09/11/2007 12:00AM

Distance a big factor in Steinlen

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - Belmont's expansive layout makes it possible to run long sprints on the Widener turf course. Figuring out who will benefit the most from the seven-furlong distance may be the key to Thursday's $75,000 Steinlen Stakes, which drew six older males either turning back from routes or stretching out from shorter sprints.

Trainer Bobby Frankel has one of each in uncoupled stablemates Giant Basil, who cuts back after setting the pace in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, and First Word, who comes off a sixth-place finish in the Troy Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Giant Basil has recorded virtually identical Beyer Speed Figures in three starts since a layoff and trainer change, including a near-miss on yielding Belmont turf in June.

Three months ago, First Word was second in the Notoriety under conditions similar to Thursday's, and he may rate the benefit of the doubt for the Troy: "He had an abscess bust out after the race, and it may have been a little short for him, too," Frankel said.

Silver Timber was disqualified from third and placed fifth in the Troy after rallying into heavy traffic in the stretch, and his bad luck continued at the Meadowlands three weeks later, when he was second best in the King Bold Reality Stakes - won by Remain Silent in course-record time.

Silver Timber should relish the return to Belmont, where he has two wins and a photo-finish loss from three starts, but he has only been as far as six furlongs on grass.

"He's untried at the distance but seems to try hard every time we lead him over there," said Linda Rice, who had a stellar Saratoga, tying for second in the trainer standings with 13 wins.

Rice said Silver Timber "seemed to struggle a bit" first time out this year on good turf, and she believes he would prefer firm going Thursday.

River City Rebel, trained by Saratoga title winner Bill Mott, has been in solid form this year, and his most recent turf race was a fourth in the Bob Harding, which has developed into a key race: Third finisher Drum Major ran second in the Fourstardave, fifth finisher Big Prairie was second in the Bernard Baruch, and sixth finisher Grand Couturier upset the Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

Adding intrigue to the field are Rebellion, 2 for 2 this year for Graham Motion, and Morning Perks, a 10-time winner on dirt in Puerto Rico.