saint Liam had finished a disappointing sixth as the favorite.

"The real Saint Liam showed up today," said Edgar Prado, who has ridden the horse in his last eight races.

As expected, Presidentialaffair made the early lead, while Saint Liam raced close to the rail entering the first turn. Just as he did in the Clark last November, Prado allowed the front-runner to ease away while subtly guiding Saint Liam into the clear, several paths off the rail and several lengths ahead of the rest of the pack.

Into the far turn, as the others began making up some ground, Saint Liam began inching to the throatlatch of a tiring Presidentialaffair, and by the upper stretch, the outcome looked inevitable. Saint Liam, a 5-year-old horse by Saint Ballado, glided to an open lead and just kept going, giving him his seventh overall win from 17 starts and his second in a Grade 1, following the Donn Handicap in February.

Saint Liam had been trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. until June 1, when Dutrow began serving a 60-day suspension in New York for medication violations. Warren has temporarily turned over Saint Liam to Bobby Frankel, who said Dutrow will have Saint Liam back when his suspension ends in late July.

"I've got to give credit to the Dutrow people, because they had him ready to run," said Frankel.

Eurosilver, a 12-1 shot, rallied from sixth with one of his top performances since he won the 2003 Breeders' Futurity at 2.

Perfect Drift, the 2003 Foster winner, had dead aim on Presidentialaffair and Saint Liam midway through the far turn but did not have enough to menace through the stretch.

Besides Saint Liam, the most accomplished older horses currently in training in North America are Roses in May, Rock Hard Ten, and Eddington.