07/14/2004 12:00AM

Rain or shine may tell tale


ELMONT, N.Y. - Late-day thunderstorms have been par for the course during recent twilight Friday programs. The weather forecast is unsettled once again, so the connections of several contenders in the fifth and eighth races will be watching the skies and rooting yes or no, depending on their horses' preference.

The featured eighth is the $60,000 Scotzanna, an overnight stakes for older fillies and mares that drew a competitive field of six, including a trio of New York-breds - .

It may be assumed Beautiful America's people are doing a rain dance. Though she has won 4 of 5 starts on Belmont's main track, she has not won on a fast track since fall 2002, when she took the Stallion Series' Fifth Avenue division. Her two wins since then have come in slop and mud here.

Cologny, claimed in February for $25,000 by Scott Lake, and a winner three times since then, most recently traded decisions with Travelator at Finger Lakes in the Susan B. Anthony and Arctic Queen Handicaps. Both have transferred their good form to wet tracks repeatedly.

Any of the three Kentucky-breds could have a say in the outcome:

Literary Light, an eight-time winner of over $325,000, comes off an improved effort in her third race back from a layoff, and she posted a bullet work last Sunday.

Chirimoya, second to Randaroo in the Distaff Handicap in March, returned from a freshening and chased Bear Fan's track-record performance in the Vagrancy Handicap. She figures to appreciate this drop in class.

Cherokee Lite was the pacesetter in the Shuvee Handicap two starts back, and she was about the only Nick Zito-trained runner who didn't fire on Belmont Stakes Day. She had an excuse, though: She bled.

The fifth race is an optional claimer at a mile with third-level allowance conditions, and it drew a field of six, including an entry of Calder shippers Sir Ray and R. Associate.

The horse to beat is Eye of the Tiger, who rallied for third in the Carter Handicap, his first start for Kiaran McLaughlin, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 109.

Eye of the Tiger, fifth in last year's Kentucky Derby, has run in graded stakes 10 times in his last 12 starts. He has been freshened since a wide-trip seventh in the Met Mile.

This is no walkover spot for Eye of the Tiger because of the presence of Country Judge, who has run new top Beyer Figures winning each of his two starts at this meet.

Country Judge takes the worst of the weights, however, carrying 123 pounds and giving five to the probable favorite.