03/14/2003 12:00AM

Shake the Dice: Dicey?


Has the elevator reached the top floor for Shake the Dice? If so, is it about to plummet straight into the basement?

Those are two of the questions handicappers must ask themselves when trying to evaluate Shake the Dice's chances in Sunday's $60,000 Endless Surprise at Laurel Park.

After putting together a string of five straight victories, rising on the Beyer Speed Figure scale from 84 to 105, and climbing the class ladder, the 5-year-old Shake the Dice flopped last time out when he faced graded stakes company for the first time.

Was his seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 General George Handicap a result of finally meeting horses he couldn't handle? Did he simply dislike the slop?

No on both counts, according to his jockey, Clinton Potts.

"He bled in that race," said Potts, who rode Shake the Dice to three of his wins during his streak, including a three-length win in the Hoover on Jan. 20. Potts said he was tracking the eventual winner, My Cousin Matt, "the whole way, not two lengths behind, and when I asked him he only gave me four or five strides. If he is on his game, he'll be able to outrun these horses."

Those who remain skeptical, or fear taking a short price on Shake the Dice, the 3-2 morning line favorite, have several viable alternatives.

Sassy Hound has won 12 sprint races, including the Dave's Friend at Laurel last August, and was a close third in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash last November. On the downside, Sassy Hound has lost his last five races, including three as the heavy favorite.

Lethal Weapon has gotten sharp racing on Aqueduct's inner track, where he has won his last two starts, both against allowance company. He will be making his stakes debut for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

The Deputy is Home, who was also entered in Saturday's Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap in New York, was a sharp second when he shortened up from a route to six furlongs, earning a career-best Beyer Figure of 102 in an optional claimer at Laurel last month.

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