08/15/2002 12:00AM

Lake sees a tougher Crown


No trainer has had more success in the Claiming Crown Championships than Scott Lake.

After finishing second with the only horse he entered in the inaugural Claiming Crown in 1999, Lake won three out of the six championship races in 2000 and two more last year. No other trainer has won more than one race in the three years the event was held at Canterbury Park.

Now that the Claiming Crown is coming to Lake's home base at Philadelphia Park on Aug. 31, will his stable be even more dominant this year? Lake doesn't think so.

"I expect this year to be the most competitive yet," Lake said. "For some outfits, it simply wasn't cost effective to ship and run in Minnesota. With the move here to Philadelphia, I think that will change. The fields that you see here should be among the biggest and toughest Claiming Crown fields to date."

Lake said his arsenal isn't quite as potent this year. "I don't feel quite as loaded as I have in the past," he said. Lake does, however, have several solid contenders.

"If Ruskin can maintain his form, I think he'll be awfully tough in the Iron Horse. I claimed a horse named Warthawk Boy for the Express and he really seems to love the racing surface here," Lake said. "And I think I have a good shot in the Glass Slipper with a couple of good horses. Final Dispersal has been great for me all year here, and I'll be supplementing a horse named Unexpected Twist. She's been up in New York and doing very well."

Ruskin has won three of his last four at Philly Park, all in the $5,000 starter allowance ranks. Warthawk Boy, running at the bottom claiming level of $4,000 in February, has improved to the point he finished second for $16,000 at Monmouth Park in his most recent start. Final Dispersal has reeled off five wins in a row at Philly Park and won 6 of 7 this year. Unexpected Twist won for a claiming price as high as $75,000 at Belmont Park in July.

Saratoga Blues returns

One-time Triple Crown prospect Saratoga Blues makes his first start in nearly five months in Saturday's $100,000 Larry Riviello President's Cup, the final local prep for the Pennsylvania Derby.

Saratoga Blues, who earned a 95 Beyer when he won the Whirlaway at Aqueduct in February, has been laid up since backing up to finish last in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 23. Since trainer Anthony Dutrow added blinkers, Saratoga Blues has responded with several solid works at Laurel Park, including a five-furlong bullet on July 31.

Saratoga Blues is cross-entered in the $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli at Delaware Park.

The undercard includes the $75,000 Donald LeVine Memorial Stakes for older horses and the $50,000 Pistol Packer Handicap for statebred fillies and mares.