05/11/2006 12:00AM

Philadelphia: Third matchup of rivals


Banjo Picker has finished a neck in front of Nittany Express the last two times they met, and he squares off against that arch rival again in the $50,000 Lyman Sprint Championship Handicap. The seven-furlong race, restricted to Pennsylvania-breds, is the first stakes of the season at Philadelphia Park.

The 6-year-old Banjo Picker, winner of the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap in New York at 47-1 last December, held off Nittany Express in last year's Lyman and barely beat him again in a seven-furlong money allowance on April 2. Nittany Express was awarded the win in the April 2 race when Banjo Picker was disqualified for drifting out in the stretch.

Since then, Nittany Express, based at Penn National with trainer Todd Beattie, got up by a nose in a $46,200 allowance going a mile at Mountaineer.

Beattie also has entered Leprechaun's Gold, a speedy 4-year-old formerly trained by the late John Zimmerman. Leprechaun's Gold, who is not coupled with Nittany Express, most recently earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for his romp over third-level allowance runners at Penn National. Since then, he has posted a pair of five-furlong bullet workouts, including a sizzling 56.60-second move last Saturday.