09/08/2005 11:00PM

Shakespeare now in Act II

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In his last start before a layoff of more than a year, Shakespeare wins the Caltech at Gulfstream. He returned in July to win at Saratoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The unbeaten Shakespeare faces his biggest challenge Sunday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Win or lose, the comeback by the 4-year-old Shakespeare has been a gratifying experience for trainer Bill Mott.

suffered a knee injury last year that threatened to cut short his career after only two races.

"He was one of those we thought would be retired, but he's made it back," Mott said. "He's been a pleasant surprise."

Shakespeare returned early in the Saratoga meet, winning an allowance in his first race since winning the Caltech Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March 2004.

"We've given him a lot of time, and it seems like he's come back pretty good," Mott said.

Now comes the biggest test. Shakespeare, making his fourth career start, faces five more experienced rivals in the Belmont Breeders' Cup at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

"We're hopeful," Mott said. "We're stepping up into a pretty tough spot."

is another 4-year-old in the field who has overcome health issues. He has not run since capturing the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby in October because of irritation of the sesamoid bones.

Greek Sun, trained by Bobby Frankel, has won 4 of 6.

"He seems like he's over his problems," Frankel said.

, 7, and Meteor Storm, 6, are two veterans awaiting Shakespeare and Greek Sun.

Evening Attire, a career winner of $2.4 million, has 11 career victories, including the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the 2002 and 2004 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Evening Attire has done most of his running on dirt. Of his 43 career starts, only three have come on grass.

Meteor Storm, in contrast, has made all 20 career starts on the turf. He is the highweight at 118 pounds and will add blinkers.

The winner of Belmont's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap last year, Meteor Storm, trained by Wally Dollase, gets a bit of class relief after three straight Grade 1 outings.

Meteor Storm ran fourth last time out in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

"It looks like a good spot in a short field," said Aimee Dollase, who is training a New York division at Belmont for her father. "He did displace his palate in the last race, and we just want to give him a confidence-builder if we can."

Meteor Storm has not won since last year's Manhattan, a span of six losses.

Muqbil and Proud Man complete the field.