11/08/2007 12:00AM

Shippers fond of local course

EmailBernie Blue and M B Sea, two out-of-state shippers with a distinct fondness for Mountaineer Race Track but contrasting running styles, head a field of eight older horses in Saturday night's $125,000 Mountaineer Mile Handicap.

The 5-year-old Bernie Blue, based at Thistledown with trainer Miguel Feliciano, has been first or second in 15 of 18 lifetime starts at Mountaineer, including all five of his wins this season.

Although he's primarily a sprinter, Bernie Blue did stretch out to win the mile-and-70-yard Slipton Fell Handicap in June, beating M B Sea by 1 3/4 lengths. The only other time in a 37-race career that Bernie Blue has gone two turns on dirt, he finished second going a mile and 70 yards in an allowance run over a sloppy track in July 2005.

M B Sea, an 8-year-old stabled at Churchill Downs with trainer Dale Romans, is 2 for 3 this year at Mountaineer, but 0 for 11 everywhere else the past two seasons.

Most recently, M B Sea romped by nearly six lengths in the Fall Stakes. He also won the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's, a race he captured in 2005.

Unlike the Slipton Fell, where he was the lone speed and got away with modest fractions of 48.52 seconds for a half-mile and 1:12.70 through six furlongs, Bernie Blue may have to work harder up front in the Mountaineer Mile, thanks to the presence of Tepexpan.

In a pair of two-turn stakes during the summer, the Chicago-based Tepexpan went a half-mile in 46-and-change winning the Omaha at Horsemen's Park and just missing in the Minneapolis at Canterbury Park.

Two other horses who merit respect are Hi Time Scott and Real Dandy.

Hi Time Scott, the beaten favorite at 6-5 in last year's Mountaineer Mile, is 6 for 12 in one-mile races, including a win over the track in October 2006. He prepped for this race by easily winning a high-priced optional claimer going seven furlongs at Laurel Park a month ago.

Real Dandy has been idle since mid-September, but is dangerous. In his two previous starts at Mountaineer, Real Dandy won the 2005 West Virginia Derby and finished fourth in the 2006 Governor's.

His trainer, Steve Asmussen, is 16 for 50 (32 percent) with horses returning from a short layoff in non-graded stakes the past two years. Real Dandy is 2 for 2 in that category, winning the Zia Derby and Curribot Handicap at Zia.