02/03/2005 1:00AM

A race full of recent winners


There's no shortage of sharp form among the 12 3-year-olds scheduled to run in Saturday's $75,000 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park. Seven horses come into the one-turn mile off a victory, and three others finished second or third in their most recent start.

Considered an early prep for horses who might develop into Preakness candidates, the Miracle Wood is also the first leg of the Magna Pick 5, which has a guaranteed pool of $500,000. The race features a rematch between Legal Control and Monster Chaser, the one-two finishers in the Maryland Juvenile Championship.

Legal Control, who spots each of his opponents six pounds as the 122-pound highweight, will be making his first start at 3 following three consecutive wins to close out his 2-year-old campaign. A son of 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch, Legal Control has had nearly five weeks to recover from his career-high 80 Beyer Speed Figure effort in the Maryland Juvenile Championship.

Monster Chaser also has been freshened since he was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Legal Control on Dec. 31. He's eligible to improve, making just his second start beyond six furlongs.

While both Legal Control and Monster Chaser exit stakes restricted to Maryland-breds, He's Looking Good and Woody's Apache come off good performances against open allowance company.

He's Looking Good, claimed for $16,000 out of a maiden race on Nov. 2, has steadily improved his Beyers from 48 to 75 in three starts after being claimed by trainer Dove Houghton.

Woody's Apache, third in the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity three starts ago, made a slight rally to finish third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by He's Looking Good, last time out. He will be ridden by Ryan Fogelsonger for the first time.

Based on recent Beyers, Malibu Moonshine and Hoist Away are also capable of winning. Malibu Moonshine, part of a King Leatherbury-trained entry with Woody's Apache, easily won the seven-furlong St. Nick at Charles Town with a 72 Beyer in his last start. Hoist Away came out of the maiden claiming ranks to win a first-level allowance at Philadelphia Park with a 73 Beyer on Jan. 14.

The winner of last year's Miracle Wood, Water Cannon, competed in the Preakness three months later. In 2001, the top three finishers - Talk Is Money, Marciano, and Bay Eagle - later raced in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness. The 2003 race featured future multiple stakes winners Gimmeawink and Gators N Bears.