04/21/2002 11:00PM

Cetewayo favored in rare start

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Cetewayo has been recycled more times than a Coca-Cola can. Now an 8-year-old with just 23 lifetime starts, Cetewayo has won stakes in four of the last five years, but only after returning from lengthy absences, as per the familiar mad-genius methods of trainer Michael Dickinson.

Wednesday, as Keeneland kicks off the final three-day stretch of racing at the spring meet, Cetewayo surely will be the favorite in the $100,000 Elkhorn Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile race for older turf horses. Although the form that Cetewayo brings into the Elkhorn certainly appears to be terrific - in two starts this year, he won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Breeders' Cup, then was second in the Grade 2 Pan American - the concept of him being "in form" is virtually foreign, considering the numerous stops and starts that his career has undertaken.

In any case, Cetewayo, bred and owned by Dr. John Chandler, is clearly the horse to beat in the 17th running of the Grade 3 Elkhorn. Dickinson has tabbed Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey to ride.

The opposition is representative of the classy racing that has taken place at Keeneland since the 16-day meet began April 5.

Profit Option, trained by the well-traveled Kenny Hoffman, presents a major late threat, having finished third behind Cetewayo in his last start, the Feb. 16 Gulfstream BC.

Craigsteel is still winless after eight North American starts for trainer Christophe Clement but has shown on many occasions that he can be very competitive at this level.

Classic Par, although one of the lighter earners in the field, enters in career-best form for Merrill Scherer, having won the local prep for the Elkhorn, a 1 1/2-mile allowance on April 6.

Rochester, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, stands to benefit off a recent defeat at Tampa. In two starts over the Keeneland turf, Rochester is unbeaten, having most recently won the Sycamore Stakes here last fall.

Seattle Night enters off a solid allowance victory at Gulfstream for trainer Ken McPeek, who has been impressed with the 4-year-old's potential since assuming his training last fall.

The rest of the field is Full of Wonder, Lodge Hill, Kim Loves Bucky, and Bourbon Boogie.

The Elkhorn is the "brother" race to the Thursday feature, the $100,000 Bewitch Stakes, for fillies and mares at this same 1 1/2-mile distance on the grass.

Friday's closing-day features are the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes and the $175,000 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings steeplechase.

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