03/07/2003 1:00AM

Undercover no secret in wide-open Conniver


Although it is a stakes race restricted to Maryland-breds, the conditions for the $60,000 Conniver contain no requirement that a horse must have previously won a stakes to enter. But a look at the list of the 12 fillies and mares in the field for Saturday's seven-furlong Conniver at Laurel Park reveals that stakes winners are the rule, not the exception.

Eight of the runners have at least one stakes victory on their resume, but none of those wins have come this year. In short, it's a tough race to sort through for handicappers.

Based on recent form, Undercover is sharpest. A 4-year-old filly trained by Tony Dutrow, Undercover has won her last two starts and 5 of 10 overall. Her most impressive performance came last September when Undercover cruised to a 6 1/2-length win in the Maryland Million Oaks.

The question with Undercover is distance. Her last six races have all been one mile or longer and she has never raced at the precise distance of seven furlongs.

Gazillion has been ultra-consistent, finishing first or second in eight of her 11 lifetime starts. An easy winner the last time she faced statebreds in December, Gazillion has posted four consecutive Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or higher.

Winter Leaf, who will break from post 12, went wire to wire in last year's Conniver, one of four races she won in 2002 for trainer Ron Cartwright. She has been off since November, when she faded badly in the seven-furlong Stefanita.

New York-based Madame X Ski also is making her first start off a long layoff. Second in the Busanda at Aqueduct in January 2002 and winner of the Caesar's Wish at Pimlico last April, Madame X Ski has raced only once then, finishing far back in the Maryland Million Oaks.

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