01/21/2004 12:00AM

Shake You Down begins quest anew

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Scott Lake was a little miffed when the names of the finalists for the 2003 Eclipse Awards were released. Shake You Down, the speedy gelding who won four graded stakes last year for Lake, was not among the three horses named in the sprint division - and even though Lake knows that either Aldebaran or Cajun Beat will probably be named the sprint champion Monday night at the Eclipse dinner in nearby Hollywood, he still was hoping that Shake You Down would be honored as a third finalist.

"Disgusted, aggravated," said Lake. "Congaree" - the third finalist - "isn't a sprinter. It's not what he does. I thought the award was supposed to be about what you did, not what you can do."

Nevertheless, Lake knows his point is pretty much a moot one. There are more important and rewarding things for Shake You Down to do - such as win more big races. By coincidence, just as the Eclipse crowd will be getting into town, a major opportunity for Shake You Down to flaunt his considerable abilities will come Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where he will be a heavy favorite to win the $300,000 on the second annual Sunshine Millions program.

"Absolutely, a nice big check would help us get over it," said a smiling Lake.

Shake You Down, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Maryland mortgage broker Robert Cole Jr., became a familiar rags-to-riches story last year when he competed in many of the major sprint stakes in the U.S. Claimed for $65,000 at Aqueduct last March, Shake You Down showed steady improvement for Lake while blossoming into a major force in the division. From 10 races since the claim - all at six furlongs - he won seven, including the July 12 Smile Sprint at Calder's Summit of Speed, where he recorded an eye-popping Beyer Speed Figure of 121. He also managed to finish third in the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Sprint despite losing virtually all chance with a slow start.

"He was the ultimate six-furlong horse," said Lake.

Mike Luzzi, who has ridden Shake You Down in his last eight starts and who will fly in from New York to ride the gelding Saturday, called Shake You Down "a special horse."

"He's got a brilliant second quarter that's won most of his races for him," Luzzi said. "I was disappointed that he didn't break running like he usually does in the Breeders' Cup; it may have cost him second, maybe even the race."

Lake said he attempted to take Shake You Down out of serious training after he won the Dec. 21 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, "but he acted like he didn't want any part of it. He's much happier when he's training. He's the kind of horse that you don't really have to do too much with. If there's a month between his races, I might breeze him once.

"Until he tells us something different, we're going to let him dictate what we do with him. I'll probably space his races a little more this year. The Summit of Speed and the Breeders' Cup are the goals again this year."

First, though, comes the Sunshine Millions, in which Valid Video figures as the main challenger. "I love the way my horse is coming up to this race," said Lake.

Shake You Down is the third top-class sprinter trained by Lake in recent years, following Thunderello, who was second to Orientate in the 2002 BC Sprint, and My Cousin Matt, who reeled off several stakes wins in 2002-03, including the Grade 2 General George at Laurel last February.

For Lake, who currently has nearly 150 horses in training spread among four tracks (Gulfstream, Belmont, Philadelphia Park, and Laurel), the emergence of Shake You Down furthers his image as a trainer who is capable with more than just bread-and-butter horses.

"Obviously that's what we're trying to do, attract the better owners with the better type of horses," said Lake, who won a remarkable 457 races last year, tops among all North American trainers.

So in spite of the perceived slight by Eclipse Award voters, Lake is going to be just fine - especially if Shake You Down starts the year the way his trainer believes he will.