08/30/2003 12:00AM

Classic Par tries to cap Scherer's meet

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Trainer Merrill Scherer probably doesn't want the Ellis Park meet to end, but time marches on. The last of 41 programs will be run Monday at the Henderson, Ky., track, and Scherer has an opportunity to put an exclamation point on what has been for him a memorable summer.

Scherer will saddle Classic Par, a major contender in the $75,000 Tri-State Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for older horses. Scherer entered the final three days of the meet with 11 wins from 26 starters, and in a second-place tie behind Kim Hammond in the trainer standings.

Classic Par is winless in three starts since returning from a six-month layoff in May, but all of his races have been encouraging, and a win in the Tri-State would not be a surprise. After nearly scoring an upset win in a main-track sprint at Churchill Downs in his comeback, he finished a creditable fourth in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap, then ran second as the favorite in his only appearance at the Ellis meet.

Besides Classic Par, the other top contenders in the Tri-State are Hard Buck, who is making his U.S. debut after a promising start to his career in Brazil, and Red Mountain, a romping winner of an Ellis allowance in late July.

Hard Buck, by Spend a Buck, clearly is the wild card of the group. On behalf of Team Victory, trainer Ken McPeek purchased this Brazilian-bred 4-year-old after one of McPeek's trips to South America this year. Hard Buck has won half of his 10 career starts, and although one of his wins came in a Group 1 race, his career bankroll of only $29,512 illustrates the wide disparity between purse structures in the U.S. and Brazil.