02/01/2007 1:00AM

Miracle Wood provides intriguing rematch


Roaring Lion, who closed out his 2-year-old campaign by winning the Maryland Juvenile Championship, will go for his fourth straight victory when he makes his 3-year-old debut Saturday in the $90,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park.

He's not, however, the fastest horse in the field of five, which will be racing one mile.

That distinction belongs to Saratoga Lulaby, a John Rigattieri-trained colt who finished second to Roaring Lion in a first-level allowance on Dec. 20.

Saratoga Lulaby, who needed six starts at Suffolk Downs before he finally won his maiden, was racing for the first time beyond six furlongs and was sent off at 41-1 on the day he made a mild rally from mid-pack to finish within 3 3/4 lengths of Roaring Lion.

Saratoga Lulaby obviously gained something from that first route attempt because when he came back on Jan. 4, he shot to the lead under Dyn Panell and coasted to a 12 3/4-length win going a mile. He improved his Beyer Speed Figure from 69 to 91, 10 points higher than Roaring Lion earned for his Maryland Juvenile win.

Given four weeks to recover from that effort, Saratoga Lulaby should not be too susceptible to a bounce. The question is whether he can reproduce his last performance while having to cope with the speedy Roaring Lion.

As for Roaring Lion, trainer Dickie Small said he feels the Miracle Wood is no easy assignment.

"Even though it's a short field, it's coming up more difficult than I thought because the horse he beat came back and won big," Small said. "And those other runners look good, too. My horse is doing great and I can't find fault with him."

The other horse to fear is the lightly raced Place Your Bet. He has won 2 of 3 starts, including a seven-furlong race two weeks ago as the odds-on favorite. In his only stakes, Place Your Bet finished second as the 3-2 favorite in the 5 1/2-furlong Dancing Count on New Year's Day.