11/18/2004 12:00AM

Futurity contenders on fence


Trainers Shug McGaughey and Todd Pletcher have some decisions to make. What they decide will determine how strong a race Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Laurel Futurity at Pimlico turns out to be.

McGaughey has entered the promising Defer, while Pletcher entered the uncoupled entry of Funk and Killenaule in the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old colts. As of Thursday morning, McGaughey was still considering keeping Defer in New York for next weekend's Remsen Stakes. Pletcher said he would run just one, with the other being pointed to the Remsen.

The Laurel Futurity is one of five supporting stakes on the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash card. It is being run at Pimlico because Laurel Park's racing surface is undergoing renovation.

Defer, a son of Danzig, won his maiden at first asking going seven furlongs at Belmont, then finished a well-beaten second behind the undefeated Rockport Harbor in the Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct. If McGaughey elects for the Remsen, Defer would have to face Rockport Harbor and the undefeated Galloping Grocer, among others.

"I'm more interested in trying to give myself his best chance to win,'' McGaughey said when asked what would go into the decision where to run.

McGaughey said he was pleased with Defer's race in the Nashua. Defer went after Rockport Harbor entering the far turn and crept up alongside him approaching the quarter pole, but was quickly shrugged aside by Rockport Harbor.

"If he had sat back behind horses he might have been a clearer second,'' McGaughey said.

Jerry Bailey is named to ride Defer, who would get Lasix for the first time.

Killenaule has won three consecutive two-turn races, including the Storm Cat Stakes. Funk won an entry-level allowance around two turns by 7 1/4 lengths on Oct. 14. Pletcher said whichever colt runs in the Laurel Futurity could be wheeled back in two weeks in the $1 million Delta Jackpot.

John Velazquez would ride whichever colt Pletcher starts.

Of the remaining four runners, Elusive Thunder is the most appealing. He has shown marked improvement with the addition of blinkers, and was second behind Killenaule in the Storm Cat Stakes at The Meadowlands.

Bowman's Band, Gygistar top Hadry

After making 16 consecutive starts in graded stakes, Bowman's Band will try the listed $100,000 Charles Hadry Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. It is scheduled to be his final career start.

The last time he did not run in a graded event, Bowman's Band won the Brandywine at Delaware Park in June 2003. That victory came in the slop, and the forecast calls for showers on Saturday.

Bowman's Band has lost 13 straight starts since winning the 2003 Meadowlands Cup. In two starts at Pimlico he finished second in the 2003 William Donald Schaefer and third in last May's Pimlico Special. In his most recent start, Bowman's Band finished 11th in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Bowman's Band will face the Grade 1 winner Gygistar, who is only 2 for 15 the last two years. Gygistar has enjoyed more success around one turn than two, but

he ran competitively in the Meadowlands Cup and Massachusetts Handicap earlier this year. Gygistar won the 2002 King's Bishop over a sloppy track at Saratoga.

Irish Colony and Deer Run finished first and second in an optional claiming race here on Nov. 5 and are both proven commodities over Pimlico's main track.

Anne Arundel highly competitive

Locally based runners He Loves Me, Summer Rainbow, and Silmaril appear to hold the edge over New York shippers Essence and Rare Gift in the Grade 3, $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

He Loves Me, trained by Richard Small, is 4 for 4 on dirt at Pimlico, including three stakes wins. She has lost her last two starts, but they have come to Stellar Jayne in the Gazelle and Ashado in the Cotillion.

Silmaril has won four in a row, including the Maryland Million Oaks. She picks up eight pounds off her last start, however. Summer Rainbow has won three straight, all since being stretched out around two turns. She comes back on just 19 days' rest.

Rare Gift, third in the Black-Eyed Susan here in May, is an interesting price play. Trainer John Kimmel explained she had a severe sinus infection that required doctors to drill a hole in her head to drain. She was in need of the race when she finished fourth in a second-level allowance on Oct. 24 at Belmont, added Kimmel, whose barn has come alive during the Aqueduct meet.

Hear Us Roar heads Selima

Hear Us Roar, who closed from 11 lengths back to win the Maryland Million Lassie going short, has seemingly found the right field to try and stretch out around two turns in the $100,000 Selima Stakes.

Hear Us Roar, a daughter of Lion Hearted, is 2 for 2, having also won an open company maiden race here by five lengths. In the Lassie, Hear Us Roar had to go five wide but still got up by three-quarters of a length.

Two horses Hear Us Roar beat in her maiden victory, Cape Cosmo and Take a Check, have come back to win and will test Hear Us Roar in here.

Stefanita: Can Tight Spin dirt?

Tight Spin has been almost unbeatable sprinting on turf, winning 4 of 6 starts on grass. With turf racing coming to an end in the Northeast, trainer Eugene Weymouth needs to find out if Tight Spin can be equally as effective on the dirt. He will do just that by running Tight Spin in the $50,000 Stefanita Stakes going six furlongs.

Tight Spin should get plenty of pace to close into in the Stefanita with the likes of Bright Gold and Sensibly Chic in the field.

Bronze Abe was second in the Stefanita last year when it was run at seven furlongs at Laurel. She is 7 for 17 at six furlongs.