05/14/2003 11:00PM

Gill trio formidable in Maryland BC 'Cap


BALTIMORE - Owner Michael Gill will shoot for a trifecta in the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday at Pimlico, sending out two speed horses and one deep closer for a chance to take down a $200,000 purse and a Grade 3 race.

Gill's three-horse attack will be challenged in the six-furlong dirt sprint by five other horses, including a two-horse entry from trainer Ben Feliciano Jr. - the classy Sassy Hound and the speedy highweight Crossing Point.

Sassy Hound and Crossing Point are cross-entered in the Waterford Park Handicap at Mountaineer Park on Saturday.

Gill's entry may be headed by Pioneer Boy, trained by John Robb and ridden by Jeremy Rose. Pioneer Boy was claimed for $30,000 Feb. 9 at Laurel, and since then he has won two races by open lengths and finished second by a neck in the six-furlong $67,000 Fire Plug Handicap at Pimlico. In that race, Pioneer Boy easily held off a struggling Sassy Hound in third.

"I just happened to claim him at the right time," said Robb. "He ran super in the race I claimed him, and he's doing really well right now."

Sassy Hound is riding a seven-race losing streak, but has finished in the money in five of those races, including finishing behind graded stakes winners D'wildcat and Peeping Tom. Sassy Hound has won $510,752 in his 34-race career, well above any other horse's earnings in Saturday's race.

Gill's other speed horse is Tasty Caberneigh, who was claimed for $40,000 at Gulfstream in January and has won two of three races since, losing his last by a head. But the bigger threat to the front-runners is the Gill-owned Highway Prospector, a deep closer who has the best Beyers in the field in the last three races.

Highway Prospector, who, like Tasty Caberneigh, is trained by Mark Shuman, is coming into the Maryland Breeders' Cup off a win in the seven-furlong, $100,000 Artax Handicap. The cutback in distance shouldn't be a problem.

Crossing Point, who will likely vie for the lead if he runs, won a five-furlong race in 58.47 seconds at Mountaineer in his last start, but there were only three other horses in the field. Last year, Crossing Point ran second as the favorite in the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct as the favorite under 133 pounds.

Schaefer: Windsor Castle highweight

A well-matched field of nine horses, led by graded stakes winner Windsor Castle and Maryland favorite P Day, will go in the Grade 3, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap, the race just before the Preakness.

Windsor Castle, the highweight at 117 pounds in the nine-furlong race, finished second in his last start, the Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct, which was taken off the grass and run on a sloppy track. Before that, he finished up the track in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, a race in which he "really struggled," according to his trainer, Frank Alexander.

"It was a really hot and humid day, and it seemed like he couldn't get his air," Alexander said.

Windsor's Castle's earnings of $518,875 is eclipsed only by the money won by P Day, who has become a local favorite on the Maryland circuit. Trained by Charlie Hadry Jr., who took over for his father after the popular trainer's death earlier this year, P Day has won his last two races, including the Grade 3 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico in his last start.

The Bill Mott-trained Strive comes into the Schaefer off a six-week layoff and with Jerry Bailey in the saddle. Strive's last two races were in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, and in both races the lightly raced 4-year-old horse kept close to the early pace but was unable to make up ground in the stretch.

Rounding out the field are Full Brush, Changeintheweather, Seattle Glory, Tempest Fugit, Roger E, and Pickupspeed.