10/12/2002 12:00AM

Promising juveniles top Best of Ohio


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - The 16th annual Best of Ohio series, which traditionally crowns each season's Ohio-bred divisional champions, will be held at Thistledown on Monday.

The Best of Ohio is made up of five statebred stakes and offers total purses of $375,000. The Best of Ohio rotates on an annual basis between the state's three Thoroughbred tracks, and in 2003 it will be held at River Downs. A pick five will be offered on the Best of Ohio races, and with outlets in California taking the races, the pool should be attractive this year.

While the Ohio-bred horse of the year usually comes out of one of the Best of Ohio races, this year's title was long ago conceded to Harlan's Holiday, who is scheduled to make his next start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The richest Best of Ohio race is the $100,000 Endurance, but the most interesting event is the $75,000 Juvenile. The 1 1/16-mile Juvenile has drawn Hackendiffy and Boxcar Cat, half-brothers to Harlan's Holiday and U S S Tinosa, respectively. The most accomplished of the two is Hackendiffy, who has won three stakes from five career starts, including the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile in his last start. Hackendiffy, who is extremely quick, is owned by David Eigel and trained by Bernard S. Flint. He will be ridden by Mike Rowland.

Boxcar Cat has made only two starts. In his debut he ducked in sharply at the start, was rank throughout, and was beaten 20 lengths. Trainer Jevon Crumley added blinkers for Boxcar Cat's next start. Once again he was rank leaving the gate, but jockey Andrew Ramgeet handled him patiently while trailing for the opening half-mile of the six-furlong maiden race. Still last by 10 lengths at the top of the stretch, Ramgeet set Boxcar Cat down and he drove to the lead in deep stretch and quickly drew off.

Forest Picnic has won two of his three starts and was second, beaten 12 1/2 lengths by Hackendiffy, in the Juvenile Stakes. He will need to improve to threaten the top pair.

The top horse in the 1 1/4-mile Endurance is Majestic Dinner, who won the race last year. A 6-year-old gelding, he has won 4 of 5 starts this year, the last two in stakes. He carries co-highweight of 122 pounds, will be ridden by Ricardo Feliciano, and will race coupled with Fervent Affair.

Blame It on Ruby is a hard-trying Sky Classic colt who was second, beaten a neck by Majestic Dinner, in the 1 1/8-mile George Lewis Memorial. He has tactical speed and should be forwardly placed under jockey Luis Gonzalez, who will ride for trainer Austin Smith at 122 pounds.

Ifufeelfroggyleap will be the prohibitive favorite in the $75,000 Juvenile fillies. Ifufeelfroggyleap will be trying to extend her stakes winning streak to four races but will have her hands full with Bolaro in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Bolaro was an even fifth after stumbling at the start of the Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park in her last start and was second behind Hackendiffy when competing against the boys here in the 5 1/2-furlong Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes.

The $75,000 Distaff has drawn a competitive field of 10. The 1 1/8-mile race is headed by Ashwood CC, Lady Cherie, and Crypto Cream.

A full field of 14 will leave the gate in the $50,000 Sprint. John Q's Winner - who won this race last year - Scioto Bootski, and Truth Matters appear to be the main contenders in the six-furlong race.