02/24/2004 12:00AM

Dutrow poses triple threat


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The magic number on Thursday is 9, which is the number of racing days left on the inner track.

"I usually have a real bad attitude with the inner track," said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., even though he has more than twice as many meet wins (41) as his closest pursuer. "If you don't get things your way, you're going to lose ground and you're going to get beat."

Beating Dutrow has been easier said than done these past few months. He saddled at least one winner every day last week, including a stakes victory from Fit Performer, and allowance triumphs with Loving, Mr. Whitestone, Champion Ri, Just Gabi, Cativa, and My Request.

Dutrow has contenders in all three of Thursday's open-company allowance events, beginning in the third, a six-furlong entry-level allowance that on paper shakes out as a two-horse affair between To Di for Again and the Dutrow-trained July Child.

, who has finished second in four of his last five starts, is among four in the field of seven also entered in Wednesday's eighth race. "He'll probably run Thursday," said Dutrow.

July Child projects as second choice in the wagering against To Di for Again, a sharp 6-year-old whose bid for a fourth straight win fell a nose short last out.

But Dutrow will saddle morning-line favorites Epoxy in the seventh, and Pacific Island in the eighth, both of whom have found good spots. "I'd be looking to watch them win," he acknowledged.

drew the outside post in his allowance for nonwinners-of-three races lifetime, irrelevant considering the short field of six, the long run to the first turn in 10-furlong routes, and the fact that Epoxy should be in complete control of the early pace.

"He probably wants to go this far," Dutrow said of Epoxy, who spots anywhere from five to 10 pounds following open-lengths wins against maiden and entry-level stock. "He's getting better, and it looks like things will go his way."

Pacific Island also faces just five rivals in the eighth, a preliminary allowance sprint at six furlongs. A 3-year-old filly, Pacific Island was claimed by Dutrow for $75,000 at Saratoga last summer, and has won 2 of 3 since then, the only loss a runner-up finish behind Bohemian Lady, who was subsequently second in the Dearly Precious Stakes.

"I'm not too familiar with the jock," said Dutrow, referring to newly arrived apprentice Catalino Martinez, "but she's an easy horse to ride."