09/16/2004 12:00AM

Layoff should be no problem for Stroll


ELMONT, N.Y. - Heavy rains forecast here for the weekend and the allure of a $1 million purse in Sunday's Atto Mile at Woodbine combined to keep the field for Saturday's $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap light.

Only five horses were entered to run if the Grade 2, 1/8-mile race remains on Belmont Park's inner turf. Two more were entered should the race be moved to the main track. The Belmont Breeders' Cup is one of three graded stakes on a 10-race card that includes Grade 2 Jerome for 3-year-old colts and the Grade 3 Floral Park for sprinting fillies and mares. A pick four wager with a guaranteed $400,000 pool comprises the three stakes and a New York-bred allowance race.

, who has not raced since finishing sixth in the Manhattan Handicap on June 5, is the horse to beat in the Belmont Breeders' Cup. He has won four graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles, including the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day over soft ground.

The layoff is not problematic, because trainer Bill Mott excels in such situations. Still, Mott admits to not having Stroll completely cranked for this race, one he hopes to use as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Mile next month.

"He's doing very well," Mott said. "I think he's stronger and moving well. We don't have him screwed down 100 percent. That's why we're putting a race into him."

Stroll could be on the lead or sit just off Gulch Approval, a late entrant to the field. won his first three turf starts before finishing seventh in the Fourstardave at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

could upset Stroll. A multiple Grade 3 winner, Senor Swinger takes a drop in class after finishing seventh, beaten less than six lengths, in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Trainer Bob Baffert said a soft course would enhance Senor Swinger's chances.

"He likes soft," Baffert said. "He hates California. He cannot run in California, it's too damn hard for him. The Arlington Million, there were some nice horses in there. It was too firm for him that day."

Baffert said he would likely run Senor Swinger if the race comes off the grass. On dirt, however, Colita may be the one to beat. Colita is 3 for 3 at Belmont, including two victories in the mud. Colita has run two extremely good races since coming back from an eye injury.

Gygistar won the Grade 1 King's Bishop in the slop as a 3-year-old. His last win came in the Grade 3 Westchester here in May.