05/14/2004 11:00PM

Maryland BC: Gators N Bears strikes

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Gators N Bears won the , the race that directly preceded the Preakness, carrying one step farther the dreams of his small-time owner-trainer while once again evoking the memory of the late Bob Camac, who had strong ties to Preakness favorite Smarty Jones.

Gators N Bears, a remarkably consistent New Jersey-bred, drove to a 1 1/4-length victory over Highway Prospector in the Grade 3, $200,000 Maryland BC, returning $7 as second choice in a field of nine older sprinters. Leo Nechamkin, who owns and trains the colt amid a small stable at Laurel Park, called his prize colt "a dream," saying he greatly appreciated the limelight that Preakness Day afforded him.

Gators N Bears was bred and raised by Camac, the longtime Delaware Valley trainer who was murdered by his stepson in 2001. Camac was an instrumental figure in the lives of Roy and Pat Chapman, owners of Smarty Jones.

Gators N Bears, ridden by Chuck Lopez, drove through a rail opening to take control of the six-furlong Maryland BC just inside the furlong pole. He finished in 1:10.84 over a fast track.

Sassy Hound finished third, while Soaring Free, the 2-1 favorite, faded to eighth.