07/23/2002 11:00PM

A peek at coming splendor


Fans at Philadelphia Park got a sneak peek at some of the local horses who could be strong contenders in next month's Claiming Crown in a series of preview races held at the Bensalem, Pa., oval last Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday.

As the host track, Philadel-phia will likely be represented by at least two horses in each of the six Claiming Crown races on Saturday, Aug. 31.

Welcome Matt, a 4-year-old colt trained by Ed Coletti, solidified his chances for the Jewel, the glamour division of the series with a purse of $150,000, by scoring a two-length victory at 14-1 in a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance. Welcome Matt, who has now won 6 of 11 lifetime starts at Philly Park, was wearing blinkers for the first time.

Stephan's Prize, a 7-year-old horse trained by Donald Reeder, is Philly Park's top threat for the Emerald, the lone Claiming Crown turf race. He was left alone on the lead through modest fractions of 48.44 seconds and 1:12.44 en route to an easy 5 1/2-length win, covering a mile and 70 yards in 1:41.88.

In a prep for the Rapid Transit, the division for the top sprinters, Go Rail Go avenged an earlier defeat to Beam Us Up. The 4-year-old Go Rail Go, trained by Ramon Preciado, ran the first half-mile in a blistering 43.49 seconds and completed six furlongs in 1:09.42.

One of the fastest fillies on the grounds, Final Dispersal, is Philly Park's top candidate in the Glass Slipper division. The 4-year-old Final Dispersal has won six of seven starts this season for trainer Scott Lake, including a six-furlong starter-allowance clocked in 1:11.31 in her most recent start on July 2.

Lake has another leading local contender for the Iron Horse in 9-year-old gelding Ruskin. He has won his last two preps for the Claiming Crown, both at a mile and 70 yards, by a combined margin of more than 14 lengths.

All the Marbles, a 7-year-old gelding trained by John McCaslin, has trounced two fields of starter allowance runners at 5 1/2 furlongs and is clearly Philly's best contender in the Express.

Philly will hold one more round of preview races the weekend of Aug. 10-11. Pre-entry day for the Claiming Crown is Aug. 16.