09/19/2003 12:00AM

A question of distance

Benoit & Associates
Kicken Kris's best race so far came in the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat (above) at Arlington.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Kicken Kris, whose star is on the rise after his win in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park, meets some familiar and new faces in Sunday's $200,000 at Belmont Park.

Kicken Kris, Joe Bear, and Lismore Knight - the first three under the wire in the Secretariat on Aug. 16 - are among nine 3-year-old grass runners entered in the Grade 2 Jamaica. Colita was entered main track only. A surface switch is unlikely since clear skies are in the weekend forecast.

The strong field also features Stroll, a winner of his last three starts, including the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and Lexington winner Sharp Impact. Kicken Kris and Stroll are co-highweights at 121 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Jamaica.

Kicken Kris's 3 1/2-length win in the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat was his first in a stakes. In his stakes debut in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 12, Kicken Kris finished second.

Trained by Michael Matz, Kicken Kris didn't flourish until he was placed on the grass. Despite the colt's turf breeding - Kris S. out of Kicken Grass, by Jade Hunter - Matz initially raced Kicken Kris on the dirt because he worked so well over the surface. After five losses, Kicken Kris was switched to the grass, where he has a record of 3-2-0 in five starts.

In the Virginia Derby, Matz removed the blinkers the colt had been wearing, but said it didn't make much of a difference because the blinkers had small cups.

"It was just 11 days between races when he ran in the Virginia Derby and he still ran a good race," Matz said. "This is a tough race because I don't know if a mile and an eighth is too short for him."

Kicken Kris, who figures to be stalking the early leaders, drew post 7 and will be ridden by Javier Castellano.

Lismore Knight, who won the Arlington Classic in June, might have found the Secretariat's distance too long, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

"He had a very good trip in the Secretariat, but didn't have the big closing kick like he did at a mile and sixteenth," Pletcher said.

John Velazquez rides Lismore Knight from post 6.

Joe Bear, who finished two lengths in front of Lismore Knight in the Secretariat, ran into some traffic problems.

Sharp Impact is the likely pacesetter. Fortune Writers, second to Kicken Kris in a maiden race in March, and Stone Cat, Y.V. Five, and Sircharlesschnabel complete the field.