Off his victory in the Chesapeake Handicap two weeks ago, Endless Surprise was made 121-pound highweight and early 2-to-1 favorite for today's $50,000 Challedon Handicap for Maryland-breds at Laurel. But despite bright credentials, the gray horse lends a sense of mystery to the race.

Endless Surprise's Chesapeake victory astonished few -- the speedster had won 12 of 27 lifetime starts and was 9-to-5 favorite -- but the way he won drew attention. For the first time in his career, he passed horses in the stretch. Now, rival connections are uncertain whether Endless Surprise will be on the lead -- his traditional position -- or just off the pace.

"It was hard to understand {Endless Surprise's} last race," said Lindy Redding, scheduled to send Rollodka in the seven-furlong Challedon. "There was a lot of speed in that race, and it looked like coming off the pace would be a problem for him. Now, one thing's for sure: he's the horse to beat."

With Gala Gold Dust and Smart Mover among eight entrants in the Challedon, the race for 3-year-olds and older horses seems destined to have a lively pace. Trainer Hap Ravich might ask Kent Desormeaux to reserve Endless Surprise, capitalizing on the anticipated speed duel. Then again, Ravich might not say a word.

Ravich said Endless Surprise's rally in the Chesapeake was Desormeaux's doing. "He's a great jockey," the trainer said after the victory. "What could I possibly tell him?"

Endless Surprise, who drew post 9, is scheduled to go against the three horses who followed him to the finish in the Chesapeake: Silano, Gala Gold Dust and Sudden Flare. Rollodka is coming off a victory in the one-mile Resolution Handicap.

"I think a mile is probably his best distance," Redding said. "But seven furlongs shouldn't present any problem for him."

An 8-year-old gelding, Rollodka has earned more than $100,000 since Redding and veteran trainer Ernest (Chico) Green claimed him for $25,000 last April. It was one of three profitable claims they made in 1987, along with A Joyful Cordial and Coastal Illusion.

"Chico and I have a solid business operation," Redding said. "I claim the horses and enter them, but he's the one who keeps them right. He judges where to go. I may suggest it, but he has to okay it."

Redding said Rollodka was barely visible through the fog when he worked five-eighths of a mile at Laurel Thursday. With Endless Surprise's new-found tactical ability, today's Challedon isn't much clearer.