06/01/2004 11:00PM

Frankel figures, Why not?


ELMONT, N.Y. - First, Bobby Frankel said Master David would run on the grass. Then, Frankel started thinking about the Northern Dancer Stakes or Ohio Derby, both dirt stakes run June 12.

In the end, Frankel decided to put Master David in the Belmont Stakes.

"That's me, I change my mind all the time," Frankel said outside his barn Wednesday morning. "I'm not always right. If I were such a great handicapper, I wouldn't need to train horses. I don't think we can beat him" - referring to Smarty Jones - "but it's horse racing."

Master David, a son of Grand Slam, needed a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial to get into the Kentucky Derby. He finished 12th in the Derby, 18 1/2 lengths behind Smarty Jones. After skipping the Preakness, Master David finished third in the Peter Pan, eight lengths behind Purge.

Frankel said he saw no reason not to run Master David in the Belmont. Master David came out of the Peter Pan in good order, and put in a strong six-furlong workout Sunday.

"If it wasn't the Belmont, I'd look for another spot," said Frankel, who noted that his wife, Bonita, also encouraged him to run. "She said you may be depriving him of a chance to win a Triple Crown race. I just got not no negatives to him as far as health-wise. There's no negatives coming into this race."

Later, at the post-position draw, Frankel said trainer Allen Jerkens told Mike Sellitto, the agent for jockey Jose Santos, that he liked Master David to win the Belmont.

"If I win, I might be giving him 5 percent," Frankel said.

Frankel has named Santos to ride Master David. It was only one year ago that Empire Maker, trained by Frankel, knocked off the Santos-ridden Funny Cide in the Belmont to deny Funny Cide the Triple Crown.

"Pretty ironic, huh?" Santos said. "A lot of wild things happen in this business."

Santos rode Master David to a second-place finish in the Remsen Stakes last November. Santos was aboard for Sunday's work.

"He's a completely different horse," Santos said. "I love the way he worked. He's definitely a stronger horse, a lot more experienced."

In 1999, Santos was the regular rider of Lemon Drop Kid. Lemon Drop Kid finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Peter Pan before upsetting Charismatic's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont at odds of 29-1.

Elliott's Belmont record

Whether you consider experience in riding the unique Belmont oval important, here are the facts regarding Stewart Elliott's experience riding at Belmont Park. Elliott, the regular rider of Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones, is 1 for 15 at Belmont since the spring of 1997. The one win came on Sept. 22, 1999, when he rode Tickle Me Red in a $50,000 claiming race run at 1 1/16 miles.

Elliott, who is not named to ride any other horse Saturday, rode twice here last summer. His last mount at Belmont was on July 16, 2003, when he finished last aboard Zonk in the My Juliet Stakes. John Servis, the trainer of Smarty Jones, trained Zonk.

Zawzooth won the My Juliet. Zawzooth is owned by Starlight Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, the same connections as Belmont Stakes starter Purge.

Here's the pitch from Servis

John Servis might have thought his pitching career ended nearly 30 years ago, but twice in the past three weeks he has thrown out the first pitch at major league baseball games. Tuesday night, Servis received a rousing cheer from the normally taciturn Philadelphia Phillies fans when introduced before the game against the Mets.

Servis, accompanied by his 13-year-old son, Tyler, lobbed one in high and inside. It was in contrast to his performance May 14 at a game in Baltimore, when he bounced one wildly in the dirt. Servis had an excuse that day, though. Only hours before the game, he was kicked on the arm by a horse in the paddock at Pimlico.

"I usually played second base or outfield," Servis said later while watching the game from the private box owned by Jim Thome of the Phillies. "The first time I pitched, I hit the first two batters. I could throw hard, but I was wild."

Servis says Smarty already a champ

In sports talk shows all week in Philadelphia, fans and hosts have been debating whether Smarty Jones can bring a championship to a city that has not had one for 20 years. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Smarty Jones needs to win the Belmont, and the Triple Crown, to become a champion. Servis, however, thinks Smarty Jones already has won the equivalent of a championship.

"Quite frankly I think we did it," he said. "When we won the Derby, to me that's the championship. The Triple Crown's icing on the cake, and if we get that done then that's an added dimension. But to me, the Kentucky Derby, that was the one. That was the main goal since early January."

Fan mail is pouring in

Servis has been startled by the amount of mail he has received for Smarty Jones. One gave him a real chuckle.

"A kid drew Smarty Jones surrounded by a whole bunch of dollar signs," Servis said. "He wrote a letter that said Smarty Jones is making so much money, send me some. I'm getting a lot of drawings, crayon drawings, and letters to the horse. I've got school classes sending envelopes in which every kid might send a letter to Smarty. It's pretty neat to look through them all, it really is.

"We've been getting hundreds of letters," Servis said. "It's close to thousands now. We've sent replies to a couple hundred. We'll try to get back to every one, but it might take awhile."

Funny Cide's sister makes debut

Rockcide, a 3-year-old half-sister to last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide, is set to make her first start in the first race Friday at Belmont, a maiden special weight for New York-bred fillies and mares.

Rockcide, who is by Personal Flag, is the second-to-last foal out of Funny Cide's dam, Belle's Good Cide, who died in 2003. A 3-year-old filly, Rockcide has worked five times for trainer Kevin Boniface at his family's Bonita Farm in Maryland and is listed at 5-1 on the morning line. Jose Santos will be up.

In contrast to Funny Cide, who was by Kentucky sire Distorted Humor, Rockcide is a true New York-bred - by a New York sire and foaled in New York. Under New York breeding rules, a horse can qualify as a New York-bred if it is foaled in the state and the mare is subsequently bred back to a New York sire, as was the case with Funny Cide. Personal Flag, who is 21, stands at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs.

Pre-Belmont festivities set

Floral Park, the town that is adjacent to Elmont, will host the Belmont Stakes Street Parade on Friday. Garden City, another town near the track, will host the Belmont Festival that same night. The Festival, which will be held in Garden City's downtown, will include a parade and performances by local bands. Also on Friday at the track, musical crews from Broadway shows will appear at Belmont Park between races to perform. That night, the Jockey Club will host the Belmont Celebration, a charity event honoring the retired DRF columnist Joe Hirsch and benefitting the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Fund, on the grounds of Belmont Park at the festival tent behind the paddock. As of Wednesday afternoon, tickets for the event were still available at a cost of $275.

* Jockey Edward Escobar was fined $500 on Wednesday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for "inappropriate use of the whip" while aboard Sayitlikeumeanit in the sixth race at Belmont May 28. Sayitlikeumeanit finished last in the 11-horse field while lugging in for most of the one-mile New York-bred maiden special weight race.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty and Jay Privman