10/02/2002 11:00PM

'Apple' tries for three-peat


ELMONT, N.Y. - Forbidden Apple returns to his favorite course and preferred distance Saturday when he aims for an unprecedented three-peat in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park.

Forbidden Apple, a 7-year-old son of Pleasant Colony, is 7-3-1 from 13 starts on Belmont turf. Four of those victories have come at one mile, including the last two runnings of the Kelso. Forbidden Apple is winless in five starts since last year's Kelso, which is not to suggest he is showing his age.

Following the Kelso, Forbidden Apple finished second in the Breeders' Cup Mile and fourth in the Hong King Mile to end 2001. In three starts this year, he was beaten two lengths by Beat Hollow in the Manhattan, a neck and a nose by Del Mar Show and Volponi in the Bernard Baruch Handicap, and a head and nose by Beat Hollow and Sarafan in the Arlington Million.

"We got beat by a horse who stole the race and was a very good horse in the Manhattan," trainer Christophe Clement said. "In the Bernard Baruch, he got beat a neck and a nose, just bad racing luck. I thought I ran the best horse in the race. In the Million, we tried to steal it on the lead and got beat, again less than a half-length."

With Beat Hollow at Keeneland on Saturday, Del Mar Show pointed to the Cliffhanger next week at The Meadowlands, and Volponi expected to run in The Meadowlands Cup on Friday night, Forbidden Apple should find Saturday's competition a bit softer. With rain in the forecast, he may also find a soft turf course.

"He's won on soft turf before," Clement said. "I may even have an advantage if it rains because there's so much speed in the race."

Forbidden Apple, who will carry top weight of 121 pounds under Jose Santos, figures to stalk the likes of Patrol, Krieger, and Saint Verre, horses to whom Forbidden Apple will be conceding seven to nine pounds.

Patrol, the lone 3-year-old in the field, has flashed brilliance at times, winning four of five grass starts. He flopped, however, as the 3-5 favorite in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes, his lone graded stakes try. Patrol bounced back to win the Rushing Man Stakes at The Meadowlands, just missing the course record by .20 of a second.

Moon Solitaire has run well in all four of his North American starts, winning the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup at Woodbine over soft turf in June.