03/15/2002 12:00AM

Competition easier for Rusty Spur


Rusty Spur ran a great race, but was no match for Wrangler when the two met in last month's Grade 2 General George. Rusty Spur, at 27-1, finished second, 2 3/4 lengths behind favored Wrangler, after setting a quick pace in the seven-furlong race

The good news for Rusty Spur is that he won't have to face Wrangler, one of the country's hottest sprinters, in Sunday's $50,000 Endless Surprise Stakes at Laurel Park.

Also in Rusty Spur's favor is the six-furlong distance of the Endless Surprise, which might be his optimum distance even though he also has won at seven furlongs.

Rusty Spur, the likely favorite, is one of six older male sprinters entered in the Endless Surprise.

Rusty Spur, who is trained by John Robb, has turned out to be a great claim for owner Michael Gill, who snagged the West by West colt for $20,000 last November at Delaware Park. Rusty Spur began his career on the West Coast for trainer Bob Baffert.

Since the claim, Rusty Spur has won three races, finished second in two stakes, and was third once from a total of six starts.

Oliver Castillo has the mount on Rusty Spur, who is expected to show the way early from his rail post.

T P Louie, a longshot, likely will try to match strides early with Rusty Spur, which could ultimately help a stalker such as Trounce.

Trounce, a 5-year-old gelding, hasn't run since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Hoover. He has some good works for trainer Tony Dutrow since the Hoover and figures strongly in this mix.

Mario Pino has the mount on Trounce, who drew well in post 6.

Jorgie Stover, the upset winner of the Maryland Million Sprint last October at Pimlico, is also a threat to Rusty Spur. Since the Maryland Million, Jorgie Stover has finished third in each of his four next starts. In the Hoover Stakes in January, Jorgie Stover finished third, only a neck behind Adam Cat and Rusty Spur, the one-two finishers.

Deer Run, a winner of his last two against lesser, and Night Caller complete the field.