05/21/2001 11:00PM

Good play is to follow the Dutrow runner


ELMONT, N.Y. - A stakes-packed holiday weekend is on the horizon, but until then an ordinary weekday card awaits Belmont Park racing fans Thursday.

A $54,000 allowance serves as the feature and drew a field of seven older males. The classified event, the eighth on the card, will be run at 1 1/8 miles around one turn on the main track.

Richard Dutrow Jr. entered Here's Zealous and Company Approval, with jockey John Velazquez named on both, which means the trainer can start only one runner. Company Approval is the logical starter since he's better fitted to the conditions than stablemate Here's Zealous, a sprinter, who won a second-level allowance only last Saturday.

Dutrow is off to a good start at the Belmont meet, following a strong Aqueduct spring stand in which he tied for leading trainer with Juan Serey.

At this meet, Dutrow, Serey, and Scotty Schulhofer were locked in the lead with four winners apiece following Sunday's card. Velazquez has ridden each of Dutrow's winners.

It's difficult to pass on runners from Dutrow's barn, particularly when they fit the spot, like Company Approval does.

If he starts, Company Approval wheels back after winning an allowance race at Thursday's distance by 6 1/4 lengths eight days ago. In a rare occurrence for a Dutrow runner, Company Approval returned a generous $15.80 that day - a price that won't be had here.

Dutrow claimed Company Approval earlier this year for $62,500 from a race run at Santa Anita Park. Off the claim, the 5-year-old finished off the board as a longshot in a pair of stakes - the San Luis Rey and Fort Marcy - before nailing his first win for his new owners, Jan, Mace, and Samantha Siegel, on May 16.

If the track is wet, Buddha's Delight holds an edge. Mike Luzzi, who is enjoying a solid meet, will ride the classy veteran, a winner of nearly $300,000.

Open Sesame, a gelding, should run an improved race for trainer Jimmy Jerkens after finishing third on May 10, his first start since December. Open Sesame was beaten 11 lengths in the fourth-level allowance by last year's New York-bred horse of the year, Gander.

Open Sesame, who will be ridden by Heberto Castillo Jr., put in a decent half-mile work in 48.60 seconds on Monday.

Reef Chief, Tarquinius, and Country Be Gold round out the field.