09/21/2001 11:00PM

Krieger a horse on the rise in Jamaica

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ELMONT, N.Y. - In the fall, an improving 3-year-old is a dangerous commodity. Add in a tactical and weight advantage and Krieger looms a serious threat to multiple stakes winner Baptize in Sunday's $200,000 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park.

A solid field of nine was entered for the Jamaica, a nine-furlong, Grade 2 race run over Belmont's inner turf course. There are also two horses entered for main-track-only purposes.

Krieger, a son of Lord at War, has gotten steadily better in his last three starts for trainer Joe Orseno. On June 21, he fell a nose short in a preliminary allowance race at Belmont. With the addition of blinkers, Krieger won a pair of allowance races at Saratoga as a front-runner.

"The blinkers helped him focus a little more," Orseno said. "The talent was always there."

Krieger was most impressive two starts back when he dueled with J W Black through hot fractions before putting J W Black away and holding off Blazing Fury late. Blazing Fury came back to win the Grade 3 Saranac while J W Black won an allowance race in his next start.

Krieger also won his next race, an allowance event on closing day at Saratoga in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

"The last race I was real happy with because the horse was relaxed down the backside, he changed leads which he didn't do until late the time before," Orseno said. "We'll find out how good he is."

Krieger looms the main speed from post 8 under Jorge Chavez and 117 pounds, six pounds fewer than highweight Baptize.

Baptize will be favored based on a 6-3-1 record from 10 starts and his Hall of Fame connections of Bill Mott and Jerry Bailey. Baptize enters the race off two consecutive Grade 2 wins in the Arlington Classic and National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes.

Baptize's lone poor effort came in the Diamond A-USA Handicap at Lone Star run over a soft turf course. Mott noted the final time of 1:48.12 for that 1 1/16-mile race was more suited to a 1 1/8-mile race.

Rains Thursday and Friday forced several races off the turf at Belmont and the course figures to be less than firm on Sunday.

Proud Man is a quadruple Grade 3 stakes winner who may have needed a race when he ran fourth in the Saranac off a 2 1/2-month layoff. His connections are convinced he will run better this time.

Navesink and Bowman Mill, the one-two finishers of the Kent Breeders' Cup at Delaware, add to the contentiousness of the field. Navesink runs on Lasix for the first time.