05/26/2005 11:00PM

Factors favor Gulch Approval

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Old Forester beat Gulch Approval by 1 1/4 lengths and set a Gulfstream Park course record when they met in the Canadian Turf Handicap two months ago.

When the two meet again in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Jaipur Handicap at Belmont Park, there are a few reasons to believe Gulch Approval could turn the tables. Old Forester must carry high weight of 124 pounds in the Jaipur, a 10-pound increase from the Canadian. He will spot four pounds to Gulch Approval.

Also, prefers firm turf, something he might not get after a several days of rain earlier in the week. Gulch Approval was able to win a stakes at Monmouth over soft ground last year.

Third, since the Canadian, ran a strong second to Artie Schiller in the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland. Old Forester had to scratch from that race because he was left on the also-eligible list. Finally, Old Forester prefers a swifter pace than he might get in this seven-furlong race.

"Hopefully, we'll have firm ground," Bill Mott, trainer of Old Forester, said from Saratoga. "He doesn't act well on soft ground. If we get a good, honest pace I think he's effective at seven-eighths."

Old Forester is 2 for 2 at Belmont, including a 7 1/4-length allowance win over firm ground last October.

Gulch Approval has not won in his last six starts, but he has run some very creditable races, including a narrow loss in the Grade 2 Kelso over this course last year. He comes off a good second-place finish behind Artie Schiller in the Maker's Mark. He dueled for the lead in that race before giving way late.

On Belmont Stakes Day last year, Gulch Approval was a front-running winner of a third-level allowance race that produced the stakes-winning Christine's Outlaw.

"I think he's one of the better milers on the turf," trainer Nick Zito said of Gulch Approval. "He ran a great race in the Maker's Mark."

Bobby Frankel sends out Trade Fair, who has had two troubled trips in as many North American starts. He finished two lengths behind Gulch Approval in the Maker's Mark. Jerry Bailey, who has won the Jaipur six times, has the call.

could be a live longshot. Unraced since November, Blakelock has run two strong races over this course. Though Blakelock shows only three works, trainer George Weaver said the horse had trained on a farm in Ocala, Fla., before coming here.

Rounding out the field are Ecclesiastic, Steel Light, No Parole, Thunder Touch, and Seeking the Gloryd.