05/18/2005 11:00PM

Gators N Bears back for more


BALTIMORE - Leo Nechamkin experienced one of the greatest thrills of his life last Preakness Day when Gators N Bears stormed home a winner in the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico. So it's quite understandable that Nechamkin would like nothing more than another winning effort from his stable star when the Maryland BC is run again Saturday.

"You're almost numb when something like that happens," said Nechamkin, a 55-year-old Maryland native and resident who owns and trains Gators N Bears, a remarkably consistent 5-year-old who has earned $783,270. "It was a real thrill."

, a New Jersey-bred, is winless in his last six starts, but he has run against some of the hottest sprinters around, including Saratoga County and Don Six. In his last start, the Commonwealth BC at Keeneland, Gators N Bears ran a game second to Clock Stopper, earning a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. Since then, Gators N Bears has trained well at Laurel Park, where Nechamkin trains an eight-horse stable before heading off to work as chief financial officer at a Baltimore architectural design firm.

"I think he's going to run a very good race," said Nechamkin. "There's speed on the inside of him, and he should be able to lay a little off the pace and turn the afterburners on coming down the lane."

Gators N Bears drew post 6 in a field of eight older horses entered in the 19th running of the Maryland BC. Other major contenders in the six-furlong race include Take Achance on Me (post 1), a speedy gelding trained locally by Mike Trombetta, and Primary Suspect (post 4), a somewhat erratic but eminently capable colt trained in New York by Mark Hennig.

The rest of the field would appear to have to run lifetime bests to seriously challenge Gators N Bears, a relentless sort whose Beyer Speed Figures invariably hit triple digits.

Those outsiders are Delaware Park shipper Sir Oscar (post 2); With Distinction (post 3), who needs to rebound off a subpar effort in the recent Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs; Excellent Band (post 5), who seeks his first win since his 2-year-old season; Always Noble (post 7), whose trainer, Tim Ritchey, will saddle the Preakness favorite, Afleet Alex, some three hours later; and Willy o'the Valley (post 8), who was claimed for $100,000 from his latest start by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

The 1999 Maryland BC was the race during which a deranged man, Lee Chang Ferrell, ran onto the racetrack during the stretch run, creating one of the most bizarre scenes in racing history.

Post time for the Maryland BC, the eighth of 13 Saturday races, is 2:49 p.m. Eastern.