08/31/2004 12:00AM

'Prince' the reigning champ


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In the last two years, Praise the Prince has been the most dominant steeplechase horse at Saratoga. On Thursday, he will try win the $100,000-added New York Turf Writers Steeplechase Handicap for the second year in a row.

A Grade 1 race run at 2 3/8 miles, the New York Turf Writers drew eight runners and is carded as the third race.

Praise the Prince, who will be the favorite, has beaten every horse in the field, with the exception of Cherokeeinthehills, who will be facing Praise the Prince for the first time.

In the New York Turf Writers, will be reunited with jockey Gus Brown, who rode Praise the Prince to victory in last year's race. Last fall, Brown broke his wrist, and two weeks into his comeback this summer, he suffered a broken ankle at Delaware Park.

The New York Turf Writers is Brown's first race back since his latest injury.

"He is my favorite horse of all time," Brown said. "Praise the Prince simply doesn't make excuses. He runs hard all the time."

A 9-year-old trained by Sanna Hendriks, Praise the Prince suffered a soft-tissue injury in his leg in last year's New York Turf Writers. He returned to training in February and won a 1 1/2-mile flat race on Saratoga's open house card July 25. Earlier in the meet, he won the Grade 2 A.P. Smithwick Memorial by a half-length under Robert Massey after losing the lead in the stretch.

"If you were watching that race, you might have thought that he would be lucky to get second," Hendriks said. "But Praise the Prince is a horse you can never give up on. He looked like he was giving it his all, but when he got to the final fence, it was like he found some more to give."

Praise the Prince picks up four pounds off his Smithwick win and packs 158 pounds as the highweight.

, who is trained by Hendriks's husband, Richard, is the only other Grade 1 winner in the field. He was fourth in the Smithwick and second in last year's New York Turf Writers.

, third in the Smithwick after stumbling over the ninth fence, makes his first start for trainer Doug Fout.

Fout also entered Santenay, who gets blinkers on after finishing seventh in the Smithwick in his U.S. debut.

Jonathan Sheppard, who has won this race a record 11 times, trains Cherokeeinthehills, a winner of a first-level allowance race over jumps here Aug. 18.

Party Airs, Tallow, and Mulahen complete the field.