01/31/2008 12:00AM

Last-out winners in good supply


Evaluating the 10 evenly matched 3-year-olds in Saturday's $70,000 Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel Park is difficult, because leading contenders in the race have made their most recent starts in Massachusetts, New York, Florida, and West Virginia.

The six-furlong Dancing Count, named in honor of one of Maryland's top stallions, is also the first leg of the $500,000-guaranteed Magna 5.

No fewer than six of the colts and geldings in the Dancing Count come into the stakes off a win. That group is headed by Hefty Returns, who was unbeaten in a pair of starts at Suffolk Downs but has not raced since Oct. 22.

On the plus side, Hefty Returns boasts the highest Beyer Speed Figure in Saturday's field, an 86 that matches the par for the last nine runnings of this stakes.

Hefty Returns shows no published workouts for his return, but he comes from the high-percentage barn of John Rigattieri.

Ghostly Thunder is based at Laurel with trainer Gary Capuano but has made all five of his starts at Charles Town. He won his last four races, including a pair of restricted stakes, by a combined margin of 24 lengths.

Springs Road, the lukewarm morning-line favorite at 7-2, is cutting back to a sprint for the first time since his career debut last September. He has been off since finishing fifth of six in the Grade 2 Remsen, a 1 1/8-mile stakes at Aqueduct, in late November, but is 2 for 2 at Laurel.

"He ran a competitive race right up to the eighth pole," said trainer Rodney Jenkins, referring to Springs Road's effort in the Remsen. "He's a young horse, and we decided to give him some more time. He did lose a little weight shipping to New York. We've been looking for a nonwinners-of-two for him, but no race turned up."

Vanderkaay won two in a row in Florida before encountering trouble and finishing a distant fourth in his stakes debut, the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs. He ships north and wheels back on just two weeks' rest.

Among the horses who have been competing locally, Shoe Freak Marlene merits respect after scoring by eight lengths in an optional claiming sprint six weeks ago. He worked a bullet four furlongs in 48.80 seconds last Saturday.