02/23/2002 12:00AM

Top pair tightened for a rematch

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Both should be tighter this time. Bowman's Band and Windsor Castle, who last month made comebacks from layoffs in the same race, will meet again Monday as the logical favorites in Gulfstream Park's eighth-race feature, a $38,000 allowance.

The 1 1/16-mile feature is governed by three-other-than conditions, but Bowman's Band and Windsor Castle, both 4-year-old colts, can boast greater accomplishments. Last September, Bowman's Band won the Summing Stakes at The Meadowlands to run his career mark to 3 for 3 at the time. Windsor Castle captured the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes as a 2-year-old.

Unfortunately for owner Dogwood Stable and trainer Frank Alexander, Windsor Castle has endured a series of ailments and setbacks since the Remsen. A son of the speedy Lord Carson, Windsor Castle has had just four races since his biggest win, and none has resulted in victory.

Bowman's Band, trained by Mike Matz, also is winless since his richest win. But the chances are good that one of the favorites will break his modest losing streak Monday, especially if either can improve just a bit off their return races.

They met Jan. 24 in a seven-furlong race won by Dream Run, who also owned a previous stakes victory before knocking out his third-level allowance condition. Bowman's Band finished second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Dream Run, while Windsor Castle was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third.

"I think my horse will be awful tough," said Edgar Prado, who rode Bowman's Band in his comeback and will return Monday. "I don't think he'll have to improve much to beat these horses."

The rematch of Bowman's Band and Windsor Castle also happens to match the top two jockeys at the meet. Through Friday, Prado held a 50-43 lead over John Velazquez, who retains the mount on Windsor Castle.

If an upset is to occur, it might come from Gold Ballad. There does not seem to be an extraordinary amount of speed in this race, and if jockey Cornelio Velasquez can secure a comfortable forward position aboard Gold Ballad, then the colt might be dangerous.

Since winning a two-other-than allowance at Calder in October, Gold Ballad has run second three straight times, illustrating how he is poised to go through this condition.

The rest of the field is Act of Reform, Rich Celebration, It's So Simple, and American Prince.

First post for a nine-race card is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Gulfstream goes dark Tuesday before the six-day race week resumes Wednesday.