06/14/2003 12:00AM

Awesome of Course one to beat


MIAMI, Fla. - For Awesome of Course, Monday's $40,000 Heckofaralph Stakes serves as a steppingstone to the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes on July 12.

For Lawbook, the Heckofaralph is a chance to redeem himself for a disappointing effort as the odds-on favorite under allowance conditions on June 1. It is also a chance for Lawbook to earn a shot at the Grade 3 Carry Back, one of four graded stakes on the $1.7 million Summit of Speed program.

Awesome of Course solidified himself as the leading local candidate for the Carry Back with an 11-length victory in the Western Borders Stakes on May 11, a performance that earned him a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure. The win was the first this season for Awesome of Course, who had last visited the winner's circle after the Tampa Bay Downs' Inaugural Stakes on Dec. 17.

"The timing for this race sets up right for him to get to the Carry Back," said trainer Jim Hatchett, who also plans to run Massive in the six-furlong Carry Back. Both horses are owned and bred by the Jacks or Better Farm.

Leading rider Manoel Cruz will again be aboard Awesome of Course, who has continued to train in well since the Western Borders.

Lawbook is looking to prove that his fifth-place finish earlier this month was an aberration. A son of Notebook, Lawbook ran into trouble along the inside, losing momentum in early stretch, before finishing fifth behind the veteran Chow Down. He will be facing straight 3-year-olds for the first time this season in the Heckofaralph.

Cornelio Velasquez, currently the leading rider at Churchill Downs, will be back in town to ride Lawbook.

Lawbook, who won the first two legs of the 2002 Florida Stallion Stakes, will race coupled in the betting along with stablemate Laughing Luke.

The rest of the field is Ivan's Song, Jack Black and Ice, Scrubs, and Placido. Like Awesome of Course, Scrubs is trained by Hatchett. He will run as a separate betting interest.

Placido may also earn a berth in the Carry Back with a big effort. Placido used his blazing speed to win his last three starts, though two of them came on grass and he has yet to win beyond 5 1/2 furlongs.

Boulanger bounces back

Jockey Gary Boulanger, who was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons after being tossed from his mount Fiesta in Friday's second race, bounced back in a big way - winning both the second and third races on Saturday, including the Linear Stakes aboard Swift Replica.

Boulanger, who won riding titles at Calder in 1994 and 1995, entered the weekend deadlocked with apprentice Eddie Castro for second place in the standings behind Cruz.