07/02/2001 11:00PM

Pick your poison: Mott or Clement?

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Trainers Christophe Clement and Bill Mott again find themselves in a familiar position Thursday at Belmont Park: rivals in a turf race.

Clement and Mott have combined to win 18 races at the meet - 13 on the grass - and each sends out a runner in the $48,000 feature for 4-year-olds and older horses. The third-level allowance, which drew seven horses plus four main-track-only entries, will be run at 1 1/16 miles over the Widener turf course.

The Clement-trained Port Vila, owned by Shadwell Stable, might have an edge as he has a race under his belt following nine months off.

It's been nearly 11 months since Count on Willem last ran, at Saratoga, for Mott and Double R Stable, the owner of multiple stakes winner Proud Man, who won the Hill Prince on the grass here last month.

Port Vila finished sixth, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths, in his American debut at this level on May 12. Sent off as the favorite, Port Vila, who is group placed in England, hesitated at the start and sat off the early leaders while racing three wide. Port Vila wasn't gaining on the winner Postponed, but he was right in the thick of things in a tight finish among the second- through fifth-place finishers.

Port Vila also had a problem getting away from the gate timely in a couple of his European starts.

Jean-Luc Samyn picks up the mount on Port Vila, who drew post 6.

Mott excels with horses coming off long layoffs and Count on Willem had been running well against some good horses, such as graded stakes winners Whata Brainstorm and Forbidden Apple, right before he went to sidelines last summer.

Two of Count on Willem's three career wins have come over the Belmont turf.

Jerry Bailey rides Count on Willem, who has tactical speed, from outside post 7.

Dr. Kashnikow, who is trained by John Kimmel, might have the goods to play the spoiler for the Mott and Clement runners.

Dr. Kashnikow can be forgiven his last performance, which came in an off-the-turf race at this condition on June 3. In his first start over the main track, which was labeled fast, Dr. Kashnikow finished fourth and last, beaten 16 1/2 lengths. His record was nearly blemish-free before that race, with three wins from four starts on the turf.

Hallucinogin, Comet Kris, Rumsonontheriver, and Slowhand complete the field, not counting the main-track-only entrants.