10/03/2001 11:00PM

This year, Frankel has the Midas touch


ELMONT, N.Y. - There is no greater force in racing than momentum.

When a stable is successful with almost every horse it sends to the post, these successes seem to feed on each other and produce a fresh round of triumphs. If there is an advantage to be gained in any manner, either by pace or lack of pace, traffic, strategy or prompt reaction, the "zoned" stable will usually carry the day.

The force has been with Bobby Frankel all season. Frankel is an outstanding trainer and has been for a long time. His election to the Hall of Fame speaks for itself. He receives a steady stream of quality prospects and proven performers from his owners, distinguished sportsmen, many of whom have been with Frankel for a long time.

Given this favorable climate, Frankel has gone above and beyond this year, crafting a tapestry of winners that will surely be a point of reference in time to come.

Frankel may or may not need momentum in his spectacular bid for the outstanding program presented on Saturday by Belmont Park. Aptitude, his principal threat for the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup that is the centerpiece of the card, showed impressive form this summer in capturing the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap by more than four lengths.

"He gave weight to all," Frankel points out, "and he beat some nice horses. One of them was Gander, who came back to win the Meadowlands Cup.

"Aptitude was always a talented horse. He was second in a very good Kentucky Derby. But he is a much better horse now. He is more mature, sounder, and the blinkers he's worn for his last two starts have also been a big plus. He got a Beyer rating of 116 for his Saratoga performance, one of the highest figures thus far this season."

Albert the Great, whose victories here in the Brooklyn and Suburban Handicaps were summer highlights, looks to be main challenger. He has some speed, and set the pace in three of his last four appearances. But it is doubtful he can run away from Aptitude, who has a strong closing punch.

Frankel also appears to have the one to beat in the $750,000 Beldame for fillies and mares at nine furlongs. Flute ingratiated herself with her trainer early on and today Frankel regards her as one of the best he has ever had. Her Kentucky Oaks was very good but her Alabama was even better. This is a filly of superior class, and her Beldame may well be the treat of the day.

The 2-year-old features - the $500,000 Champagne and the $500,000 Frizette for fillies - will be followed with interest for what significance they may have for next season.

Officer, who may be a standout, comes to New York for the Champagne with four victories in four starts and a reputation as the best prospect in some time.

The Frizette appears the more competitive race with You and Cashier's Dream likely to attract the most support after their thrilling scrimmage at Saratoga. You was a deserving winner at the Spa but Cashier's Dream rebounded with an impressive Spinaway. A Dynaformer filly named Riskaverse has shown enough to merit consideration.

The $250,000 Kelso Mile on the turf stars Forbidden Apple, who won this race last fall. A 6-year-old horse by Pleasant Colony, Forbidden Apple retains his form as he indicated this summer by winning Belmont Park's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.

Kimberlite Pipe, an experienced competitor, may make the favorite work for his money.

Belmont Park deserves high marks for staging a show of this caliber, and John Gaines deserves a salute, as well. Gaines, father of the Breeders' Cup, showed us the drama of a program of top races and held his ground when others wanted to present them in piecemeal fashion.