07/08/2003 12:00AM

Blue Boat in sharp form


Blue Boat will try to keep his undefeated stateside record intact when he attempts to wire a compact field in Thursday's feature race at Belmont.

Blue Boat, a recent import to the United States who is 2 for 2 since arriving from France and the barn of trainer Christiane Head-Maarek, is one of only two front-running horses in the race, a $48,000 nonwinners-of-three-other-than at 1 1/16 miles.

Blue Boat, trained by Bobby Frankel, has won both of his starts in the U.S. on the front end and has done it drawing away. On May 18, he won a 1 1/4-mile maiden turf race by 4 1/2 lengths, and then dusted a small field June 11 in a 1 1/8-mile dirt race by 6 3/4 lengths.

Blue Boat, who will start from post 6 under John Velazquez, will likely face pressure from Striking Song coming out of the one post, but Striking Song has had trouble carrying his speed. In his last race on June 21, Striking Song faded in the stretch after leading most of the race, and was beaten 13 3/4 lengths while finishing fifth.

Striking Song may show better in Thursday's race. The June 21 race followed a six-month layoff from trainer Rob Hess, and since that race Striking Song fired a 58-second, five-furlong workout, on July 2, best of 26 works at the distance that day.

If a swift pace battle develops up front, Congrats is the obvious choice to pass weary horses. The 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy will race with Lasix for the first time Thursday, and he has shown potential during a brief, four-race career.

In Congrats's last race, he finished fourth while never making up any ground on the leaders. But he was beaten in that race by Strong Hope, the front-running winner of the Dwyer Stakes last weekend.

Retam will also likely lay off the early leaders. He has done his best running from a stalking position, and could improve for trainer Allen Jerkens.

Poppy's Image and Valleyman fill out the field.

Valleyman won his last race, an allowance nonwinner-of-one-other-than, after showing very little since breaking his maiden in October last year at Philadelphia Park. The two victories were 10 races apart.

Poppy's Image has had several good performances in his 13-race career, but the 3-year-old colt has been erratic for trainer Philip Serpe. He would need to run his best race to be competitive.