06/04/2002 11:00PM

Magic Weisner may think he's home


ELMONT, N.Y. - When Magic Weisner, the Preakness runner-up, runs in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, it will mark the first time he has run outside the state of Maryland. He has run five times at Pimlico and six at Laurel Park, where he reeled off five straight wins from Dec. 8 through March 30.

Jockey Richard Migliore believes Magic Weisner's success at Laurel bodes well for Saturday.

"I like the fact he runs well at Laurel; Laurel is closer to this surface than Pimlico,'' Migliore said. "He's just a handy little horse that's light on his feet and gets over the ground with no problem. If he had a distinct way of going then it might be a problem. But he's pretty handy.''

With the arrival Wednesday of War Emblem, Proud Citizen, Perfect Drift, and Wiseman's Ferry from Kentucky, Magic Weisner remains the only Belmont starter not in New York. (Artax Too is at Aqueduct). Magic Weisner will van to New York from Laurel on Friday.

Nancy Alberts, the breeder, owner and trainer of Magic Weisner, jogged the horse in her Laurel barn Wednesday.

"He tried to buck me off in the barn,'' Alberts said. "Then we put him on the ring after I gave him a bath and he was wild. I should have taken him out.''

War Emblem has a nasty side

Bob Baffert says War Emblem has great speed, great stamina over a distance of ground, and a nose for the wire.

"He has huge nostrils. His air intake is phenomenal," Baffert said. "He's lanky, like a marathon runner. He's a cruise missile."

Baffert has other nicknames for War Emblem. Because of his propensity for biting a pony after races, Baffert calls War Emblem "the lean, mean, biting machine." "He's a pony eater," Baffert said. "He's so pumped up, he takes it out on the lead pony."

Baffert also calls War Emblem "Hannibal Lecter," and "the Stealth Bomber."

But the one thing Baffert most wants to call War Emblem is "Triple Crown winner."

"If he gets it done, it's going to be exciting," Baffert said.

Owners offer to donate Proud Citizen's purse

For Robert Baker, David Cornstein, and William Mack, the owners of Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, the 134th Belmont has become an opportunity to give something back to the people of New York - specifically to the families of the victims of Sept. 11, when more than 2,700 people died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

That is one reason why Baker, Cornstein, and Mack have decided to donate whatever money Proud Citizen earns from Saturday's Belmont to the Twin Towers Fund, a charity that aids families of victims of the terrorist attacks. They have guaranteed a minimum of $100,000 even if the horse does not earn that figure. The first-place prize for winning the Belmont would be $600,000.

"We feel we would like to make this gesture to set an example for the rest of the world,'' Mack said. "New York is the melting pot of people from all over the world. This is an example of what people should be doing - helping one another.''

The trio said they are not trying to make a political statement with their actions. "This is all about horses all about racing, not about politics,'' said Mack, who deals in real estate. "Rather than have confrontations on the battlefields of the world, we should confine ourselves to competition on the playing fields of the world.'"

"The event has really become a major event because of the Triple Crown at stake, because of Wayne Lukas versus Bob Baffert, because of War Emblem versus Proud Citizen, because of three regular guys from New York versus a prince from Saudi Arabia,'' said David Cornstein, a native New Yorker who is chairman of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.

While most of the expected 80,000-plus fans that will be coming to Belmont to see racing crown its 12th Triple Crown winner, Baker thinks Proud Citizen - who also finished third in the Preakness - will have his backers as well.

"We think what we've done in giving our share of the purse to the Twin Towers fund we'll have a whole lot of people rooting for this horse,'' Baker said.

Long-time relationship

Puzzlement's trainer Allen Jerkens and jockey Jean-Luc Samyn bring a long history to the Belmont Stakes. Jerkens, 73, has been using the French-born Samyn since 1979. That year in August, Samyn won with his first mount for the Hall of Fame trainer.

Samyn, who was 22 at the time, picked up the assignment on War Fever in the Grade 1 Matchmaker and won the race after jockey Ruben Hernandez turned down the mount.

According to Samyn, who keeps a record of his career statistics, he has ridden a total of 219 winners for Jerkens, including 46 stakes winners in the past 23 years.

The Belmont isn't the only big event for Samyn on Saturday. His daughter, Jeanette, will graduate from high school at Friends Academy in Locust Valley at 6 p.m. With a 6:10 p.m. post time for the Belmont Stakes, Samyn will miss the graduation, but will be on hand for the dinner celebration later that evening. Perhaps Samyn will have two reasons to celebrate.

Expanded wagering menu for Belmont Day

Those planning to wager on Saturday's 12-race card at Belmont Park should bring plenty of extra cash.

The New York Racing Association is expanding the wagering menu to include two pick fours, five daily doubles, and two superfectas. The pick six, which will be offered on races 6 through 11, has a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

In addition to the traditional Final Four Pick Four (races 9-12), there will be a pick four on races 8-11 with a guaranteed pool of $500,000. Daily doubles will be offered on races 1-2, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, and 11-12. In addition to superfecta wagering on the last race, a superfecta will be offered on the Belmont Stakes (race 10).

Jockeys serve cocktails for charity

A group of jockeys played bartenders earlier this week at the popular Opal restaurant and lounge in Manhattan at a fund-raiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Manhattan.

Jockeys Jorge Chavez, Aaron Gryder, Jose Santos, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, and Paul Toscano were in attendance, as was actor Michael Imperioli of the television show "The Sopranos."

According to Peter Rotondo of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the event raised $7,500 for the children's charity.

- Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. received a 10-day suspension from the stewards for "gross careless riding'' that resulted in the disqualification of Magnificent Val from first place in last Sunday's seventh race. The suspension will begin Saturday.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson and Jay Privman