01/17/2003 1:00AM

Cherokee's Boy has easier task


Following two long journeys in quest of six-figure purses in Texas and Louisiana, Cherokee's Boy returns to Maryland for much easier pickings.

Third in both the $263,000 Great State Challenge Juvenile at Sam Houston and the $500,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs, Cherokee's Boy returns to his element to face five Maryland-bred 3-year-olds in Sunday's $60,000 Goss Stryker Stakes at Laurel Park.

Cherokee's Boy, trained by Gary Capuano, had success in restricted stakes last fall, winning the Maryland Million Nursery at Pimlico and the Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town. Cherokee's Boy cuts back to what appears to be his best distance of seven furlongs, after trying a mile at Delta.

"There is a lot of speed for him to run at and with the outside post we should be able to ease him over behind the speed and sit for a little bit before making a run," said jockey Ryan Fogelsonger, the leading candidate for the 2002 Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice. "I love this horse. He tries every time and is easy to deal with."

Only two of the horses opposing Cherokee's Boy have any previous stakes experience.

Second in Command, a New York-based horse, won two sprints at The Meadowlands by a combined margin of 14 lengths, but didn't show the same kind of early speed when trainer Linda Rice jumped him into stakes company at Aqueduct for the six-furlong Huntington. Second in Command has trained extremely well for his return from a two-month break, including a five-furlong bullet workout at Belmont last Tuesday.

Pud flashed early speed when he faced Cherokee's Boy in the Rollicking before he faded to finish third. He may have bled in that race because when he returned with Lasix, Pud was able to carry his speed to a two-length win.

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