01/19/2006 1:00AM

Dixie Meister vs. Pass Rush in Maxxam


Dixie Meister is the one to beat and Pass Rush is the one to fear on Saturday night in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The 1 1/8-mile race is the richest dirt race of the meet for older horses. Also on the card is the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff Handicap, led by Ballroom Deputy and Culinary.

has long been pointed to the Maxxam by trainer Steve Asmussen. In his last start, Dixie Meister shipped from Sam Houston to the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs and ran second to Brass Hat in the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.

"He'll be the favorite in this race coming off that race," David Vance, the trainer of Pass Rush, said of Dixie Meister. "Brass Hat, he's a nice horse, and Alumni Hall, he's a nice horse, and he split them."

will move back to dirt in the Maxxam, the surface over which he won the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup in 2003. In his last start, he was fourth in an optional claiming race at a mile on turf at the Fair Grounds meet.

"My horse has worked since he ran, a nice, little, handy three-quarters," said Vance. "He's ready. He's as good as I can get him. I wouldn't change anything. If he would have won [last time], it would give him a little more confidence.

"But he's been beat before and come back and run good. It's not a big deal to him. He's an old-timer. He knows how to handle himself."

Vance expects Pass Rush, 7, to run close to the pace Saturday.

"He's a horse that wants to be forwardly placed," he said. "He should hopefully get a good stalking position, and he should be right in the thick of things turning for home. It will just be a question of who is best from there."

Robby Albarado, who won the Maxxam last year on Alumni Hall, has the mount on Pass Rush. A winner of seven races and $576,335, Pass Rush races for his breeder, Swifty Farms.

Dixie Meister won the $100,000 Star of Texas for Texas-breds the last time he raced at Sam Houston, which was his second two-turn stakes win at the track. Last year, he also won the $125,000 Jim's Orbit for Texas-breds. Roman Chapa, who has been aboard Dixie Meister in each of his last two starts, has the mount for Millennium Farms.

A field of 12 will start in the Maxxam. Post time is 10:02 p.m.

* Albarado will be aboard Ballroom Deputy in the Distaff. Trained by Josie Carroll, Ballroom Deputy scored her biggest career win two starts ago in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf at Woodbine.