Trainer Charlie Hadry was reluctant to run Finder's Choice in yesterday's $44,825 Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel after the race was shortened from seven furlongs. But neither six furlongs nor six challengers could deter the unbeaten 3-year-old colt.

Under leading jockey Kent Desormeaux, Finder's Choice broke faster than in his two previous starts, rallied to the lead shortly into the stretch and refuted a challenge by Cameo Type to win by a half-length. His victory, worth $29,136 to owner-breeder Stuart Janney Jr. of Locust Hill Farm -- who also bred the great filly Ruffian -- was Desormeaux's fourth on a program that featured a Laurel-record 12 live races.

The victory leaves Hadry and Janney with two Triple Crown nominees who are undefeated in three races. The other, Private Terms, is scheduled to make his first stakes appearance in the $100,000-added General George on Feb. 15. So far, neither colt has so much as galloped with the other.

"We think it's best if we let these horses develop without having to go against each other," said Hadry, whose 26 triumphs and 28 percent victory rate is among the best at Laurel. "We'll keep it that way until the right time, and I hope there is a right time."

For his backers among a crowd of 12,125 yesterday, Finder's Choice's finish in 1:11 was timed to perfection. But Hadry said the sprint taxed his colt more than he would have liked.

"I thought it was a tough race on him," Hadry said. "Kent had to push him the first part of the race, and he had to push him the last part. That's hard on a horse; fortunately, he's tough and doesn't let things bother him."

With the declaration of three horses, including the fleet Philadelphia Park-based gelding Michael Josh, the Dancing Count was left without a preponderance of speed. Desormeaux hustled Finder's Choice out of the gate, and was surprised at the colt's response.

"He's not really a speed horse -- at least, I didn't think he was before today," said Desormeaux, who broadened his victory lead to 142-50 over second-place Clarence (Jo Jo) Ladner. "But I asked him early, and I couldn't believe the way he fired."

Breaking from post 6, the 2-to-5 favorite was outside through the backstretch and into the turn, in ideal striking position as Gospel Note and Bid For A Star strained for the lead. Gospel Note shook off Bid For A Star around the turn and assumed a brief one-length lead; but, as he turned for home, Finder's Choice was fast approaching in the middle of the pack.

As Finder's Choice charged to the front, Allen Stacy rallied Cameo Type on the far outside.

"I was clocking {Finder's Choice} the whole trip," Stacy said, "and I thought we might have half a shot to catch him."