12/07/2006 12:00AM

Forty Crowns shows steady improvement

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The 3-year-old gelding Forty Crowns came to trainer Eddie Gaudet's barn as a maiden this past summer. In five starts for Gaudet, Forty Crowns has three wins, a second, and a third while steadily improving his Beyer Speed Figures from 66 to 100.

Whether Forty Crowns has reached the top floor or still has more room to improve is the question handicappers must ask themselves as he faces older horses in Saturday's $75,000 Jennings Handicap at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race is restricted to Maryland-breds and drew a field of 11.

Although Forty Crowns is coming off the most impressive race of his career, a wire-to-wire 9 1/2-length victory in the Northern Dancer on Nov. 18, he gets in light at 114 pounds, seven pounds fewer than the highweight Due, upset winner of the Maryland Million Classic last time out.

Forty Crowns's latest win may not have been as good as it looks on paper. Laurel's main track favored early speed that day, with five of the 10 runners on the card leading after the first call.

Tartlet, Off the Glass, and Orlop are the three horses with a recent Beyer within five points of Forty Crowns's best.

Tartlet comes off a career-best 103 Beyer, earned for his four-length win over a muddy track in the Mountaineer Mile. A 4-year-old based at Delaware Park with trainer Ron Alfano, Tartlet owns four wins and a second in five lifetime starts at Laurel.

Off the Glass has delivered his two best performances in 14 starts over the last two seasons when he has faced Maryland-breds, including a score going nine furlongs in the Maryland Million Starter Handicap in his most recent race.

Orlop has been off for five weeks since recording a career-high 95 Beyer winning an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles.

Rosie Napravnik, Laurel's leading rider, rode Orlop in his last two starts, but for the Jennings she has accepted the mount on the Dale Capuano-trained Due. Due, who has been off for nearly two months, lost by a length to Off the Glass in July and was decisively beaten by Off the Glass twice earlier this season.