Trainer Bobby Frankel couldn't have drawn up the running of Saturday's $828,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) any better for Saint Liam in his first start for the Hall of Fame conditioner. Saint Liam shook off pacesetter Presidentialaffair coming off the far turn and romped to a 2 3/4-length victory.
Saint Liam, who won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) this winter and the Clark Handicap (gr. II) last fall for trainer Richard Dutrow, made amends for his sixth-place finish behind Rock Hard Ten in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in his last start March 5.
Owners Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr. transferred the 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado to Frankel's barn while Dutrow serves a 60-day suspension for medication violations.
``It's nice when you can get Babe Ruth off the bench to pinch-hit,'' Reid said.
Dutrow's suspension ends July 31, and Reid said the horse would immediately go back to Dutrow and prepare for the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) in August.
Frankel said he'll have no problem giving the horse back -- even though he thinks Saint Liam is the top older horse in the country following the June 13 retirement of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, a horse he also trained.
``This moves him to the head of the class now,'' Frankel said. ``People are congratulating me. Give Dutrow credit. His crew got this horse ready.''
The horse also challenged Ghostzapper in the Woodward (gr. I) last September, losing by a neck.
``This might be the second-best race he ever ran,'' Frankel quipped.
The 9-10 choice in the field of eight, jockey Edgar Prado sat off the early pace on the outside of Presidentialaffair, who opened up a two-length advantage after setting fractions of :23 2/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 4/5. After quickly assuming control in upper stretch, Saint Liam avoided his usual tendency to bear out in the stretch to come home in 1:47 2/5 in the 1 1/8-mile event. The time was one-fifth off the race and track record established by Victory Gallop in 1999.
Prado put the whip away as the colt drew clear in the stretch.
``I had the best horse in the race,'' Prado said. ``I was 100 percent confident all the way.''
Perfect Drift tracked the winner into the stretch for Gary Stevens, who won the previous two stakes races on the Churchill card. But Perfect Drift could not muster a serious challenge to the winner. Saint Liam skipped away as Eurosilver and Rafael Bejarano passed Perfect Drift for second by 2 3/4 lengths. Outsider M B Sea was fourth.
Frankel's other Foster starter, Badge of Silver, faded on the far turn after pressing the pace and finished sixth.
Saint Liam has won seven of 17 career starts with five seconds and one third. The winning share, $513,360, pushed Saint Liam's career earnings to $1,573,395.
He paid $3.80, $3, and $2.40. Eurosilver returned $8 and $4.20 and Perfect Drift was $2.60 to show.
Gouldings Green, Badge of Silver, Colonial Colony, and Presidentialaffair followed.