04/29/2004 12:00AM

Crossing Point: Flash of Panhandle


A pair of Maryland-based sprinters who faced each other in last fall's De Francis Dash could meet again in the first stakes race of the season at Mountaineer Race Track.

Crossing Point, who set a Pimlico track record last September, and Take Achance on Me, a 6-year-old gelding versatile enough to run competitively in stakes on both dirt and turf, are among the 10 older horses entered in Saturday night's $75,000 Panhandle Handicap at five furlongs.

Last year, Crossing Point was good enough to win the Panhandle with a Beyer Speed Figure of 99, broke the Pimlico track record for five furlongs, and earned a berth in the De Francis Dash, where he battled for the lead until fading in the final eighth-mile of that Grade 1, six-furlong stakes.

Trained by Ben Feliciano, the 7-year-old Crossing Point has not raced since finishing far back in the Paumonok Handicap at Aqueduct in January. He was entered in the April 10 Fireplug at Pimlico, but was scratched.

Take Achance on Me probably is more effective on grass, where he has been first or second in 8 of 14 starts, than on dirt, where he is winless in 12 starts on fast tracks but 2-1-1-1 in five races over wet surfaces. In fact, he was cross-entered in Friday's Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, a five-furlong Grade 3 race worth $100,000.

Should trainer Anthony Aguirre opt for the Panhandle, Take Achance on Me will be meeting Crossing Point for the third time since August. He finished three-quarters of a length behind Crossing Point's winning effort in the six-furlong Dave's Friend and was ninth, again three-quarters of a length behind Crossing Point, in the De Francis Dash.

Two other runners who appear capable of winning are Ex Who and Run Zeal Run.

Ex Who, claimed for $30,000 out of a turf race at Fair Grounds in March, easily won his first start at Mountaineer for new trainer Wayne Catalano. A former top trainer at Hawthorne and Arlington Park, Catalano is winning at a 42 percent clip since coming to Mountaineer.

Run Zeal Run most recently won a five-furlong turf race at Sam Houston, but is also capable on dirt, where he won twice last season.