10/04/2007 12:00AM

Victory by Shakis would be fitting

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Shakis enters the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile off perhaps the best race of his life, a victory in the Bernard Baruch on the Travers undercard at Saratoga on Aug. 25
LEXINGTON, Ky. - An unmistakable symmetry would result from Shakis winning the ninth race Saturday at Keeneland. After all, Shakis is owned by Shadwell Stable, and the race is the Shadwell Turf Mile.

Ah, if it were only so easy.

Although Shakis enters the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile off perhaps the best race of his life, a rousing victory in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch on the Travers undercard at Saratoga on Aug. 25, even trainer Kiaran McLaughlin concedes a victory Saturday might be difficult to attain. Besides a $600,000 purse, a "Win and You're In" berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile also is at stake.

"It's a tough field of horses to race against," said McLaughlin.

Indeed, Shakis is one of a handful of viable considerations for what figures to be a huge fall Saturday crowd at Keeneland. Other major contenders in a field of nine turf veterans include Cosmonaut, a winner of more than $700,000 and a consistent earner of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures; Art Master, winner of the Poker at Belmont this summer for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel; and Astronomer Royal, a dangerous-looking overseas shipper whose powerhouse connections, a Michael Tabor partnership and trainer Aidan O'Brien, won the Shadwell last year with another 3-year-old, Aussie Rules.

The Shadwell is the last of five consecutive stakes on a 10-race Keeneland program. Four of the stakes will be the primary focus of an ESPN broadcast (4-6 p.m. Eastern) and there will day-long TVG coverage. Races 5 through 10 form a pick six with a $150,000 pool guarantee. The day's stakes, all graded, start with the fifth race and proceed in this order: the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America, the Grade 3 Phoenix, the Grade 2 First Lady, the Grade 1 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, and the Shadwell Mile. Three of those stakes are also "Win and You're In" races: the Phoenix (BC Sprint), the First Lady (Filly and Mare Turf), and the Breeders' Futurity (Juvenile).

In the Shadwell, Shakis will be attempting to follow a flashy Baruch effort in which he used a rail surge to prevail by nearly a length over late-running Big Prairie. A 7-year-old Irish-bred by Machiavellian, Shakis has done little wrong since being imported from Dubai this spring, with an allowance win and a narrow defeat in the Grade 1 Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard also standing out on his past performances.

Following the Baruch, Shakis stayed at Saratoga, where he has worked steadily in preparation for the Shadwell.

"He's training very well, doing great," said McLaughlin. "We're looking forward to running there at Keeneland."

Shakis will break from the outside post under Alan Garcia, the New York-based jockey who celebrated his 22nd birthday Tuesday.

Shadwell, the global racing and breeding operation owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, began sponsoring this race - formerly known as the Keeneland BC Mile - in 1999.

Astronomer Royal looks like the strongest challenger to Shakis in the Shadwell. Last year, O'Brien sent Aussie Rules to Keeneland with unspectacular but respectable form, and the colt responded with a rallying victory when being treated with the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time. Astronomer Royal, with John Velazquez to ride, will be treated with first-time Lasix when entered off fourth- and seventh-place finishes in Group 1 races in France.

Cosmonaut, with Julien Leparoux riding for Patrick Biancone, has earned triple-digit Beyers in 10 of his last 11 starts and was the beaten favorite behind Shakis in the Baruch.

Art Master popped a quarter crack in a rear hoof when finishing well back in the Woodbine Mile last out but has fully recovered, said Frankel. Rafael Bejarano has the mount.

The rest of the Shadwell field is T.D. Vance, Purim, Independent George, Istan, and Spotsgone.

* Following Saturday's blockbuster card, the traditional signature race of the fall meet, the $500,000 Spinster Stakes, winds up the three-day opening weekend with its 52nd running Sunday. Entries for the Grade 1 Spinster were drawn Thursday, and, from the rail, the 11 fillies and mares in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race are: Teammate, Panty Raid, Sugar Shake, Naissance Royale, Asi Siempre, Rolling Sea, Promenade Girl, Lady Joanne, High Heels, Altesse, and Solo Survivor.