06/05/2002 11:00PM

Manhattan project: Go long

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ELMONT, N.Y. - An outstanding lineup of grass runners will meet in Saturday's $400,000 Manhattan, a Grade 1, on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Eight older males, including three Grade 1 winners, entered the Manhattan, which will be run at 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf.

The 120-pound highweight is With Anticipation, who won two Grade 1 races and was disqualified from first in another last year. With Anticipation, a 7-year-old trained by Jonathan Sheppard, was a closing second to Beat Hollow in the Woodford Reserve at Churchill on May 4 in his last start. The Woodford is a 1 1/8-mile race, a bit short for With Anticipation, who excels in marathons.

Sheppard said the Woodford indicated to him that With Anticipation could be poised to recapture the form he had last year.

"I was thrilled with the way he ran," Sheppard said.

With Anticipation set the pace in his Grade 1 wins last year, but Sheppard said his gelding can be just as effective off the lead.

"I think his ideal trip is stalking trip, tucked behind the speed," Sheppard said. "When he has found himself on the lead it's been because nobody wanted it."

Pat Day rides With Anticipation, who drew the rail.

Beat Hollow, a Group 1 winner in Europe, could be the horse who shows the way early.

"He might be on the lead here," Beat Hollow's trainer, Bobby Frankel, said. "Looking at the race, he may be quicker than With Anticipation. He went wire to wire in Europe on a slow pace."

Beat Hollow's victories in this country have come on a firm course, but Frankel said his 5-year-old might be even better on a course with moisture in it. Heavy rains were forecast for Thursday through early Friday.

Beat Hollow, with Alex Solis aboard, drew post 3.

In the Woodford, Beat Hollow carried 115 pounds, eight fewer than With Anticipation. The spread isn't as big here, as Beat Hollow carries 118 pounds.

Forbidden Apple, who wired the Manhattan field last year in his first start of the year, will try to duplicate that effort. Forbidden Apple, a 7-year-old, hasn't run since finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Mile in December.

Forbidden Apple has an exceptional record at Belmont, with seven wins from 12 starts. His win last year in the Manhattan was his first at a 1 1/4 miles.

"He's a top-class miler, but good enough to be versatile," said Christophe Clement, Forbidden Apple's trainer.

Jose Santos rides Forbidden Apple, who drew post 7.

Hap, who leads the field in earnings with $1,329,210, is tough up to 1 1/8 miles, but might find the Manhattan distance a bit too far for his liking.

Jerry Bailey rides Hap, who will be coming from off the pace.

Also entered are the winner and third-place finisher in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico, Strut the Stage and Slew the Red. Blazing Fury, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last year, and German invader Krombacher complete the field.