10/01/2008 11:00PM

Ohio's best square off in five stakes


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - The 22nd renewal of the Best of Ohio Championship for statebreds will be presented at Thistledown this Saturday. The Best of Ohio is made up of five stakes with a total value of $425,000.

The top events are a pair of $l00,000 races, the 1 1/4-mile Endurance and the 1 1/8-mile Distaff. A trio of $75,000 races - the six-furlong Sprint, and the John Galbreath Memorial and Juvenile, both at 1o1/16 miles for 2-year-olds - complete the lineup.

The Endurance has drawn a field of 11 and features another confrontation between the 7-year-old Catlaunch and Smarmy, a 4-year-old. These two have taken turns beating each other, and Smarmy is the defending winner of the Endurance.

The pair last met here on Sept. 21 in the Governors' Buckeye Handicap at today's distance. Catlaunch set the pace before being chased down by Smarmy in the final yards to drop a three-quarter-length decision. Catlaunch is one of only two Ohio-breds to win three stakes this season. The other is the filly Pay the Man, who is the top choice in the Distaff.

Catlaunch is owned by his breeder, Scioto Farm, and is trained by Ivan Vasquez.

"He has actually gotten better with age," Vasquez said of Catlaunch, a winner of 24 of 61 career starts and $535,263. He will be ridden by Luis Martinez Jr. and will carry 122 pounds.

Smarmy is owned by Bruce Ryan and Blazing Meadows Farm and is trained by Tim Hamm. Smarmy has won 7 of 29 starts and $209,480.

"He's a real competitive horse," said Hamm.

Luis Gonzalez will ride at 122.

Pay the Man will be a prohibitive choice over nine opponents in the Distaff. A 4-year-old Bernstein filly, Pay the Man has won three stakes this year and has won three of her five career races going 1 1/8 miles. She was third in this race last year at Beulah Park behind her main opponent in Saturday's race, Cryptoquip.

Miguel Feliciano trains Pay the Man for Pyrite Stable, and Andrew Ramgeet will be aboard the front-runner.

Cryptoquip will be making her first start since April 19 when she was unplaced in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne. Her other two 2008 starts were in stakes at Laurel. She was placed first in the Maryland Racing Media Handicap in her start prior to the Sixty Sails. The Elisabeth Alexander homebred will be making her first start for trainer Eric Reed. Luis J. Martinez will ride.

The most competitive race of the series is the Sprint. Dooze won the race last year, and 8-year-old Ben's Reflection won it in 2004 and 2005 and was second in 2007. Add to the mix Pforperfectspistol, who has won 11 of his 14 career starts and has a four-race win streak going - including a win over both Dooze and Ben's Reflection in the Honey Jay Stakes here Aug. 31.

Slides Choice, who has won stakes in each of her two career starts, heads a field of eight 2-year-old fillies in the John W. Galbreath Memorial. The Tim Hamm trainee will be ridden by Anne Sanguinetti.

Her main opposition should come from Yankee Cruz, who was second to Slides Choice in her career debut, then came back to win her maiden at Presque Isle Downs.

The 7-2 morning-line favorite in the Juvenile is Brother Terry, who ships up from Calder, where he won 2 of 7 races.