05/13/2002 11:00PM

Deal with Mott-Bailey twice more

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Since jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer Bill Mott teamed up to win five races during opening week at Belmont Park, it seems foolhardy to ignore the potent duo in Week 2. Just don't expect to find high odds on the Bailey/Mott runners.

On Thursday, Bailey, who overall has won nine races during the first five days of the meet, and Mott combine forces in the third race, a $40,000 maiden claimer, with Safe Expectation, and in the featured eighth race, a third-level allowance, with Zafonic's Song.

Zafonic's Song is the likely favorite over seven others in the 1 3/8-mile inner turf race, which has a $50,000 purse. U. S. Gold is entered main-track only.

Zafonic's Song, owned by Padua Stable, drops into an easier spot after a fifth in the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 23. Before the Pan American, Zafonic's Song, a 5-year-old son of Zafonic, had an excuse when he finished fifth at this level as the favorite: He hit the gate at the break. Zafonic's Song drew post 7.

Perfect Stranger, with Edgar Prado aboard, is extremely capable of beating Zafonic's Song. Trained by Gary Sciacca, Perfect Stranger is coming off four losses at this level but the 4-year-old Perfect Stranger is returning to his preferred track, where he won two turf races last year. Perfect Stranger drew post 2.

After claiming Deputy Strike for $75,000 in August 2001, trainer Gary Contessa won the 1 3/8-mile Rutgers Stakes at The Meadowlands with the gelding. Norberto Arroyo Jr., who has the mount on Thursday, lost an iron early in the Rutgers but still managed to get Deputy Strike up to win by a nose.

Deputy Strike, who drew the rail, hasn't started since finishing fourth in the Rushing Man Stakes at The Meadowlands on Nov. 3. Contessa has worked Deputy Strike at Aqueduct three times at a mile in the last three weeks.

Berchtesgaden and Owned Exclusively are the likely pacesetters.

Berchtesgaden, who has a useful race under his belt for his second start of the year, could be dangerous if he shakes free early.

In his 4-year-old debut at Aqueduct on April 19, Berchtesgaden finished fifth, beaten only a length in a 1 1/8-mile race. Last year at Belmont Park, Berchtesgaden, who is trained by Michael Nevin, won a second-level allowance at 1 1/4 miles, partly by carving out slow fractions.

Rhythm Band hasn't won a race since the Grade 3 Dubai Duty Free in 2000.

Sovereign Kit and Dicken's Storm complete the field.

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