01/03/2008 1:00AM

Digger makes latest raid on Maryland


Trainer Rick Dutrow is raising the bar for Digger once again. The New York-based Digger destroyed Maryland-bred 3-year-olds twice and older statebreds most recently in his last three visits to Laurel Park, winning three stakes by a combined margin of 17 lengths.

Saturday, the 4-year-old Digger steps up to open company for the $80,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel.

Nine of Digger's 14 races have come at Laurel, where he has 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third. Owned by IEAH Stables and Lawrence Roman, Digger began his career running in $25,000 maiden claiming races, and as recently as last August, he ran with a price tag on his head at Saratoga. But in four starts since September, the only blemish on Digger's record came when he was ambitiously spotted in the Grade 2 Jerome at Belmont Park.

Based on his recent Beyer Speed Figures of 101, 102, and 96, Digger is a good fit for the one-mile Native Dancer, which has a par of 98 for the last six runnings.

"If he repeats those performances, he'll be tough to beat even though it is against much better competition," said Digger's jockey, Horacio Karamanos. "He has the ability to beat these kind of horses."

Digger's nine opponents include Your Bluffing and Judiths Wild Rush, who finished noses apart in last year's Native Dancer; Ryans for Real, a winner in 5 of his 10 starts locally and who has improved his Beyers from 81 to 99 in his last three starts; and the Todd Pletcher-trained Throng, who gets some class relief after running against graded stakes company in 3 of his last 4 starts.

The 8-year-old Your Bluffing has recorded 15 of his 16 victories at Laurel, missing a 16th win when he drifted out in the stretch and was disqualified in the 2007 Native Dancer. He has won only 1 of 9 subsequent starts and comes into Saturday's race off a two-month layoff.

Judiths Wild Rush has been off since September and will be switching to dirt after six races on Woodbine's Polytrack. Judiths Wild Rush hasn't finished first in 15 races since June 2006. But he has been training exceptionally well for Julien Canet in New York, recording two bullet five-furlong works over Belmont's training track since mid-December, including a 57.20-second move on Dec. 30.

Throng's two best races last season came over Arlington Park's Polytrack. The last time he raced on dirt other than in a graded stakes, Throng earned a career-best 101 Beyer at Churchill Downs.