10/17/2006 11:00PM

Spite the Devil chases 3-peat

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Followers of Spite the Devil will get another chance to cash a nice mutuel Saturday, when he makes a bid for his third consecutive victory in the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park.

The Empire Classic, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, is the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day, a 10-race card that is dedicated to New York-breds and includes seven stakes with purses totaling $1 million.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by Allen Jerkens, Spite the Devil won the Empire Classic in 2004 at odds of 15-1. He won it again last year at odds of 9-1. In his five-year racing career, Spite the Devil has also won the Grade 3 Withers at 16-1 and the Evan Shipman for New York-breds earlier this year at 9-1.

Despite those successes, Spite the Devil will likely offer some value again in an Empire Classic field that is expected to include 2003 dual classic winner Funny Cide, West Virginia, and Naughty New Yorker.

Spite the Devil ended an eight-race losing streak when he won the Evan Shipman here July 22. Jerkens said he almost scratched Spite the Devil from that race because Spite the Devil looked thinner than usual. After that victory, Jerkens gave Spite the Devil the summer off and brought him back in the General Douglas MacArthur Handicap here Sept. 13, when he finished fourth to Naughty New Yorker.

"That was a little short for him," Jerkens said of the MacArthur, which is run at a mile. "Geldings, when they get older, they get more inconsistent it seems. When he runs his 'A' race he really closes the last part. Last time he won, he ran the last sixteenth in six seconds, and they don't do that anymore."

Overall, Spite the Devil has won 8 races from 44 starts and banked $847,345.

West Virginia, who has been the beaten favorite in the Empire Classic the last two years, figures to be the favorite again Saturday. He is likely to be the starting highweight at 122 pounds. Others expected to run include Funny Cide (121), Naughty New Yorker (119), Carminooch (117), Spite the Devil (116), Organizer (115), and Indian Hawke (114).

Sharp Humor returns in Hudson

Sharp Humor, who came closer than anyone to defeating a healthy Barbaro, makes his return to the races in Saturday's $125,000 Hudson Handicap for New York-bred sprinters at six furlongs.

Sharp Humor, who won the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream before coming within a half-length of Barbaro in the Florida Derby, has not run since finishing 19th behind Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby. He came out of that race with a chip in a knee that needed to be removed surgically.

Sharp Humor resumed serious training at Saratoga, and trainer Dale Romans said he felt the Hudson was the best option for Sharp Humor's return.

"I'm sure it'll be a tough race, like any stakes at Belmont, but it looked like the easiest spot of the ones we were considering," Romans said. "He's sprinted well before. We do plan on stretching him back out, but we know he will sprint."

Romans said he has not looked beyond Saturday's race for Sharp Humor.

As a 2-year-old Sharp Humor won both the Bertram F. Bongard and the Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont.

Saturday, he'll face the likes of Gold and Roses, Casper Peterson, Introspect, Papua, and possibly Scary Bob, Ferocious Fires, and Hostile Witness.

Rebel Rebel to Santa Anita

Rebel Rebel, runner-up in the $1 million Woodbine Mile, will make his next start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 29. The Morvich will serve as a prep for the $2.1 million Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse on Dec. 10.

"Since Rebel Rebel's last race, the goal has been Hong Kong," said Mike Sherack, the vice president of investor relations for International Equine Acquisition Holdings, which owns Rebel Rebel. "The one turn suits him really, really well. The race in California gets him shipped part of the way and lines him up for Hong Kong."

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Alex Solis will ride Rebel Rebel in the Morvich.

Sherack said that Kip Deville, winner of the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland last Sunday, remains under consideration for the Breeders' Cup Mile. Kip Deville would have to be supplemented to the race and the various partners in the horse are talking it over.

Silver Train remains in training

Silver Train, the defending Breeders' Cup Sprint winner who finished last in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Oct. 7, is training daily at Aqueduct, according to Dutrow, but it remains uncertain whether he will run again.

"Right now he's in training," Dutrow said. "I don't know exactly what race he's training for. I'm under the impression he came out of the race good. I know he went into it good. I was just very disappointed he didn't run his race. I don't know why he didn't run his race. I haven't seen any type of clues or indications."

Dutrow said he is waiting for owner Kassem Masri to decide if and when Silver Train will run again.

Dutrow has maintained since the summer he does not want to run Silver Train in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill. The Grade 1 Cigar Mile is an option, albeit a less attractive one, provided Discreet Cat runs as scheduled.