10/11/2002 11:00PM

Pebbles pits Frankel against Clement

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ELMONT, N.Y. - With more than four inches of rain pelting the New York area since Thursday, there is no certainty that Monday's $100,000 Pebbles Handicap will remain on Belmont Park's inner turf course as scheduled.

That explains why 16 horses were entered for the nine-furlong race, with four designated to run only if the race is moved to the main track.

Should the Pebbles remain on turf, the Grade 3 race figures to develop into a showdown between trainers Bobby Frankel and Christophe Clement. Frankel sends out the three-horse entry of Pertuisane, Nunatall, and Glia, while Clement has entered Mariensky and Madeira Mist.

Pertuisane is the strongest part of the Frankel entry off her troubled third-place finish in the Grade 1 Garden City Handicap here on Sept. 8. Making her U.S. debut after racing in France, Pertuisane was blocked from the three-eighths pole till deep stretch and was only beaten two lengths by Wonder Again, who was entered in Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

"I don't know if she would have won, she might have been second," Frankel said of Pertuisane's trouble in the Garden City. "Sometimes they get out and make their run too early and flatten out."

Pertuisane, who will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan from post 5, demonstrated an ability to handle soft turf in France.

Both Pertuisane and Glia raced within four lengths of Turtle Bow in Europe. Turtle Bow came here to be second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational last month. Frankel just took over the training of Glia, and said he would likely run her on turf or dirt.

"Her pedigree, being by A.P. Indy, I got to go with Glia if it comes off," he said.

Nunatall, who won the 1 1/16-mile Lake George at Saratoga, finished fourth in the Garden City. She would be the starting highweight at 118 pounds. Frankel said the nine furlongs may be a touch too far for Nunatall.

Mariensky looks to be the stronger part of Clement's uncoupled entry. Mariensky had a brutal trip when beaten a half-length by Nunatall in the Lake George and also had trouble when eighth, beaten only 4 1/4 lengths in the Garden City.

"She lacked racing luck in the Garden City, she's been training well," Clement said. "Ability is not a problem, ground will be the major question."

Mariensky gets a rider switch to Edgar Prado, but must overcome post 11.

If the race is moved to the main track, Maryland shipper Undercover becomes interesting. Though by a sprint sire, Allen's Prospect, Undercover has excelled since being stretched out, winning the 1 1/16 miles Maryland Million Oaks by 6 1/2 lengths in her last start.