05/30/2006 11:00PM

Frankel has favorites in two

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ELMONT, N.Y. - A forecast for thunderstorms could wreak havoc on the grass races on Friday's card, but the two best races in terms of quality are on the main track. In each case, a Bobby Frankel-trained horse looks like the one to beat.

In race 3, a $100,000 optional claimer with classified allowance conditions at 1 1/16 miles, Frankel sends out Rathor, who won twice from seven starts in England and looks for his third straight win since being imported to the United States and switched to dirt.

was unveiled at Aqueduct toward the end of the winter and won a second-level allowance sprint after blowing by three rivals through a final furlong in 11.90 seconds. On May 4 here, Rathor, ridden by Eibar Coa, stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and beat Mayan King by three lengths, surviving an inquiry for coming in and bumping with Mayan King in the stretch. Mayan King came back to win his third-level condition impressively.

"[Coa] probably didn't realize how much horse he had," said Frankel of the incident. "He was much the best, and the way that horse came back to win was encouraging."

Rathor steps up another rung on the class ladder and breaks from post 4 in a field of five. A 4-year-old colt, Rathor is both the youngest and most lightly raced runner in a field that also includes stakes-seasoned veterans Contante, , who is a five-time winner at Belmont, including consecutive renewals of the Westchester Handicap.

"We'll see how [Rathor] runs," said Frankel. "If he runs really well, he could come back in the Suburban. It might be a good time to take a shot."

, a Brazilian import trained by Frankel, appears to be the one to beat in race 8 despite being eligible for an easier spot.

The one-mile optional claimer for older fillies and mares has third-level allowance conditions, and Notre Dame has shipped in from California after losing four races in the second-level ranks to begin her U.S. career. The last three defeats came as the favorite. Two of the losses, however, were in photo finishes, behind Lady Pegasus and Seafree, who subsequently won the La Canada Stakes.

"She's trained fast over these tracks," said Frankel, referring to bullet works by Notre Dame on fast and muddy tracks toward the end of May. "Really fast for my style of training."

The field of eight also includes stakes winners .