01/20/2003 1:00AM

Laurel: Shake the Dice makes mark

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Shake the Dice continues to handle every rise in class he has taken for trainer Scott Lake.

Claimed by Lake for $50,000 in August at Delaware Park, Shake the Dice collected his fifth straight win and first career stakes victory in the $51,700 Hoover Stakes at Laurel Park.

Shake the Dice ($7.80), ridden by Clinton Potts, sat close behind a duel between 3-5 favorite Sassy Hound and Sky Commander during the first half-mile of the six-furlong Hoover. Potts found room along the rail and Shake the Dice drew off to win by three lengths over Griffinite.

"He didn't have to lose much ground today and he went right through on the inside," Potts said. "He's just an awesome horse. He has all the heart in the world."

Assistant trainer Tim Hooper said, "I love watching him come from behind like that and running everybody down." Hooper said it's possible Shake the Dice will return for the Grade 2 General George Stakes at Laurel Park on Feb. 17.

Sassy Hound, racing for the first time since finishing third in the De Francis Memorial Dash in November, tired badly in midstretch and finished fourth in the field of five, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.

"We had a perfect trip but when I asked him at the top of the stretch he didn't have it," said Sassy Hound's rider, Horatio Karamanos.