05/22/2001 11:00PM

Serey, Dutrow resume duel as top trainer


ELMONT, N.Y. - Juan Serey and Richard Dutrow Jr., who dead-heated for the training title at Aqueduct, are engaged in an early-season duel for the top spot at Belmont. Both have entered a pair in a $52,000 money allowance that serves as Friday's featured event. First post for Friday's twilight card is 3:05 p.m.

Serey, whose five wins lead all trainers here thus far, sends out Double Screen and Unreal Madness against the Dutrow-trained duo of Rich Reward and Appealing Danger in the six-furlong race. With four winners, Dutrow is tied with Scotty Schulhofer and D. Wayne Lukas in the standings.

Unreal Madness looks to be the stronger of the two Serey charges, coming off a solid second-place finish behind Bevo in a May 9 money allowance race. That ended a two-race winning streak for the 6-year-old gelding. Although he has never won at Belmont, Unreal Madness has a second and three thirds from four starts. Double Screen steps up from a win at the $65,000 claiming level and is a four-time winner over Belmont's main track. Dutrow shipped Rich Reward to Churchill Downs where he won a third-level allowance race in the race following the Kentucky Derby. He makes his first start at Belmont, but his stalking style should fit the race profile.

His stablemate, Appealing Danger, was a good-looking front-running winner of a third-level allowance here on May 6 in his first start off the Dutrow claim. Friday's race brings the return to the races of Big E E, last year's Withers winner. Big E E hasn't run since finishing fourth behind Fusaichi Pegasus in last September's Jerome Handicap. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Big E E developed some soft tissue damage in an ankle while training last fall and needed the proper time to heal. Although Jerkens is 3 for 4 with horses running off a six-month or longer layoff, he sounded as if Friday's race was strictly a prep for longer races down the road.

"I don't know if six furlongs is his best distance," Jerkens said. "I didn't want to stretch him out right away. We haven't killed him but he's fit enough to make a good showing."

Other contenders in the field include Baltimore Gray, beaten a nose for second by Unreal Madness last out; Nevada Strip, who should appreciate the cutback to six furlongs; Oro de Mexico, who makes his first start since Jan. 6; and Pooska Hill, who does his best running at Belmont Park.