11/12/2003 12:00AM

Gators N Bears and nine elders

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Gators N Bears (left), winning the $100,000 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup at Monmouth this summer, is the only 3-year-old in the field for Saturday's Grade 1 De Francis Dash at Laurel Park.

Gators N Bears has won more than half of his 15 career starts, and trainer Leo Nechamkin can offer a detailed list of reasons for the colt's losses. Nechamkin said Wednesday he would have only two excuses should Gators N Bears not win Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 at Laurel Park.

"The only thing that's going to beat him is a better horse or bad luck," said Nechamkin, who also heads the partnership that owns Gators N Bears. "I think he's going to run the race of his life."

It remains to be seen if the best race the 3-year-old Gators N Bears can run is good enough to beat his elders, specifically Shake You Down, a multiple graded stakes winner who comes out of a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. But, Gators N Bears has won four of his last five starts, and comes off a strong performance in the Sonny Hine Stakes on Oct. 18 at Laurel.

A field of 10 was entered for Saturday's 14th renewal of the De Francis, a Grade 1 race at six furlongs. Private Horde, the Alfred G. Vanderbilt winner, was not entered due to a minor foot injury.

Shake You Down, who was made the 4-5 morning-line favorite, drew post 6 and will be the starting highweight at 123 pounds under Mike Luzzi. Shake You Down will concede four pounds to eight rivals and eight pounds to Gators N Bears, the only 3-year-old in the field.

Three-year-olds - including 1997 champion sprinter Smoke Glacken - have won four of the prior 13 runnings of the De Francis.

Gators N Bears has a record of 7-4-2 from 15 starts. The only two times he was off the board, he was eased in races run over a wet main track at Aqueduct. Nechamkin said that in both instances, Gators N Bears tried to jump puddles and fooled his rider into thinking something was amiss. Nechamkin has since equipped Gators N Bears with a huge shadow roll, which has helped.

Gators N Bears will break from post 4 in the De Francis under Rick Wilson.

The De Francis is one of six stakes on Saturday's card, which begins at 12:35 p.m. Eastern. Also on the card is the Grade 3, $100,000 Laurel Futurity, featuring Maryland Million Lassie winner Polish Rifle, and the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes, featuring Toccet, last year's Laurel Futurity winner.

The other stakes are the Grade 3, $100,000 Anne Arundel, the $75,000 Stefanita, and the $10,000 Selima.