12/21/2002 1:00AM

Juvenile races could have an impact

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Determining the top Maryland-bred juveniles of 2002 will come down to the final day of year when the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship and the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship - the two richest stakes on the calendar for registered Maryland-bred 2-year-olds - are run on New Year's Eve at Laurel Park.

Both races could hold important implications in the final voting for statebred champions and can help boost a sire to the top of year-end rankings. Both races will be run at 1 1/8 miles and have a rich array of nominees.

According to Laurel Park stakes coordinator David Rollinson, it's pure guesswork as to who may actually run, since the nominations for both races had an early closing date of Sept. 25, and a number of those nominated are still unraced maidens. But maidens have won the races.

The Maryland Juvenile Championship had 37 nominees, topped by Cherokee's Boy, the most accomplished Maryland-bred 2-year-old of 2002. Cherokee's Boy, a son of Citidancer, has earned $173,929, nearly triple that of the sidelined Bridge Out Again, who is second among Maryland's 2-year-olds.

Cherokee's Boy won this year's Maryland Million Nursery at Pimlico, was a 21 3/4-length winner of the Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town, and then shipped to Texas and ran third in the NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile. Trainer Gary Capuano said Cherokee's Boy will not make the Maryland Juvenile Championship. Instead owners Foard Wilgis and Dave Picarello opted for the $500,000 Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs, which was run on Saturday.

Expected to start in the Maryland Juvenile Championship is the Not for Love colt Ironton, who finished ahead of Cherokee's Boy the last time they met in the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity, won by Toccet on Nov. 16.

Ironton, owned by Timothy Cunningham and trained by Mike Petro, had been the runner-up behind Cherokee's Boy in the Maryland Million Nursery and ranks third by earnings among this year's 2-year-old colts.

A victory in this year's Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship would virtually seal year-end honors honors for the winner, since a standout has yet to emerge from this year's group. The race, which attracted 51 nominations, should be a wide-open affair.

Nearly a quarter of the fillies nominated, and six of the 37 colts, are by Maryland freshmen sires. Northview Stallion Station's Partner's Hero, the leader among this year's first-crop sires, is represented by two nominees - the colt I Pay the Bills and the filly Love You Madly. Partner's Hero has 13 winners this year and ranks among the top 25 freshmen sires in the nation, with earnings of $395,067.

The freshman sire with the most nominees (5) is Yarrow Brae, and the list includes his most accomplished runner, the multiple stakes-placed filly Butiwillflysomeday. Other first-year stallions represented are Awad (3), Ops Smile (3), Swear by Dixie (3), and Storm Broker (2).

Although Partner's Hero has a nearly insurmountable lead on the Maryland freshman sires list, the other stallions are bunched together, with Storm Broker second on the list at $156,783, followed by Yarrow Brae at $108,050. A good showing by any one of the runners by the stallions represented could drastically reshuffle the standings.

The two juvenile championship races have also played a role in a statebred incentive program over the years, and could do the same this year. Maryland-breds who were shown at the Maryland Horse Breeders Association Yearling Show are eligible for a $20,000 premium, to be distributed among the top four earners at 2 and 3. The top four earners of last year's yearling show graduates are Cherokee's Boy, Bridge Out Again, Demetra's Love (who is expected to start in the filly race), and National Pastime. Of the 37 nominated colts, nine were shown, and of the 51 fillies, eight were judged by trainer Linda Rice in 2001.