01/01/2009 12:00AM

Looking to end a long drought

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Lord Snowdon, who was good enough to grab small pieces of the purse in two Grade 1 stakes in 2008, tries for his first win in nearly a year when he returns to Laurel Park for Saturday's $50,000 Native Dancer Stakes.

Last February, trainer Tony Dutrow brought the New York-based Lord Snowdon to Maryland for the Grade 2 General George Handicap and he responded by coming within a head of the unbeaten Bustin Stones.

Lord Snowdon also finished third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap.

After five months on the sidelines, Lord Snowdon was stretched out to two turns for a one-mile optional claimer at Aqueduct in early December. Dutrow said at the time that he was concerned that Lord Snowdon was falling too far behind in sprints, but also felt that after being idle for so long, the gelding might need a race.

Lord Snowdon ran evenly to finish fourth of six and now makes the second start of his form cycle, this time in a one-turn mile for which he seems better suited.

The chief challengers among seven rivals to the 6-year-old Lord Snowden are Cave's Valley and P V Lightening, both of whom have enough early speed to set or be close to the pace.

Cave's Valley, who was cross-entered in a seven-furlong optional claiming race worth $36,000 on Friday's card at Laurel, is 2 for 3 at a mile, including an easy four-length score last time out in late November.

P V Lightening, from the white-hot barn of Gary Capuano, was second to Digger in last year's Native Dancer. He will be making the second start of his form cycle after setting the pace and weakening as the 3-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Jennings Handicap.

Sharps Island merits respect, based on his 13-for-15 record of in-the-money finishes at Laurel and 4-for-9 record in one-mile races. He steps up to stakes company off back-to-back runner-up finishes in high-priced optional claimers.

Crimson Comic, formerly trained by Todd Pletcher, adds blinkers in his first start for Mark Shuman. His last one-turn route attempt, which produced a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure, would make him a threat in this spot.