11/17/2005 12:00AM

Two Tigers to tango

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
I'm the Tiger (above) and Tiger Heart are the morning-line favorites in the De Francis Dash.

A pair of tigers from New York could be the most dangerous runners in a crowded field for Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 at Laurel Park.

Tiger Heart and I'm the Tiger, both of whom ran second in prestigious stakes in New York this season, head the 16th running of the Dash, one of only five Grade 1 races at six furlongs in the country.

Originally, 18 sprinters from six states and Canada entered, but Sensibly Chic and Midnight Express - one of four also-eligibles - were withdrawn on Thursday. Sensibly Chic will instead run earlier on the card as the favorite in the seven-furlong Stefanita for fillies and mares.

Sensibly Chic's defection allows Attila's Storm, fourth in last month's Breeders' Cup Sprint, to draw into the field of 14.

The Dash goes as the last of 10 live races on a card that features eight stakes, including four on the turf. First post time has been moved up to 12:15 p.m. Eastern.

Tiger Heart (7-2), second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in his most recent start on Oct. 1, and I'm the Tiger (4-1), the runner-up in the Grade 2 Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga in August, are the first two choices on the track's morning line.

The 4-year-old Tiger Heart, who has yet to win a stakes, has had his races well-spaced by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. He has run just five times in each of the past two seasons.

Four workouts since his last start, including a five-furlong bullet in 1:01 at Aqueduct on Nov. 5, attest to Tiger Heart's fitness.

Edgar Prado, who won 24 riding titles at Laurel and Pimlico during the 1990's, has the mount.

I'm the Tiger, trained by Bobby Frankel, spent most of the summer at Woodbine, where he won an ungraded stakes in July. After finishing second in the Vanderbilt, I'm the Tiger pressed a fast pace in the Vosburgh and tired to finish fifth. He will be ridden by Jerry Bailey for the first time.

One other threat among the New Yorkers is the 4-year-old statebred Friendly Island, who is 6 for 8 lifetime. Making his first start in

11 months, Friendly Island won the restricted Hudson Handicap at Belmont with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure a month ago.

"We took a chip out of his right knee last year," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "He came back in the Hudson with a big effort and has been training well since."

Elusive Jazz (8-1), who finished fifth in the BC Sprint after being bumped at the start, and locally based Gators N Bears are contenders who must overcome bad posts. Barring additional scratches, Elusive Jazz will start from post 13 and Gators N Bears post 12.

"We will have to take it," trainer Bobby Barnett said of Elusive Jazz's outside draw. "We will just have to see who's down on the inside."

Trainer Leo Nechamkin was less than thrilled with Gators N Bears's luck of the draw for his final start before he is retired to stud.

"I don't like the post," said Nechamkin. "This horse is set for one of the best races of his career, so this is a shame."

Other contenders include Canadian shipper Ministers Wild Cat, who produced four consecutive triple-digit Beyers while winning three sprints at Woodbine; Wild Tale, a deep closer who finished in the money twice at the Grade 3 level last month; Saay Mi Name, winner of the Maryland Million Sprint; and Abbondanza, the pacesetter in the 2004 BC Sprint who prepped for the Dash by winning the Dave's Friend at Laurel three weeks ago.

Total purses for Saturday's card are $981,000, the fourth biggest day on the Maryland racing calendar, trailing only the programs on Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Special, and Maryland Million days.

The field

Frank De Francis Dash
Purse: $300,000; six furlongs; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Saay Mi NameC. Van Hassel11815-1
2Who's the CowboyE. King11630-1
3Ministers Wild CatR. Sabourin11812-1
4Forest ParkM. Pino11815-1
5Tiger HeartE. Prado1187-2
6Dale's ProspectR. Fogelsonger11830-1
7I'm the TigerJ. Bailey1184-1
8Clever ElectricianJ. Rose11820-1
9Friendly IslandJ. Velazquez1186-1
10Wild TaleR. Douglas11815-1
11AbbondanzaE. Jurado11820-1
12Gators N BearsA. Castellano Jr.1188-1
13Elusive JazzE. Coa12210-1
14Attila's StormR. Dominguez1166-1
Also eligible
15Gold ClusterJ. Caraballo11830-1
16Blown AuditR. Monterrey11650-1

* Track morning line odds