05/28/2005 12:00AM

Ghostzapper jumps right into deep end

Ghostzapper makes return in the Met Mile at Belmont Park on Monday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Despite running the two best horses in the race, trainers Bobby Frankel and Todd Pletcher enter Monday's Grade 1 with a bit of trepidation.

Frankel admits to being "a little nervous" bringing defending Horse of the Year Ghostzapper back in the Met Mile at Belmont Park, annually one of the most competitive races run on this circuit. Ghostzapper, who is 4 for 4 at Belmont, has not been out since winning the Breeders' Cup Classic seven months ago.

For Pletcher, who will saddle Forest Danger, his anxiety is based on running against the best horse in the world in a race in which he has had no luck. Since 2001, Pletcher is 0 for 5 in the Met Mile, including saddling beaten favorites Left Bank (2002) and Strong Hope (2004).

Bettors likely won't be tepid in throwing their support behind either Ghostzapper or Forest Danger, both of whom figure to be less than 2-1 in a field that includes Grade 1 winners Silver Wagon and Pomeroy and Grade 2 winners Love of Money and Sir Shackleton.

Ghostzapper was scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the Oaklawn Park Handicap in April. But he developed a sinus infection that required a hole to be drilled in his head to drain. Ghostzapper's last four works have all been at six furlongs, and jockey Javier Castellano has been aboard for several of those moves.

"He gives me the same feeling like before the Breeders' Cup," Castellano said.

Ghostzapper is very versatile, and Castellano said the key is to keep him in the clear. Ghostzapper will break from post 2 under high weight of 123 pounds

"Last year, when he got dirt in his face he'd go all the way to the back," Castellano said. "Maybe right now he's a more mature horse. I'll put him in a good position, and when we get in the clear I think he'll be fine."

Said Frankel: "As long as the jock's happy with him, that's all I care about."

Forest Danger is 5 for 6, and his two races this year have been nothing short of brilliant. He won a fourth-level allowance race at Gulfstream in front-running fashion before coming from five lengths off the pace to win the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct.

"To me, one of the things that was very impressive about [the Carter] is he dropped back the first 50 yards and he ran very fast interior fractions," Pletcher said.

Forest Danger will be reunited with John Velazquez in the Met. He will break from post 6 under 118 pounds.

Forest Danger's only loss came at a mile in last year's Withers Stakes. But, Pletcher notes that Forest Danger was running back in three weeks off a career-best effort and came out of the Withers with a hairline fracture in a rear leg.

"In the Carter, the horse galloped out very strongly, so you've got to be optimistic that he would go further," Pletcher said. "Until they do it, you don't know."

Love of Money wheels back on five days' rest, after going gate to wire winning an allowance race on Thursday. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. was hoping for an off track, but that does not appear likely.

"I know he's really good right now," Dutrow said. "But I think Belmont is not his favorite track when it's dry. I hope I'm wrong. I know he's in a tough spot, but maybe he won't know it."

Love of Money is the likely pacesetter from post 3 under Edgar Prado.

Sir Shackleton is 2 for 2 at one mile, but is coming off two disappointing sprints in Kentucky. Trainer Nick Zito said he would like to see his horse make one run under Rafael Bejarano.

Pomeroy won the Grade 1 King's Bishop last summer in his third start off a layoff. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he has used Pomeroy's two previous starts as stepping-stones to this race and expects a big effort on Monday.

Silver Wagon is only 1 for 7 since winning the Grade 1 Hopeful in 2003.

The field

Metropolitan Handicap
Purse: $750,000; 1 mile; Grade 1

1Sir ShackletonR. Bejarano11620-1
2GhostzapperJ. Castellano1233-5
3Love of MoneyE. Prado1165-1
4PomeroyG. Stevens11510-1
5Silver WagonC. Velasquez11430-1
6Forest DangerJ. Velazquez1182-1

* Odds by Art Gropper