07/09/2001 12:00AM

Prado gunning for riding lead

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Jockey Edgar Prado had a fabulous run last week at Belmont Park, winning seven races in a five-day span to come within two wins of John Velazquez's lead.

Prado, seeking his first Belmont Park spring/summer meet title, has won 51 races at the meet to Velazquez's 53.

Starting Wednesday, there are 10 days remaining at the 55-day Belmont meet. Racing switches to Saratoga Race Course on July 25.

On Wednesday's overnight, Prado is named on seven horses, as is Velazquez, who rode three winners at Belmont last week.

The two riders are scheduled to face each other in five races, including the featured eighth race.

Eleven fillies and mares, plus two main-track-only horses, entered the $44,000 allowance for nonwinners of two races lifetime. The race will be run over the Widener turf course at 1 1/16 miles.

Prado pilots Cherokee Promise, who in her turf debut was moved up from second to first via a disqualification in a one-mile maiden race at Belmont on June 16.

Cherokee Promise's trainer, Barclay Tagg, removes the blinkers on his 3-year-old filly for this race.

Cherokee Promise drew post 7.

Velazquez is to Prado's outside in post 8 aboard American Dreamer. Trained by Todd Pletcher, American Dreamer chased the pace before tiring in her last start at this level in a mile race on June 9. Before that effort, American Dreamer had a maiden win at 1 1/16 miles, plus two runner-up efforts, all on grass.

Jerry Bailey, the leading rider at this meet last year, rides the horse to beat and likely favorite, Skatesheba.

Bailey enters Wednesday's card with 34 winners and is fifth in the standings.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, Skatesheba was a troubled seventh, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, at this level on April 22 at Keeneland. Earlier in the year, the filly finished a narrowly beaten second in the Blue Norther at Santa Anita. Last fall, in her American debut, Skatesheba was a good fourth in the Grade 3 Miesque at Hollywood.

Prado and Velazquez also meet in the fifth, a six-furlong claimer for fillies and mares, with a $75,000 to $65,000 tag. Five entered the race, which carries a $45,000 purse, the highest of the day.

Prado has the edge with Radiance, who was reclaimed by Gasper Moschera off of Scott Lake for $50,000 when she finished second in her last start on July 1.

Velazquez rides Exclusive Eskimo, who is in the middle of long losing streak.