11/13/2003 1:00AM

Lake has confidence

Shake You Down (in yellow) leads the field in the BC Sprint before ending up third.

Last year, trainer Scott Lake appeared to have the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at his mercy with Thunderello, who was coming off a terrific second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Sent off the even-money favorite in the De Francis, Thunderello was pulled up after three furlongs were run over a sloppy track. The diagnosis was a fractured sesamoid and cracked splint bone, and Thunderello subsequently was retired.

One year later, Lake finds himself in a similar situation when he sends out Shake You Down in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 De Francis Dash at Laurel Park. Shake You Down finished third in last month's Breeders' Cup Sprint, and figures to go off in the neighborhood of even-money against nine rivals.

Is Lake having any feelings of deja vu?

"No, no, it's a completely different scenario," Lake said. "Thunderello was a horse that had some problems in his life. This horse has been sound the whole time."

Shake You Down has been regarded as one of the top sprinters in the country all year. Since being claimed by Lake for $65,000 in March, Shake You Down has won six of eight starts, including the Bold Ruler, True North, and Smile Sprint handicaps. In the BC Sprint, Lake believes Shake You Down was inhibited by his inside draw, which forced jockey Mike Luzzi to use the horse in a speed duel after he broke slowly. Still, Shake You Down did well to hold third.

Lake was thrilled when Shake You Down drew post 6 in the De Francis, meaning he will be positioned outside the speed of Crossing Point and Gators N Bears. Shake You Down is the 123-pound highweight under Luzzi, who won the inaugural De Francis in 1990 with Northern Wolf.

"If he comes away from there slowly like he did in the Breeders' Cup, [Luzzi] doesn't have to rush him up," Lake said. "He can sit and look at a horse and he won't be buried down on the rail."

Before Lake claimed Shake You Down, he raced in Maryland for trainer Gino Luigi. Shake You Down went 0 for 8 at Laurel, but did finish second or third five times. Lake does not think that was an indication Shake You Down dislikes the Laurel track.

"It's in the back of your mind," Lake said. "But it's not like he never hit the board before."

If you want to take a stand against Shake You Down, the price should be right on just about everybody else. Gators N Bears, the only 3-year-old in the field, is coming off a nice victory in the Sonny Hine Stakes at Laurel. Though Gators N Bears has speed, Leo Nechamkin, the trainer and part-owner of Gators N Bears, believes the colt is better with something to run at.

"When you turn him loose he just goes, but as soon as he passes horses he says, 'Okay, I beat them,' and he starts to wait for horses and you got to shake him up again," Nechamkin said.

A Huevo, a 7-year-old gelding who has made only six starts, is an intriguing runner. He was away from the races for nearly four years after suffering chips in all four knees in the fall of 1999. He finished first in his first four starts, though he was disqualified from winning the West Virginia Breeders Classic for the finding of an illegal substance in a post-race urine test.

When A Huevo returned to action in a minor stakes at Mountaineer in August, he flipped in the paddock three times and finished seventh. He came back on Sept. 21 and won an optional claiming race at Delaware, running the six furlongs in 1:08.87. Ramon Dominguez, who had offers to ride other horses in this race, sticks with A Huevo.

Highway Prospector was good enough to run second to Shake You Down in the Grade 2 True North, and has license to get a good stalking trip from his outside post.

The De Francis heads a 10-race card that features six stakes. First post is 12:25 p.m.