08/16/2007 12:00AM

Encaustic just needs to relax


Encaustic has been holding his own in open-company stakes and should find the drop to Maryland-bred company to his liking in the $50,000 Humphrey S. Finney Stakes on Saturday at Laurel.

Encaustic, trained by Richard Small, has been facing by far the best opposition among the 10 3-year-olds in the Finney, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, and there's little question he's the best horse in the race. But Encaustic has a way of getting involved early in his races, and that has led to his downfall in his last four starts, all turf stakes. He finished fourth last out in the Choice at Monmouth, and before that third in the Restoration and Lamplighter there. In his last Maryland race he was second, beaten a nose, in the Woodlawn in May. In each of those races, Encaustic was on the lead down the backstretch and right there in midstretch, but failed to punch it in.

Encaustic's lone win this year came in April, when he sat in midpack early in an allowance on the Laurel turf and swept to the lead in the stretch. Luis Garcia rode Encaustic that day and he is aboard Saturday. If Garcia can keep the colt from expending too much energy early, Encaustic should have little problem winning.

Ordered to Listen is proven on turf and lightly raced, and may be ready to give Encaustic a tussle. Trained by Sanna Hendriks, Ordered to Listen just missed on the Penn National turf in his debut and then won a maiden race by 2 3/4 lengths at Colonial in his only other start. The runner-up finished more than eight lengths ahead of the third-place finisher in that 11-horse field, an indication of the strength of Ordered to Listen's race.

Roaring Lion, winner of the Maryland Juvenile Championship last year, makes his turf debut in the Finney. So does Tiger Rag, who romped in two races at Charles Town before finishing third there last out in an allowance on a sloppy track.