11/15/2008 1:00AM

Lake claims an overachiever


When trainer Scott Lake, acting on behalf of owners Ben Mondello and Adam Russo, claimed M J's Enchanteur for $40,000 last winter at Gulfstream Park, Lake hoped to employ tactics he has used over and over while winning thousands of races.

"When we first claimed him we thought he might just run through his allowance conditions," Lake said.

M J's Enchanteur accomplished that - and much more. He comes into the $75,000 Sophomore Sprint Championship on Tuesday night at Mountaineer Park with five wins - two in stakes - and earnings of almost $225,000 in 2008.

"He just started getting better and better," Lake said. "His personality totally changed. He's turned into a good horse."

M J's Enchanteur should be really tough to beat in the Sophomore Sprint, a six-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds that drew six other entries. One of them, Fire Chief, just raced Friday at Fair Grounds, finishing unplaced in an allowance race, and either will start under highly unusual conditions, or will not make the gate.

M J's Enchanteur last raced Sept. 27, finishing a close fourth in the $250,000 Gallant Bob at Philly Park, a race that featured strong competition and a hot pace. Two starts ago, M J's Enchanteur finished second behind the top-class sprinter Fatal Bullet over the all-weather surface at Presque Isle Downs, a race that has given his connections cause to consider as a long-range goal the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, Lake said. As for the break between starts, M J's Enchanteur shows a zippy half-mile Delaware Park work for this, and should be able to handle this level of competition even with something less than a peak effort.

"He'd run awful hard," Lake said of the freshening.

If there's going to be an upset, the talented, lightly raced Danny might be the right one. Danny has won all three of his starts at Mountaineer, running through two allowance conditions after clearing the maiden ranks in his second career start. Free Brave and So So also exit local wins over allowance horses.