03/19/2004 1:00AM

Basketball Court seeks first stakes


Considering that Basketball Court began his career by running four times against maiden claimers, he certainly didn't appear to be a young colt with much of a future.

Since he was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Henry Walters, however, Basketball Court has improved greatly and has fired his best shot every time, moving up in class in each race. Basketball Court has a big shot to secure his first stakes victory in Sunday's $60,000 Horatius, a six-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds at Laurel Park.

In four starts for Walters, Basketball Court has won three times and finished a strong second in the six-furlong Dancing Count on New Year's Day. His Beyer Speed Figures have steadily improved from the 61 he earned on Oct. 2 to the pair of 84's he was awarded in his last two starts.

Three other Maryland-based horses and two shippers, one from Philadelphia Park and the other from Tampa Bay Downs, have sufficient credentials to win what shapes up as a good betting race.

The best recent Beyer belongs to Matsui, who got a 92 when he was nosed out for second behind runaway winner Redskin Warrior in last month's six-furlong Best Turn at Aqueduct. Trainer Derek Ryan has since added blinkers.

Andiamo won his first two starts, both at Tampa at seven furlongs. He has been off since late January, but has been working nicely for trainer Michael Zweisler.

Among the Maryland horses, Strongestsovereign could be a surprise. His trainer, Arthur Duffy, was 6 for 10 in stakes races the past two seasons. Hands On and Time Gonnif need only move up slightly to be good enough to beat this group.