03/28/2003 12:00AM

Snake Mountain going strong


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - If trainer Jimmy Jerkens was worried that Snake Mountain's win in the Stymie took something out of him, the gelding's work on Friday at Belmont Park suggested otherwise.

Snake Mountain, the top older male in New York during the winter, worked five furlongs in 59.83 seconds, covering a half-mile in 47 seconds. Snake Mountain's work, conducted after the harrowing break on a track listed as fast, was the swiftest of 15 at the distance.

"It was a little faster than I wanted," said Jerkens astride his pony as he accompanied Snake Mountain back to the barn following the breeze.

It was Snake Mountain's first work since he won the Stymie Handicap, under top weight of 123 pounds, on March 16.

On Saturday, Snake Mountain will shoot for his sixth consecutive win and his fifth in an Aqueduct stakes in the $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap, a Grade 3 at 1 1/8 miles.

The 1 1/8-mile Stymie was delayed by eight days because of a weather-related cancellation. The postponement means Snake Mountain will run back a week sooner than he would have if the Stymie had been run on its intended date.

Jerkens said the additional time in between races would have been beneficial for Snake Mountain, who needed the length of the stretch in the Stymie to catch Classic Endeavor, who carried nine fewer pounds and had a clear lead with a furlong remaining. Snake Mountain prevailed by a nose.

The Stymie was Snake Mountain's first race since he won the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap by 7 1/2 lengths on Jan. 18.

"It's awfully hard to have a two-month break and run down a horse on a speed-favoring track," said Jerkens, who co-owns Snake Mountain. "It was the first time [Snake Mountain] was whipped that hard, and you wonder if they will think about that next time they run. He had a lot going against him that day - the weight and it got really warm and he had his big winter coat. He tends to get really hot anyway."

Mike Luzzi, aboard for Snake Mountain's last two victories, has the mount.

The other expected Excelsior starters are Classic Endeavor, Balto Star, Nothing Flat, and Tempest Fugit. Bowman's Band, Iwin, Private Lap, and Saint Verre are listed as possibles. Weights for the Excelsior will be released on Sunday.

Wood looks next for Kissin Saint

Kissin Saint likely earned himself a starting berth in the $750,000 Wood Memorial April 12 after winning an allowance race on Friday.

Under Richard Migliore, Kissin Saint put away Look Out Evan, the 6-5 favorite, with a little more than a furlong remaining and held off a late challenge from Go Rockin' Robin to win the 1 1/8-mile race by a length.

Kissin Saint, the 8-5 second choice in the five-horse field of 3-year-olds, covered the distance in 1:49.99 over a fast track. The Kissin Kris colt was making his first start since winning a first-level allowance race on Feb. 8. After that race Kissin Saint missed training time because of a leg infection.

"The concern was that he had been light on training," said trainer Lisa Lewis, who claimed Kissin Saint in January for $50,000 on behalf of Peter Karches and Michael Rankowitz. According to Lewis, Migliore "said he felt good about the way he ran. He said the horse got a little tired, but when he saw [Go Rockin' Robin] he was able to hold him at bay."

Lewis will see how Kissin Saint, a winner of three of four lifetime starts, comes out of Friday's race before making a final decision on his status for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.

Tudor Court heads feature

Without a stakes scheduled for Sunday, a second-level allowance race for older fillies and mares is the feature of the nine-race card.

Seven entered the six-furlong race, which has a $45,000 purse.

Tudor Court, the likely favorite, will shoot for her third consecutive win after dominating a first-level allowance race over the inner track on March 13. In her start before that,

Tudor Court won an inner-track race by 10 1/2 lengths. Her form on the main track, where she is 0 for 3, is less sparkling.

Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Tudor Court drew the rail and will be ridden by apprentice John McKee.

Tudor Court figures to receive pace pressure from Lifebythedrop, who drew immediately to her outside. A speed duel would set things up nicely for the lightly raced Bella Luce, who won a maiden race by 4 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct in November 2001 in her career debut.

Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., Bella Luce has not run since last July at Monmouth Park. The Saint Ballado filly has been training well at Belmont for her return.

Aaron Gryder rides Bella Luce, who drew post 3.

* Ten-pound apprentice Pablo Fragoso is on a roll. After riding his first career winner on March 21 aboard Private Retreat ($19.40), Fragoso, 20, won again on Thursday with Belmont Blues ($11) and then on Friday with Jumangi ($21).

* Affirmed Success, working for the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 12, covered five furlongs in 1:00.21 on Friday. Only Snake Mountain worked faster.