10/21/2001 11:00PM

Turf: Timboroa will go near front

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The re-emergence of Timboroa has come in the nick of time this fall.

A change of race tactics has allowed him to secure a spot among the top American turf horses, a status he will carry into Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park.

With wins in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap and Grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont in his last two starts, Timboroa is enjoying the best streak of a career that includes 10 wins in 22 starts and earnings of $1,188,734.

"I think the way he was ridden in his last two starts has made the difference," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "He likes to be in the fight. He doesn't need the lead. In the three races he's won, he's run 1-2 early."

Timboroa will be ridden by Edgar Prado, but it was Pat Day who helped Frankel mine the horse's potential.

Purchased by Californian Edmund Gann in the summer of 2000, Timboroa joined Frankel following a campaign that included a Group 1 win in Italy.

In his U.S. debut in the 2000 Man o' War, Timboroa lost a shoe, a performance Frankel quickly dismissed. In the following race, a 10th-place finish in the 2000 Turf Classic at Belmont Park, Frankel discovered Timboroa's potential. "He broke like a shot, but instead of letting him go, Pat took a hold of him," Frankel said. "The horse threw his head and he fought with Pat. Pat came back and said, 'Don't give up on him. He's a good horse.' "

Frankel kept the faith, and shared Day's opinion with a few friends. In the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap at Santa Anita three weeks later, Timboroa was 9-1 - a price that Frankel and friends, who were watching in Louisville, Ky., thought was worth an investment. It was.

"We bet him," Frankel said, with a wry grin.

Timboroa was given the winter off after finishing 11th in the Japan Cup. Now 5, Timboroa returned in May and lost his first three starts of the year in stakes in California before Frankel changed tactics, telling riders to put Timboroa near the front.

The style will not change for Saturday's race. "I'll let him run out, get position, and see how good he is," Frankel said. "You have to beat Sakhee, but I've seen a lot of hotshot horses come in here. They have to go around. All of the American horses, I'm not saying I'll beat them, but I'm not fearful. I think I've got as good a chance as anyone."

Frankel pronounced Timboroa ready on Sunday after he watched him work six furlongs in 1:18, according to official clockers. Frankel timed the last five-eighths in 1:03.

"They went off a little slower than I wanted them to go," Frankel said. "When I work them on turf and they go slower than I want, they run better than I expect."

Other than Sakhee, there are five European-based horses probable for the Turf. Mutamam is the only one with a stakes win in North America- the Canadian International at Woodbine on Sept. 30.

A 6-year-old, Mutaman galloped over the training track on Monday morning. Richard Hills has the mount. At Woodbine, Lodge Hill, who is winless in seven starts this year and will be a longshot, worked a half-mile on turf in 49.60 seconds.