06/05/2003 12:00AM

Frankel seeks a repeat

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel aims for back-to-back wins in Saturday's $400,000 Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Frankel, who won last year's Grade 1 Manhattan with Beat Hollow, has the likely favorite, Denon. Frankel also entered Requete, the runner-up in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs May 3. The Frankel horses are not coupled.

Denon and With Anticipation are the co-highweights at 122 pounds in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan, which will be run on the inner turf and drew a stellar cast of 11.

Evening Attire, State Shinto, Judge's Case, and Short Hair are entered main-track-only in the event the Manhattan is run on dirt.

Recent heavy rains have saturated the turf. The course's condition for Saturday is anticipated to be yielding to soft, according to the track superintendent's office.

Denon finished second in the Jim Murray at Hollywood Park May 10 in his first start of the year. The two-length winner of the Jim Murray was Storming Home, a horse that Frankel isn't anxious to meet again.

"I left California because the competition here is easier," Frankel said. "Denon ran the best numbers he has ever run when he got beat last time. I'm hoping he can improve a little bit off that. To be honest, I didn't know he would run as good as he did."

Denon, who won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational here last fall, has won on firm, good, and yielding turf courses. Jerry Bailey rides Denon from post 10.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said the 8-year-old With Anticipation prefers firm ground. Last year, With Anticipation won three consecutive Grade 1's, all at distances longer than the Manhattan.

In his only start this year, With Anticipation finished fifth in the Woodford Reserve.

"He galloped out strongly," Sheppard said. "That's a sign he still has his competitive spirit."

Pat Day rides With Anticipation from the rail.

Honor in War surprised many, but not his trainer, Paul McGee, by winning the Woodford Reserve at 24-1 for his first stakes win.

"It was asking a lot of him, but he's been a nice horse all along and it didn't surprise me he won because he had been doing so well," McGee said. "If he runs as big as did on Derby Day, he'll be right there."

David Flores rides Honor in War, who drew the outside post.

Dr. Brendler, also entered in a Philadelphia Park stakes race Saturday, beat softer opponents in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico May 17 than he meets here. His trainer, Graham Motion, said a rain-soaked course is ideal for Dr. Brendler.

Those conditions also suit Caesarion, who won the Group 3 Prix Andre Baboin in France at the Manhattan distance over heavy ground in his last start Oct. 17. Caesarion will race on Lasix for the first time.

Irish Colonial, a son of 1993 Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair, is 2 for 2 this year. The competition in the Manhattan is stiffer than what Irish Colonial faced when winning the restricted Kingston here May 25.

The likely pacesetter is Patrol, who set the pace in the Woodford Reserve before tiring and finishing third.

Shaanmer, Macaw, and Gritty Sandie complete the field.