05/18/2002 12:00AM

Snow Ridge, no doubt about it


BALTIMORE - Two weeks after being disqualified from first in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day, Snow Ridge romped to a 7 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade 2 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico.

Smile My Lord rallied for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Clever Gem.

On Derby Day, Snow Ridge ran a remarkable race, being pressed all the way through rapid fractions and holding off D'wildcat late to win by a neck. Nevertheless, jockey Mike Smith inadvertently struck D'wildcat in the face with his whip one step before the wire and the horse was disqualified.

"That was disheartening; it was very hard to accept because we knew we ran the best horse," Lukas said.

Saturday, Snow Ridge didn't allow the stewards to interfere as he dueled outside of Bop through splits of 22.91 seconds and

45.67 before opening up approaching the quarter pole. Smith threw a couple of crosses at Snow Ridge in the stretch and he finished strongly, covering the six furlongs in 1:10.06 over a fast track. He returned $4.80 as the 7-5 favorite.

"He was there as easy as he wanted to be," Smith said, "and I could have went faster if I wanted to. He was there comfortably. He's gotten very smart about running. He cruises very fast, and when he gets over to his left lead, it's like he takes a whole new breath of air - you could feel his body swell up - and then boom, he kicks again."

Snow Ridge, a 4-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, has now won 4 of 6 starts this year. His lone bad effort came in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct when he finished ninth. Lukas said Snow Ridge didn't handle the track that day.

"He's so big and powerful, he's got such a strong back and hip, that when he's struggling he just loses his action," Lukas said. "When he can feel it like he did today, he can put some serious fractions and he kicks it home."

Lukas said he was not sure where Snow Ridge would run next, but his first inkling is to skip the True North Handicap at Belmont on Belmont Stakes Day.