09/09/2003 11:00PM

Blue Boat tries to bounce back

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ELMONT, N.Y. - After reeling off three consecutive victories to begin his North American career, it looked as though Blue Boat was ready to join the wealth of handicap stakes horses in trainer Bobby Frankel's barn.

But in his stakes debut, Blue Boat disappointed. After setting the pace in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, Blue Boat faded to sixth, 12 lengths behind Puzzlement.

Blue Boat will try to right his ship on Friday when he takes on five rivals in a third-level allowance races at Belmont Park. The $52,000 race will be run at 1 1/16 miles over the main track.

Blue Boat will take on a field that includes Lane's End Stakes winner New York Hero, Wood Memorial third-place finisher Kissin Saint, and recent allowance winner Newfoundland.

Blue Boat, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Mizzen Mast, went winless in four starts in France as a 2-year-old. He made his U.S. debut in May, winning a 10-furlong turf race by 4 1/2 lengths at Belmont. Blue Boat won dirt allowance races at Belmont and Saratoga before running in the Saratoga Cup.

"He was trying to get out," Frankel said of the Saratoga Cup. "We did a little work on him and hopefully that'll be corrected. I thought he'd run better.''

Though Blue Boat has shown speed in all four of his North American starts, Frankel said he would like to see Edgar Prado get Blue Boat off the pace Friday.

"I wouldn't mind him following somebody else," Frankel said. "His brother was successful doing that.''

New York Hero is a potential pacesetter in this field. New York Hero battled for the lead in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park in March, and edged Eugene's Third Son by a neck. New York Hero also set the pace in the Wood Memorial, a race in which he finished nine lengths behind Empire Maker.

New York Hero was also well beaten in the Preakness and has not run since finishing last in the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park on June 14. New York Hero, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado, will be coupled in the wagering with Wonderful Prospect.

Kissin Saint returns to allowance company after three tries in graded stakes competition. Kissin Saint finished last in the Preakness before trying turf in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes, where he finished fifth.

Newfoundland, who was put up via disqualification at Saratoga, and Private City, ninth in the Grade 1 King's Bishop last time out, complete the field.