10/12/2004 11:00PM

Saint Liam's absence would benefit Roses in May

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The likely defection of the speedy Saint Liam from the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park changes the complexion of the race, and most likely benefits horses with sharp early speed, such as Ghostzapper and, most notably, Roses in May.

But to Dale Romans, the trainer of Roses in May, the absence of Saint Liam is not necessarily notable because of the pace. More importantly, Romans said Wednesday, it would remove a top contender from the race.

"We're just not running against him," Romans said. "It helps, because I think he's a legitimate contender. You hate to see a horse go out, but I'm glad I don't have to run against him."

Richard Dutrow Jr., the trainer of Saint Liam, on Tuesday said his horse "was not himself for three or four days" last week. Saint Liam did work, as scheduled, on Wednesday at Aqueduct. He was timed in 1:03.34 for five furlongs. Dutrow again reiterated his inclination is to bypass the Classic.

Because it appears unlikely Saint Liam will run, he has been dropped from the list of possible Classic contenders compiled by Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker. The Classic still is expected to have a large field, headed by Ghostzapper, Pleasantly Perfect, and Roses in May.

Others expected for the race include Birdstone, Bowman's Band, Dynever, Fantasticat, Freeforinternet, Funny Cide, Newfoundland, Perfect Drift, Powerscourt, and Supah Blitz.

Roses in May, who most recently won the Kentucky Cup Classic, is at Churchill Downs, where he will work this weekend before heading to Lone Star Park on Tuesday. Romans said Roses in May likely will have his final workout at Lone Star on Oct. 23.

Romans said he has been trying to get Roses in May to relax more in his races. "But he's a fast horse. He'll always be in the first flight," Romans said.

At Belmont Park on Wednesday, Funny Cide worked five furlongs in 59.56 seconds. Robin Smullen, his regular exercise rider and assistant trainer, was aboard. The time was the second best of 10 at the distance. Funny Cide is coming off a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Birdstone, the Belmont and Travers stakes winner, will work Saturday at Saratoga, then will work there the following weekend before heading to Lone Star, according to his trainer, Nick Zito.

Perfect Drift, who was upset as the heavy favorite in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, came out of the race well and is also being pointed for the Classic, which would mark his third consecutive appearance in the race. He will work Saturday and then on Oct. 23 at the Trackside training facility in Louisville, Ky., before heading to Lone Star on Oct. 24, according to his trainer, Murray Johnson.

Johnson is without a victory this year. Asked if a Classic victory would provide a storybook finish for the year, Johnson cleverly replied, "It's a storybook finish whoever wins the Breeders' Cup."

ClassicContenders
3-year-olds & up, 1 1/4 miles. Purse: $4 million.

RANKHORSETRAINERODDS
1GhostzapperR. Frankel4-1
Beat Newfoundland, a close second in Gold Cup, by 18 in Woodward
2Pleasantly PerfectR. Mandella7-2
Working purposefully, but the 69-day layoff gives cause for pause
3PowerscourtA. O'Brien15-1
His first place finish in the Million was very good; the barn is first-rate
4Roses in MayD. Romans8-1
Regressed fig-wise in Ky. Cup; must bounce back big to contend
5BirdstoneN. Zito6-1
Is another coming off a giant layoff, but his is 'only' 63 days long
6Funny CideB. Tagg10-1
There 's no question, he is game; the issue is, is he good enough?
7NewfoundlandT. Pletcher20-1
He illustrates the gap between the first-and second-tier older horses
8DyneverC. Clement15-1
Liable to become a wise guy horse off his rallying second in Med. Cup
9Perfect DriftM. Johnson15-1
After Hawthorne, it may be time to wonder if he will ever win again
10AzeriD. W. Lukas15-1
She will cross-enter in this, but right now, the Distaff is more likely

- The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.