Saint Liam stakes claim for Horse of Year honors

NEW YORK -- Saint Liam came through in the Breeders' Cup Classic and probably wrapped up Horse of the Year honors Saturday at Belmont Park with a stirring victory in America's richest race.

Taking the lead at the top of the stretch, Saint Liam held off the challenge of Flower Alley and gave Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey his fifth win in the Classic and 15th victory in the Breeders' Cup.

Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in a field of 13, Saint Liam bided his time behind leaders Sun King and Suave until the field reached the far turn. And that's when Bailey sent the 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado four-wide to take command.

Saint Liam came into the $4,680,000 Classic with three wins in five starts this year, including the Woodward at Belmont on Sept. 10. With previously unbeatens Lost in the Fog losing in the $1 million Sprint and First Samurai losing in the $1.6 million Juvenile, Saint Liam appears to have the inside track for Horse of the Year. His top competition would be Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, who has not raced in nearly five months and missed the Classic.

Saint Liam, a hometown favorite who trained for this race at nearby Aqueduct, gave trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., his second win on the day. Earlier, his sprinter Silver Train upset Lost in the Fog.

"We just got lucky,'' Dutrow Jr. said. "I just couldn't be happier.''

Saint Liam broke from post No. 13 and covered the 1 1/4 -mile Classic in 2:01.49, becoming the second straight favorite to win the centerpiece of the eight-race, $15 million-plus Breeders' Cup, which drew a crowd of 54,289. Ghostzapper won it last year and was voted Horse of the Year.

Owned by William K. and Suzanne Warren Jr., Saint Liam returned $6.80 to win and earned $2,433,600, boosting his career bankroll to $3,696,960.

Family and friends of the owners, wearing Saint Liam baseball caps, swamped Bailey in the winner's circle and the rider was also congratulated by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Dutrow made his pitch for Horse of the Year.

"We have the best horse around,'' he said. "We didn't duck any kind of horse.''

The 48-year-old Bailey, who failed to win aboard three earlier favorites Saturday, came up big at the right time. The jockey has been considering retirement and this could be his last Breeders' Cup race.

"I'll ride through Thanksgiving and think about it,'' Bailey said.

Flower Alley, winner of the Travers but fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in has last start, ran a strong race in his second try against older horses.

Perfect Drift was third, followed by Super Frolic, Suave, Choctaw Nation, Starcraft, Sir Shackleton, Sun King, Borrego, Oratorio, Jack Sullivan and A Bit O' Gold. Perfect Drift, in his fourth Breeders' Cup, had his best finish.