10/12/2006 11:00PM

Pommes Frites one to catch

Pommes Frites with Jose Santos riding wins the $100,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park on Saturday, July 1, 2006.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Since the portable rail has been moved out 24 feet, speed has become a hot commodity on the Belmont Park turf courses. That fact, and her rail post position, should benefit in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia Handicap.

Pommes Frites, one of two entrants for trainer Bill Mott, heads an eight-horse field entered in the Athenia, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles over Belmont's inner turf. Mott has also entered Thetactics Ofdance.

Pommes Frites, a 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, has won 4 of 6 starts this year, including the Grade 3 Beaugay Handicap at Aqueduct and the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park in July. She comes off a second-place finish to Karen's Caper in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap here on Sept. 23. Her other loss came by a neck to Gorella in the Just a Game Breeders' Cup here on Belmont Stakes Day.

Breaking from the rail under Jose Santos, Pommes Frites looks like the horse to catch.

"I think it's hard for her to change what's been working for her this year," said Leana Willaford, assistant trainer to Mott. "If she breaks well again it would be just kind of stupid to wrestle with her too much."

Thetactics Ofdance returns to Belmont where she won the Cozy Blue Stakes in June and finished third behind Melhor Ainda and Bright Abundance in the Capades Stakes in July. Most recently, she finished fifth in the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs.

"She always runs better out of her back door," Willaford said. "She's not a great shipper."

Trainer Bobby Frankel will also run two horses in the Athenia, the speedy Virden and the late-running Dream Lady. Frankel supplemented Dream Lady to the Athenia for $1,000 following her off-the-pace victory in the Omnibus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 23.

"Her style has changed," said Frankel, noting that Dream Lady used to run on or near the lead. "She didn't break all that well and the jockey didn't panic. Maybe she wants to run that way. She's doing well. It's worth taking a shot."

Though Virden is a speed horse, Frankel said she "is in there to run her own race."

A potential speed duel between Virden and Pommes Frites could set things up for Bright Abundance, who has had tough luck this year, finishing third in 3 of 5 starts. She comes off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Noble Damsel Handicap on Sept. 23.

Chaibia, fourth in the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup, and Marchonin complete the field.