08/04/2005 11:00PM

Silver Train has tough act to match

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Coming off a near-track-record performance at Belmont Park last month, Silver Train is expected to bounce when he runs in Sunday's $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga.

The question most handicappers must ask before playing against him is can he bounce and still win the Grade 2 race at six furlongs? It's a question even trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. will be asking.

On July 2, Silver Train won an entry-level allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths. With Edgar Prado giving him just a vigorous hand ride, Silver Train ran six furlongs in 1:07.67 - missing Artax's track record by .01 of a second - and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

"I'm very confident that he's going to run his race - I don't know what kind of race that is," Dutrow said Friday. "He's going to have to level off to a certain level. I'm sure he's not going to freak again like that, but I'm confident that everybody is going to know he's in the race provided he gets a good trip."

Dutrow did not think Silver Train got a good trip in the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Belmont in May, when he was buried inside and finished third. "He should have galloped that day, and I guess he was just sitting on a race," Dutrow said.

Silver Train came our of his last race "amazing," Dutrow said, adding, "He's put on so much weight. He's so much better now."

breaks from post 8 under Edgar Prado in the nine-horse field.

earned a breakthrough Beyer Speed Figure of 105 when he won the restricted Smoke Glacken Stakes on July 15, and it looks like his niche may be as a come-from-behind sprinter.

"This is what we've been trying to do, back him up to sprints, getting him to relax and come with a late run," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think six and seven furlongs are his best distances."

After two victories at seven furlongs, Middle Earth faltered when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Dwyer. Nick Zito cuts him back to six furlongs and hopes he can sit just off what is expected to be a fast pace.

"I think he'll relax at six furlongs," Zito said. "There'll be something in front of him."

figures to be part of the early pace. He won the San Miguel Stakes the last time he raced at six furlongs. Santana Strings has run better when he is into the race early, as evidenced by his two-length win in the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star on July 2.