05/30/2003 12:00AM

Could be Abreeze in rain


ELMONT, N.Y. - Twelve stakes will be run in a four-day span this week at Belmont Park, but before the stakes action gets underway Thursday, an allowance race that has a stakes-caliber field serves as Sunday's feature.

The money allowance race, carded for 1 1/16 miles on the main track, drew eight older male runners.

The field includes stakes winners Gander, El Gran Papa, Ground Storm, Sherpa Guide, and John Little. Abreeze, 3 for 5 at Belmont, and American Style, the runner-up to Mineshaft in the Grade 3 Ben Ali, add depth to the race.

Abreeze won a similar race in his last start May 16. An 8-year-old gelding, Abreeze controlled the pace and won the 1 1/8-mile race, on a fast track, by 3 1/4 lengths over Ground Storm. Abreeze also has run superior races on wet tracks and rain is in the forecast.

"We talked about it and thought he could get the chance to win two of these kind of races before he steps up," said Abreeze's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin. "It's a little close, but he's doing great. It will probably be wet and we would prefer it wet."

Richard Migliore rides Abreeze from the rail.

El Gran Papa lost his one start over a wet track, but has to be considered a major threat on a fast track. Trained by Bobby Frankel, El Gran Papa won a 1 1/16-mile money allowance at Churchill Downs May 1. El Gran Papa beat Slider, who had finished second to the Frankel-trained Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Park Handicap.

Jerry Bailey rides El Gran Papa, who drew post 2.

Gander, a 7-year-old New York-bred, loves Belmont's main track, where he has earned $846,892 of his $1,657,870 career earnings. Gander, trained by John Terranova, was scratched from last Sunday's Kingston Handicap when the turf course came up soft.

In his last start, Gander finished fourth in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap May 7. Najran set a track record and equaled a Northh American record in winning the one-mile Westchester.

"[Najran] freaked that day," said Terranova's wife and assistant, Tonja. "Our horse had a three-furlong maintenance breeze [Wednesday] and is doing great."

In his last start, American Style finished a well-beaten second to Mineshaft, one of the top older horses in the country, in the Ben Ali at Keeneland April 25.

Island Skipper, coupled with American Style, has some early speed and could keep Abreeze busy early.