05/20/2005 11:00PM

Mystery horse adds to fun

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Racing secretary Lorne Mitchell has put together an excellent holiday card that will take serious studying to locate winners. Adding to a handicapper's dilemma is the North American debut of Century Star in the featured event, a $75,000 optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles.

Century Star lost his first 24 career starts, but went on to win 8 of his next 12 while racing exclusively at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. An 8-year-old gelding, Century Star finished last, beaten 8 1/2 lengths, in his final start in Hong Kong, but it was against Grade 1 company and the winner was the sensational Silent Witness, who won 17 races in a row before being nosed out in the Group 1 Champions Mile May 14.

Trainer Danny Leung has taken his time bringing Century Star back to the races. His last start was in February 2004, and he worked a very strong six furlongs in 1:13.40 with exercise rider Dennis Terry Jr. aboard May 13. He has won coming off a layoff in the past. Anthony Stephens will ride.

It's anyone's guess how well Century Star will run, but the pace will almost surely be hotly contested by stakes winners Treasured Friend and Lethal Grande, so it could set up nicely for Steady Smiler.

A homebred son of Repletion, Steady Smiler was a stakes winner as a 3-year-old in 2003 and he had a productive season last year, winning two races and over $60,000.