09/18/2001 11:00PM

Wet track would help Atelier


ELMONT, N.Y. - Graded stakes winner Atelier makes her return to the races Friday at Belmont Park, topping a field of six fillies and mares in a money allowance, which goes as the seventh on the card. The race, worth $54,000, will be run at seven furlongs on the main track.

Atelier, who earlier this year won the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct, has not raced since finishing a dull fifth in the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 19. Trainer Shug McGaughey freshened Atelier after that effort because he said Atelier was one of the horses in his barn who, for unexplained reasons, wasn't doing well in the spring.

"She started coming around at Saratoga; she's eating good and starting to look good," McGaughey said. "She has a little ways to go, but she's a lot better than she was two months ago."

McGaughey said if he was able to get a two-turn race into Atelier after her return on Friday, he would even consider the Breeders' Cup Distaff for his 4-year-old. If that doesn't pan out, Atelier could run in the $100,000-added Turnback the Alarm, a race she won last year, at Aqueduct on Nov. 3.

"Seven-eighths sprinting is not her game," McGaughey added. "But she's fairly fresh and this should get her to the next step."

The prospect of a wet track - rain is forecast for Thursday into Friday - shouldn't hurt Atelier's chances, as she is 2 for 2 over muddy tracks. Edgar Prado, Atelier's regular rider, is back aboard. Atelier drew post 1 and could be close to the early lead in a race lacking in significant speed.

Crescent Coast makes her first start for Richard Dutrow Jr., who currently tops the trainer standings in New York this year. Crescent Coast hasn't raced since July 30, when she was a well-beaten fifth behind the loose-on-the-lead Imadeed in a conditioned allowance race. If Dutrow's filly runs back to her seven-furlong race at Belmont on June 1, which she won by three lengths, she has a shot. John Velazquez rides Crescent Coast from post 3.

Trained by Allen Iwinski, Double Trick has not raced since finishing second in a two-turn race at Aqueduct in January. The mare, who has good off-track form, is consistent and figures in the mix, if she fires off the layoff. Poivre's best races have come at Aqueduct, the scene of her last win in March. Endlessly and Rosie Dooley complete the field.