08/24/2005 11:00PM

Travers cast an intriguing mix

Bellamy Road and exercise rider Carlos Correa leg up Wednesday for Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Given the horses that remain healthy and sound in the 3-year-old division, Saturday's $1 million has come up a solid race with several story lines and handicapping angles.

First and foremost is Bellamy Road, who will try to navigate 1 1/4 miles in his first start since finishing seventh as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby 112 days ago. There is Roman Ruler, who after missing the spring classics with chronic foot problems has returned to the top form he flashed at age 2. Todd Pletcher, the dominant trainer at this meet the last few years, has had horses beaten in the last two Travers, and he tries again with Flower Alley. Don't Get Mad, fourth in the Kentucky Derby, seeks to become the fourth Southern California-based 3-year-old in the last nine years to win this race.

Andromeda's Hero and Reverberate finished second and 10th in the Belmont Stakes, a race that has produced five of the last six Travers winners.

The 136th Travers tops a 12-race card that also includes the undefeated Lost in the Fog in the Grade 1 King's Bishop, the unbeaten juvenile Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 Hopeful, and Leroidesanimaux, a winner of six straight, in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap. The four stakes make up a pick-four wager with a $1 million guaranteed pool. First post is 12:30 p.m. ESPN will show all four races during a two-hour SportsCenter program from 5-7 p.m.

The weather forecast is ideal with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80's.

Each starter in the Travers should be able to run the style he prefers. Bellamy Road, who breaks from the rail under Javier Castellano, will be on the lead as he was in the Wood Memorial. Flower Alley, breaking from post 7 under John Velazquez, will stalk from second, while Roman Ruler and Reverberate will race in mid-pack. Don't Get Mad, Andromeda's Hero, and Chekhov are all closers who should get their desired fast pace.

Roman Ruler, trained by Bob Baffert, missed the Triple Crown because of foot problems. Last fall, he also was bothered by an undescended testicle that was surgically removed in November. Throw out his Breeders' Cup Juvenile and San Vicente, and Roman Ruler is 5 for 6 with four stakes wins and a neck loss to champion Declan's Moon.

Since getting his feet right, Roman Ruler has won the Dwyer at Belmont and Haskell at Monmouth. According to his connections, Roman Ruler has flourished since arriving here on Aug. 8.

"We've never been able to get him this fit, never close to this fit," said Dana Barnes, Roman Ruler's exercise rider. "He's full of confidence; he loves it here."

"The main thing with Roman Ruler is he's learned to relax," Baffert said. "He's got a hell of a punch. If the fractions are kind early on, he can track, and he's got that style where you can do anything you want with him. They're not going to be able to outkick him."

In order to win the Travers, Roman Ruler will have to outkick Bellamy Road, who figures to get loose on the lead, as he did winning the Wood by 17 1/2 lengths. That performance sent him off the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished seventh. Bellamy Road emerged from that race with two popped splint bones, an inflammation of tissue that covers the cannon bone.

Trainer Nick Zito, who won last year's Travers with Birdstone off an 84-day layoff, believes Bellamy Road is an exceptional horse who should be plenty fit after having trained over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track.

"I love what I got," Zito said. "This is the question: Is he ready? I don't really know myself. I have a feeling he is; I feel good about it. That's why he's in the race."

Zito also sends out Andromeda's Hero, who finished second behind Afleet Alex in the Belmont Stakes and third in the Jim Dandy. Zito will add blinkers to Andromeda's Hero's equipment and is confident in the horse's chances to make an impact.

"I don't see the horse out of the money, honestly," Zito said.

Flower Alley finished ninth in the Derby, but after skipping the Preakness and Belmont came with a good second in the Dwyer and a breakthrough win in the Jim Dandy.

"We have a horse that has pointed to the Travers since the day after the Kentucky Derby," Pletcher said. "He ran a good race in the Dwyer, an improved race in the Jim Dandy, and he's had four weeks from the Jim Dandy to the Travers. Now we just got to see if he's good enough to get it done."

Reverberate looked like a horse that needed a race when second in the Jim Dandy, and could be sitting on his best race. Don't Get Mad finished ahead of Bellamy Road, Flower Alley, and Andromeda's Hero in the Kentucky Derby. Chekhov, fourth in the Haskell, is improving but would have to take another step forward to upset this group.