09/11/2005 12:00AM

Shakespeare wins easily in Belmont BC Handicap

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Shakespeare rolls to an easy 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Shakespeare's storybook comeback from a career-threatening injury continued Sunday at Belmont Park as the talented 4-year-old colt rolled to an easy 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 .

Jerry Bailey hardly asked Shakespeare for run as he cruised past Muqbil and Meteor Storm in upper stretch and galloped home an easy winner to remain undefeated from four lifetime starts. Shakespeare's final time of 1:45.06 established a Belmont Park inner turf course record for 1 1-8 miles.

Meteor Storm finished second, five lengths ahead of Muqbil. Evening Attire was last. Greek Sun and Proud Man scratched Greek Sun had filling in a leg, according to trainer Bobby Frankel.

Last spring, trainer Bill Mott thought Shakespeare's racing career was over after he suffered a fractured knee following his second career start. Following surgery and a lengthy recuperative period, Shakespeare is now 2 for 2 this year. He will be pointed to the $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at 1 1-2 miles on Oct. 1 with an eye toward the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf here on Oct. 29.

Mott had thought about running Shakespeare in Saturday's Man o' War at 1 3-8 miles. But coming off just one race this year at 1 1-16 miles, Mott thought Sunday's shorter race was a better spot.

``I thought the normal progression would be to go to a mile and an eighth and having had two races now he should have reached a better level of fitness,'' Mott said. ``Maybe he's now ready to try a mile and a half.''

He certainly relaxed well enough Sunday to think the 1 1-2 miles is within his reach. Bailey had Shakespeare in hand about 3 1-2 lengths off the pace while Muqbil set fractions of 23.90 seconds, 47.63 and 1:10.53. Nearing the stretch, Bailey gave Shakespeare one crack of his left-handed whip, and he reached the leaders with ease and cruised to victory. Shakespeare returned $3.10

``He did relax enough today to suggest that a mile and a half would be no problem,'' Bailey said.

While Bailey admitted that the firmness of the turf played a large role in the course record time, he cautioned ``don't take too much away from this horse; he's a good horse.''