06/28/2001 11:00PM

Smok'n Frolic clear favorite


ELMONT, N.Y. - Coming off an authoritative 5 3/4-length victory in the Fashion Stakes, Smok'n Frolic looms a short-priced favorite in Sunday's $100,000 Astoria Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.

Smok'n Frolic, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, stumbled at the start of the Fashion before drawing off powerfully under Jerry Bailey.

"She tried to break too hard and she caught herself on the right front leg just above the ankle," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It's more of a case of being too anxious. She was a little anxious in the paddock and the gate. We've spent a lot of time with her in the paddock and at the gate and she seems to have responded well to it."

Smok'n Frolic drew post 4 and will carry top weight of 120 pounds. Pletcher could have skipped this race to wait for the Schuylerville on opening day at Saratoga. Pletcher sees no reason why she can't run in both.

After winning her maiden impressively at Churchill Downs from post 12, Ghost Wrestling was sent off the even-money favorite in the Fashion. She was able to win the pace battle with My Heart's Deelite but lost the war when Smok'n Frolic cruised past. My Heart's Deelite is also in this field.

Of the newcomers to the stakes scene, Self Rising looks the most intriguing. A New York-bred daughter of Hansel, Self Rising romped to a 7 1/2-length victory in a state-bred maiden race. Her final time of 57.34 seconds was .58 seconds faster than the final time of the Fashion. Red-hot Mike Luzzi rides for trainer Peter Pugh.

Astrapi ready for return

Bob Klesaris said Astrapi has the potential to be the best horse he has trained in his 25-year career. He will give the New York-bred filly every opportunity to prove it when she makes her long-awaited 3-year-old debut in Wednesday's Grade 1 Prioress Stakes.

This is the first year the Prioress, a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, is run as a Grade 1. And it's shaping up to be a Grade 1 field. The combined record of the seven fillies pointing toward the race is 32 wins, four seconds and three thirds from 42 starts.

Astrapi is 3 for 3 as are Cat Chat and Above Perfection. Xtra Heat, who has won 13 of 15 starts, Stormy Pick, winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, and highly regarded Harmony Lodge and Shooting Party are also in the field.

"If any of my friends were doing this, I'd say they're not doing the right thing," Klesaris said. "I generally don't run horses over their head. They will know she's in there. I think she has the talent. I don't think there's a filly in there that'll run away from her."

Astrapi won all three of her starts as a 2-year-old, including the open company Valley Stream Stakes and the restricted East View. Following the East View, on Dec. 10, Astrapi went to Florida for a vacation. Upon returning in March, she got sick which forced her to miss some time.

"I didn't plan on her being out for this long," Klesaris said. "As time went on I thought it didn't matter."

On Friday, Astrapi drilled four furlongs in 46.46 seconds, the fastest of 34 moves at the distance.

"She was ready to run a month ago," Klesaris said.

Monarchos resumes training

After three days of walking in the shed, Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos returned to the track Friday morning, jogging once around the 1 1/2-mile Belmont oval.

Monarchos grabbed a quarter on his right front while playing in a round pen last week. He galloped Sunday and Monday, but came back from his Monday gallop with tightness in his left hind leg, forcing exercise rider Bryan Beccia to get off the colt walking home.

Donna Ward, assistant and wife of trainer John Ward, said the tightness - which she likened to a charley horse - was due to Monarchos overcompensating for some soreness in his right front. She said Friday that Monarchos galloped fine.

Monarchos is being pointed to the Grade 1 Jim Dandy on Aug. 4.

* Gaviola, seventh as the odds-on choice in the Vinery Matchmaker Handicap on June 16, worked five furlongs in 58.92 seconds on Belmont's main track Thursday. It was the fastest of 24 moves at the distance. "I was going to work her on the grass but I saw how fast the grass was and I said, shoot, she never worked on the grass last year," trainer Billy Turner said. "She's doing well."

Turner said Gaviola will run next in the $250,000 New York Handicap on July 14.

* Affirmed Success, who won the Grade 3 Poker Handicap last year, was assigned topweight of 121 pounds for Wednesday's renewal of the $100,000 Poker run at a mile on turf. Those expected to run against him are Macward (116), Blu Air Force (115), Western Summer (114), Union One (113), and possibly Ettrick (112).