09/25/2001 11:00PM

Dutrow 1 or 1A is best way to play


ELMONT, N.Y. - The six sprinters who meet in Friday's eighth race at Belmont Park, a $54,000 allowance, are not headed to the World Thoroughbred Championships, but they are an accomplished group in their own right, with 31 races won and $1.4 million earned among them.

Favoritism in the seven-furlong race figures to fall to one of two Richard Dutrow Jr.-trained runners. Dutrow entered Here's Zealous and Burning Marque and named John Velazquez on both, which means only one can run.

Both of Dutrow's runners have early speed. In his last race, Here's Zealous set the pace in the Grade 2 Tom Fool before weakening and finishing third on July 4. Burning Marque, who is a tough customer at seven furlongs, used his front-running speed to win a $125,000 claimer at Saratoga by five lengths.

Burning Marque drew post 3 and Here's Zealous post 4.

Mountain Top, a 6-year-old, has been working well at Delaware Park for his first race since December when he won the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Mountain Top, a graded winner, is well-suited to the distance and has won two of three starts at Belmont. His last race here was in 1999 when he was third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh behind Artax, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Mountain Top's trainer, Michael Gorham, said his horse had a couple of setbacks after winning the Pelican and was turned out.

"He's been training well and I expect a good race for him; he has run well off the layoff before," Gorham said. "I think he's best distance is really seven furlongs -- he's not extremely fast and seven furlongs allows him to bide his time."

Jorge Chavez rides Mountain Top, who drew post 5.

Port Herman would definitely move up with a wet track, but no significant rain is in the forecast. Apprentice Victor Carrero rides Port Herman,who worked a bullet half-mile here on Sept. 19.

Valiant Halory met much tougher in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga earlier this month when he finished sixth. He's a better fit with this bunch, but of concern is the fact Valiant Halory is without a win in nine starts this season.

Silky Sweep, a winner of four of nine starts last year, has run only twice in the past year. Silky Sweep last ran in May, finishing fifth in his first race since October 2000. Trainer John Terranova said his 4-year-old has been plagued by quarter cracks, but is doing well now.