04/20/2005 11:00PM

McKay field full of last-out winners


Look no further than the last running line of the horses in posts 1 through 5 to gauge just how tough the Jim McKay Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico has come up.

All five runners won their last start at either the same nine furlongs as the $200,000 McKay or a half-furlong longer. Their winning Beyer Speed Figures fall within a narrow range of 101 to 107.

Toss in Classic Endeavor, a two-time Grade 3 winner late last fall, and it's clear the McKay contenders are difficult to separate.

To add to the complexity, four of the logical threats - Bahama John, Lusty Latin, Presidentialaffair, and Classic Endeavor - perform best as front-runners.

, who faced tougher competition in Florida during the winter, had a legitimate alibi for his uncharacteristically poor performance in last month's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"We scoped him after the race and found he had a bad lung infection with lots of mucus," said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who would like jockey Jose Santos to avoid getting Classic Endeavor involved in an early pace battle.

"This horse has a lot of speed," Dutrow said, "and he should sit just off the pace on Saturday."

Dutrow said he plans to scratch the other part of his uncoupled entry, Aggadan.

Classic Endeavor, claimed for $50,000 last summer at Saratoga, won three in a row, including back-to-back Grade 3 routes in New York, after coming to Dutrow's barn.

"We got his hind end straightened out," Dutrow said. "Since then he's really thrived."

If the early pace is indeed torrid, it could provide an ideal setup for stalkers Hydrogen and Cherokee Rap.

In his lone start this season, Hydrogen got up by a nose in the Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct. He has had nearly seven weeks to recover from that effort.

comes off a career-best 107 Beyer earned against high-priced optional claimers in New York. He has won three in a row since November.

Also on Saturday are three new $100,000 stakes for Maryland-bred and Maryland Million-nominated horses. The breeders of the first two finishers in each of the three races will earn stallion seasons donated by the sponsoring farms.

* The most intriguing of the restricted stakes, the 1 1/8-mile Northview Stallion for older fillies and mares, pits He Loves Me against Silmaril. Both have been competitive against graded stakes company.

He Loves Me will be making her first start since she was transferred to the barn of Christophe Clement and her first start since last November. She was a four-time stakes winner last season and owns a 4-for-5 record at Pimlico. He Loves Me was also third in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont and a close fourth in the Grade 3 Anne Arundel at Pimlico.

Silmaril won 5 of 7 starts last season, including four stakes. In three races this year, Silmaril has won the one-mile Nellie Morse at Laurel; finished third of 10 in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie; and come in fourth, beaten only 2 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

* Hear Us Roar, unbeaten in three starts at 2, is the lone stakes winner in the Country Life Farm for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles.

Trained by Francis Campitelli, Hear Us Roar has been idle since wiring in the 1 1/16-mile Selima last November.

Her competition includes Lucky Slevin and Magical Broad, both coming off wins against first-level allowance company last month.

* Maddy's Lion, an impressive winner two starts ago in a sprint stakes at Aqueduct, returns to his best distance in the six-furlong Maryland Stallion Station for 3-year-olds.

Mojodajo, a front-runner who has won his last three starts by a combined margin of 15 1/4 lengths, and Monster Chaser, first or second in all five of his previous starts at Pimlico, are the chief threats.