A small fleet of five horses will set out for today's $750,000 Marlboro Cup Handicap at Belmont Park and, for four, the orders will be simple: track down Polish Navy.

That assignment was clear to Pat Day, who will ride Java Gold, overnight favorite and 120-pound highweight following victories in the Travers and Whitney Handicap. With Polish Navy (ridden by Randy Romero and carrying 117 pounds) the lone speed horse in the race, Day recognized a responsibility to press the pace.

"I don't believe Randy will steal off in 49 or 50 {seconds} and be 10 lengths in front of us," said Day, the nation's No. 2 jockey in victories this year behind Maryland's Kent Desormeaux. "I think this horse will coast along just off Randy."

Polish Navy has been on or near the lead in his six career victories, the latest a half-length triumph over Gulch in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward Stakes two weeks ago. One of the star juveniles of 1986, the Danzig colt has not finished worse than third as a 3-year-old, beating older horses in his only two tries.

"After the Dwyer {Stakes, July 3}, I started to train him harder, and that seemed to work," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "I think we're in good position being the speed; hopefully, he'll be able to get the lead, and nobody catches him. It looks good on paper."

In hope of catching Polish Navy, who drew post 1, Jay Robbins seeks help from above. The trainer of Nostalgia's Star (116 pounds and ridden by Bill Shoemaker) is hoping for rain, knowing his 4-year-old's best chances depend on an off track.

In his last start, Nostalgia's Star was third to Ferdinand and Super Diamond in the Cabrillo Handicap at Del Mar. His only stakes victory of 1987 -- the San Gabriel Handicap -- was in the slop at Santa Anita.

"He likes a deep and muddy track, that really moves him up," Robbins said.

One of whom has come of age. Java Gold, lightly raced this spring, has done well with trainer Mack Miller's deliberate approach, becoming the nation's preeminent 3-year-old off his two victories at Saratoga.

"He's the best 3-year-old I've ever had," said Miller, a recent inductee into racing's Hall of Fame. "I've had some other nice horses through the years, but I think if this horse races next year, he'll top them all."

If Java Gold can't run down Polish Navy, there's always Gulch (117 pounds, Jose Santos), whose $1.2 million earnings in 1987 top the Marlboro field.

Bordeaux Bob (117 pounds, Laffit Pincay Jr.), a $37,500 claimer who has won $683,556, will break from the outside post.