07/04/2001 11:00PM

Torn between two major turf races


ELMONT, N.Y. - Most trainers plan ahead, but some are able to focus on events and circumstances several months in the future. By taking some action now, they can bring about desired results, or at least work to enhance their chances.

Christophe Clement will have victory on his mind when he saddles Forbidden Apple in Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on the turf. But Clement, one of New York's most successful horsemen, is also using the Bowling Green for a decision pertinent to the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

Clement hopes the Bowling Green will tell him whether to zero in on the Breeders' Cup Turf at a 1 1/2 miles for Forbidden Apple or the Breeders' Cup Mile. The decision will be significant, for the Turf has a value of $2 million, while the Mile is worth $1 million. In addition, the decision will also affect Clement's choice of races leading up to the Breeders' Cup.

The Arthur Appleton homebred Forbidden Apple, a 6-year-old horse by Pleasant Colony, has made 20 starts, and you would think Clement would have addressed the question by now. He has, but the answer is still uncertain.

A late developer, in keeping with the family traits of his sire, Forbidden Apple began to get good last fall, when he won the nine-furlong Belmont Breeders' Cup and the Kelso Mile, showing both speed and stamina. He drew a poor post for the Breeders' Cup Mile but turned in a fine race, beaten about two lengths. His speed was a factor in the Breeders' Cup but the spotlight was on his stamina in Hong Kong when he ran well against a world-class field in the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup.

Following a long holiday, Forbidden Apple made his seasonal debut here last month in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan Handicap, a Grade 1 race, and led all the way to win smartly. If he confirms that form in the Bowling Green, Clement will think in terms of long races for him. If he is a factor early and then fades, Clement will probably concentrate on shorter events.

At the middle distances, Forbidden Apple is one of the best grass horses in the East, and his maternal pedigree is spectacular. He is a half-brother to Paradise Creek, a turf ace who earned more than $3.4 million, and his dam, North of Eden, also produced Wild Event, a stakes winner of over $935,000.

His competition in the Bowling Green includes the talented King Cugat, but Forbidden Apple beat King Cugat in the Manhattan and should do it again Saturday.

Looking ahead to Saratoga

Many of the best racehorses in America will be at Saratoga during the meeting that opens July 25. The parade of stars begins almost immediately with the first weekend card offering the $750,000 Whitney Handicap, featuring a return engagement of the Suburban principals, Albert the Great and Include. The Whitney is backed up by another Grade 1 feature, the $250,000 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and the Test spotlight will shine squarely on one of the most remarkable Thoroughbreds in training.

That, of course, is Xtra Heat, who won the $200,000 Prioress Stakes here on the July 4 program to record her 14th victory from 16 starts. Purchased at the Maryland sales for $5,000, she has earned $751,150 for Baltimoreans Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman and trainer John Salzman.

"I've been training horses for 40 years," Salzman notes "and I've never seen one quite like her. She's run at nine different tracks, too. So far she's been equal to just about every challenge. We tried her over a distance once, in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She had a very troubled trip. We'll keep her at six and seven furlongs."