08/25/2003 11:00PM

Fast track would help Battler Bob

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Thunder Blitz looks like the horse to beat in Wednesday's featured third-level allowance race at Saratoga. But with trainer Bobby Frankel having lost with his last 18 starters at the meet through Monday, handicappers may not want to take the short price.

Thunder Blitz has twice been a beaten favorite in this allowance condition, finishing third in a three-way photo behind Regal Sanction and Strive at Belmont on July 6 and second behind Puzzlement in the slop here on July 24. Puzzlement returned to win the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Thunder Blitz, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, figures to be on or near the lead in the early stages of this nine-furlong race. Light Night, disqualified from victory in an off-the-turf race at this condition on opening day, and It's So Simple figure to keep Thunder Blitz company up front.

Provided the track is fast, Battler Bob may be the most viable alternative to Thunder Blitz.

After beginning his career in Southern California, Battler Bob was transferred to the Churchill Downs-based Dale Romans this spring. On Kentucky Derby Day, Battler Bob was beaten a head in a first-level allowance race in the final race on the card.

Battler Bob then reeled off two straight allowance wins before coming to Saratoga. On the second day of the meet, Battler Bob caught a sloppy track and finished last, beaten 19 1/2 lengths by Puzzlement.

"He didn't want to put out much effort,'' Romans said. "He usually tries hard every time so we gave him an excuse with the wet track. He's trained good here. I think he'll run good.''Pat Day rides Battler Bob from post 4.

Light Night finished first in a third-level allowance race that originally was scheduled for turf but that was moved to a muddy main track. After taking the lead around the turn, Light Night appeared poised to win before he ducked out from Jose Santos's left-handed whip and interfered with Sohaib. The stewards disqualified Light Night from first and placed him second.

Owner-trainer Roy Lerman was a bit frustrated with the disqualification, but has been pleasantly surprised with the development of his horse.

"He's an overachiever; for what his level is he seriously tries,'' Lerman said. "He's overcome the physical problems he had as a 2-year-old. This winter he trained much better than he was last year.''

Quest, who was beaten a nose by Cat Track at this condition last out, Strive, and Pinky Pizwaanski round out the field.