02/15/2007 12:00AM

Distance, pace seem ideal for Due


LAUREL, Md. - Trainer Dale Capuano acknowledges that "being due" does not apply to horse racing. Still, that's not to say that one of his stable stars - a gray gelding named Due - isn't due for a big effort when the $115,000 John B. Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap is run Saturday at Laurel Park.

"This is a pretty solid race, but there seems to be some pace in there, which is good news for us," said Capuano.

Due, one of 12 older horses entered in the 1 1/8-mile Campbell, has raced just once since capturing the Maryland Million Classic on Oct. 14. A late-running 6-year-old, Due dropped far back in the Dec. 9 Jennings Handicap before rallying to be third. Since then, Due has only been on the racetrack for exercise.

"None of his races have filled, and the only stakes race for him around here was at a mile, and he's a lot better at 1 1/8 miles," said Capuano, 44, who has topped the annual Maryland standings eight times. "I thought we'd just point for this race. It should be a good spot."

Due, listed at 10-1 on the track's morning line, figures to be one of the longer-priced horses in the Campbell, which is part of the Magna 5 national wager. Several other horses should take somewhat heavier action, including Bank President, a game winner of a Jan. 1 allowance at Laurel; Naughty New Yorker, a versatile New York-bred trained by Pat Kelly; and Reckless Ways, who, like Due, is a stretch-running gray gelding who launches an effective run more often than not.

"I had a really tough time separating a lot of these horses," said Laurel oddsmaker Frank Carulli.

Fringe contenders in the Campbell include Your Bluffing, who must overcome the outside post; Silver Prospector, a dangerous speed horse shipping in from New York for trainer Gary Contessa; and Capac, a sharp winner of a recent allowance prep at Laurel.

Pitts tries for a happy homecoming

Twenty years ago, Clinton P. Pitts Jr. was chief steward at Laurel and one of the most influential men on the Maryland circuit. His daughter Helen wasn't even in her teens yet but was beginning to harbor dreams of a career in racing while growing up in Monkton, smack in the middle of Maryland horse country.

"Dad used to tell me he never wanted me working on the backstretch," recalled Helen Pitts.

Too bad, dad. After graduating high school, Helen Pitts worked for steeplechase icons Charlie Fenwick and Jack Fisher before joining trainer Frannie Campitelli for six years at Pimlico and Laurel. She eventually began her own public stable in 2005 and became an instant success while based primarily in Kentucky.

Her first stakes winner, however, came in Maryland when Sweet Talker won the Martha Washington BC Handicap at Laurel in September 2005. She added a second Maryland stakes win last November when Leah's Secret won the Anne Arundel, and she is back to try for her first graded win in her home state when she saddles Leah's Secret on Saturday for the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie BC Handicap.

"To win races like that here at home, it means everything to me," said Pitts, who left her stable at Gulfstream Park to fly here Wednesday evening. "I still miss Maryland a lot, the people, everything. Coming home, it does mean a lot."

Foes shy away from Silver Wagon

The presence of Silver Wagon might be limiting the size of the field for the $300,000 General George BC Handicap here Monday. A romping winner of the Sport Page Handicap two starts back, Silver Wagon will be turning back from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs when he carries high weight of 120 pounds in the Grade 2 General George.

Other prospects for the race include Ah Day, Gold Cluster, Judiths Wild Rush, Mach Speed, and Ryan's For Real. Entries were to be drawn Friday.

Sweetnorthernsaint takes a pass

Sweetnorthernsaint figured as a major contender in the General George, but trainer Mike Trombetta said the timing of the race was a bit too tight for his comfort.

Sweetnorthernsaint was returning from an eight-week layoff when third in the Jan. 6 Hal's Hope, after which he was fifth in the Sunshine Millions Classic. The 4-year-old Sweetnorthernsaint was the favorite in both of those Gulfstream Park races.

"He's doing good, but I just didn't feel like I needed to run back in another three weeks," said Trombetta. "He'll be back in the entries soon enough."

Napravnik slowly recuperating

Jockey Rosie Napravnik went to her physician for a checkup Thursday and is expected back in five to eight weeks while recovering from several compression fractures in her upper back. Napravnik was injured in a Jan. 28 spill at Laurel.

"She's up and around, wearing a corset brace and feeling fine," said her agent, John Faltynski.

Napravnik, 19, won 300 races last year and was one of the three finalists for top apprentice in the Eclipse Awards voting.

* Jockey Mario Pino will miss the General George when he travels to Oaklawn Park to ride unbeaten Hard Spun in the Southwest Stakes. Pino, who into Wednesday action had 5,831 winners, 16th on the all-time list, has ridden Hard Spun in each of the colt's four career starts.

* This will be the first time the Fritchie and General George will be run since Cativa and Saratoga County won the respective runnings in 2005. The 2006 runnings were canceled because of severe weather.