06/05/2003 12:00AM

Belmont Stakes Profiles: Ten Most Wanted


STRENGTHS: He is fresh and fast. Trainer Wally Dollase skipped the Preakness Stakes following Ten Most Wanted's ninth-place Kentucky Derby finish, giving him five weeks' rest heading into the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

One could argue that he bounced in the Derby, a legitimate excuse in the eyes of some sheet and figure handicappers. He fit the profile to regress after running what was easily his best race in the Illinois Derby, the race preceding his Kentucky Derby.

He earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Illinois Derby - which puts him in contention with favorites Funny Cide and Empire Maker from a speed figure standpoint.

Additionally, he benefits from having trained in California over the last four to five weeks. The Eastern tracks have been hit with rain, which has forced trainers to alter their training schedules leading up to the Belmont. His training has gone smoothly and uninterrupted.

WEAKNESSES: He is less accomplished than others from a class standpoint. Ten Most Wanted easily won in a poor field in the Illinois Derby - as he should have. When matched against the nation's premier 3-year-olds in the Derby, he was a non-factor and finished ninth.

Dollase attributed that dull showing to a back injury sustained when the horse was bumped leaving the gate. He said the colt was so sore in the days following the Derby that "he wouldn't jog."

According to Dollase, Ten Most Wanted is feeling much better.

STRATEGY: For him to get the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont, Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day must get him to relax, as he did successfully in the Illinois Derby. All the riders, however, will understandably have Funny Cide in their sights. They know he is going for the Triple Crown, and they won't want to let him get too much of a jump of them.

VALUE: The wise-guy choice in the Derby, he started as the third betting choice. Most have abandoned his bandwagon, but in a short field in the Belmont there are few betting options. He appears likely to go off at odds of 8-1 or so.