08/04/2006 12:00AM

Cherokee's Boy takes another shot at good ones

Jim McCue / Maryland Jockey Club
Cherokee's Boy, winning the Jennings, has been in the money in 35 of 44 starts.

Cherokee's Boy has earned more than $1 million the hard way, having raced 44 times at a wide variety of East Coast tracks. A 6-year-old homebred owned by the ZWP Stables, Cherokee's Boy is about as consistent as they come, having finished in the money in 35 of those races.

And yet, trainer Gary Capuano is usually leery about Cherokee's Boy's chances whenever he is asked to face graded stakes winners. That will be the main storyline Sunday, when Cherokee's Boy faces Don't Get Mad and Real Dandy in the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's Cup at the Mountaineer Race Track.

"He's a tough old man, and he's got some real good Beyers, doesn't he?" Capuano said Friday from his training base at the Bowie Training Center in Maryland. "But I don't know. It seems like whenever we run against a horse like Don't Get Mad, we can't quite get there. We've got a little more age and experience than him, though, so maybe we can get it done Sunday."

Although Cherokee's Boy has been cross-entered at Charles Town for Sunday, Capuano said Cherokee's Boy will run at Mountaineer, where a field of eight is set for the 1 1/16-mile Governor's Cup. Cherokee's Boy will break from post 6 with regular rider Travis Dunkelberger aboard.

Cherokee's Boy figures to vie for favoritism with Don't Get Mad (post 7), a stretch-running 4-year-old who will be making his second start off a nine-month layoff. Don't Get Mad earned more than $730,000 last year, when he won the Derby Trial, Northern Dancer, and Indiana Derby. After taking time off for minor surgeries on his ankle and throat, Don't Get Mad returned July 3 and finished fifth as the 3-5 favorite in a Churchill Downs allowance. However, that race was run at 7 1/2 furlongs, perhaps a tad shorter than he likes. Robby Albarado rides.

Real Dandy (post 2) is another late threat. In his lone appearance here, he rallied to win the West Virginia Derby a year ago. Mark Guidry has the mount back on Real Dandy.

The balance of the field for the Governor's Cup, which directly precedes the West Virginia Derby as the seventh of nine races, is It's No Joke, Bound for Fame, Halos Sailing Sain, Malibu Moonshine, and Go Now.