11/27/2003 12:00AM

El Prado Rob has tradition on his side


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It was no surprise when trainer Nick Zito decided to skip last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It would have been shocking had Zito not participated in Saturday's Remsen at Aqueduct.

Zito is having a banner year with his 2-year-olds and has always been a big fan of the Remsen, a nine-furlong, two-turn race, which will be run for the 90th time on Saturday. In the last 10 years, Zito has run eight horses in the Remsen, winning it with Go for Gin (1993) and Greenwood Lake (1997), running two-three with Halory Hunter and Brooklyn Nick (1997), and finishing third with Silent Fred (1991). Go for Gin went on to win the 1994 Kentucky Derby.

Saturday, Zito will send out El Prado Rob in the Grade 2 Remsen, which drew a field of 11. After getting drilled by Cuvee in the Saratoga Special and the Futurity, El Prado Rob took a drop in class and stretched out around two turns, winning a 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 19.

In that race, El Prado Rob rallied from 7 1/2 lengths back of the leaders. Around the turn, jockey Shane Sellers abruptly altered course and shot El Prado Rob through an opening along the inside to gain contention. In the lane, Sellers took El Prado Rob off the rail and the horse created his own space between horses before drawing clear by 2 1/2 lengths.

"I'm expecting a good race out of El Prado Rob. He's a proven colt,'' Zito said. "The Remsen's a good race; we've been pointing to it for a long time.''

The only other Remsen entrant proven around two turns is Mustanfar, who won a slowly run nine-furlong race here on Nov. 11.

Read the Footnotes is the potential favorite based on his 3-for-4 record, which includes a front-running victory in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes. That he is the main speed under Jerry Bailey doesn't hurt. Post 9 and highweight of 122 pounds could.

Artie Schiller and Milestone Victory have shown a preference for turf, but their trainers are hopeful they can dirt as well. Artie Schiller finished third to Read the Footnotes in September, an allowance race in which trainer Jimmy Jerkens felt Artie Schiller was short coming off a 53-day layoff. Trainer Niall Brennan said Milestone Victory has worked well on dirt.

Master David, a son of Grand Slam, makes his turf and U.S. debut for owner Peter Minikes and trainer Brian Meehan, the same connections who won the Grade 1 Gazelle in September with Buy the Sport.