01/31/2003 12:00AM

It's father against son in Round 3 of rivalry


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Round three between Star Smasher and Ciento is set to take place Sunday at Sunland Park in the $125,000-added New Mexico State University Stakes at one mile.

Star Smasher and Ciento have met twice this meet, splitting decisions. What makes this perhaps a more intense rivalry than usual is that the two horses' trainers are father and son. Robert Cappellucci trains Star Smasher and his son Dick trains Ciento.

The first time Star Smasher and Ciento met was on Dec. 8 in the Johnie L. Jamison Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. Star Smasher, then a 3-year-old, was returning from a five-month layoff and was making his first start for the elder Cappellucci, having been trained by the late Jamison before his death late last summer.

In that race, Star Smasher bid for the lead in midstretch but weakened in the final furlong and finished third, beaten four lengths by Ciento. A tighter Star Smasher turned the tables 18 days later in the City of Sunland Park Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, taking over the lead on the far turn and holding off Ciento to win by almost two lengths. In that race, Star Smasher was in receipt of four pounds from the older Ciento, but on Sunday they are weighted equally at 124.

Ciento has been a model of consistency in his career, winning 11 of 23 starts and earning $355,360 while racing almost exclusively against statebreds. Seven of his wins have come in stakes. Ciento will have a change of riders for the NMSU Handicap, with Sal Gonzalez taking over for Ricardo Jaime.

Tight jockey race

Sunland's jockey race is a close one. Since Garrett Gomez's departure in mid-December, Jorge Bourdieu and Ricardo Jaime have taken up the top spots, with 30 and 29 wins, respectively, going into this Friday's action.

Daryl Montoya, who has won the last two Sunland titles but is off to a bit of a slow start this meet, won three races Tuesday. He's now fourth in the standings with 21 wins, and possibly gaining momentum going into the last half of the season.

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