05/20/2003 11:00PM

Best of the Rest staying home for holiday, to others' dismay

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MIAMI - Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. briefly considered spending Memorial Day weekend in Texas, running Best of the Rest in Monday's $300,000 Lone Star Handicap.

Unfortunately for the connections of the seven other older horses nominated to run at Calder that afternoon in the $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap, Plesa ultimately decided to celebrate the holiday at home. That means Best of the Rest will go to the gate as the odds-on favorite to win the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap for the second consecutive year.

"I had some discussions several weeks ago with representatives from Magna about sending Best of the Rest to Lone Star," said Plesa, "But then I didn't hear from them again for a while, so I just decided to stay here with him for one more race."

When healthy, Best of the Rest has dominated the local handicap division. In addition to his half-length victory over High Ideal in the 2002 Memorial Day Handicap, the 8-year-old Best of the Rest captured three other stakes last season. His biggest victory came when he captured Gulfstream Park's $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic.

Best of the Rest has been assigned high weight of 122 pounds for the Memorial Day Handicap. The seven other nominees are High Ideal, Parrott Bay, Dancing Guy, Lavender's Lad, Mr. Livingston, Sebastian Light, and Shotgun Fire.

Mr. Livingston tuned up for the Memorial Day stakes by working an easy five furlongs in 1:03.20 here Tuesday morning.

Trainer Bill Kaplan passed on the Carterista Handicap on the turf earlier this month to put Mr. Livingston back on dirt for the first time since his 3-year-old campaign, when he was graded-stakes-placed over the dirt.

Full field for Simply Majestic

A full field of 12 3-year-olds plus one also-eligible was entered for Saturday's $75,000 Simply Majestic Stakes on the turf.

Hear No Evil and Amon, the one-two finishers in Tampa Bay's Sophomore Stakes, are among the leading contenders in a lineup that also includes Millennium Storm, Sea Pleasure, and The Name's Bond.

Hear No Evil looked sharp blowing out for the race when he worked five furlongs in 1:00 on Tuesday.

Cruz suspended for seven days

Manoel Cruz, who has dominated the local jockey standings through the first 20 days of the meet, will see his large lead shrink a bit over the next week after the track stewards handed him a seven-day suspension for careless riding. Cruz's infraction came when he rode Me My Mine, who finished first but was placed third for causing interference during Saturday's 12th race.

Cruz will be able to honor his call aboard Sea Pleasure in the Simply Majestic but cannot participate in any other races on Saturday's card. He will also serve one extra day for being allowed to ride in the stakes.

Lawbook snags second place in comeback

Lawbook, the leading local 2-year-old in 2002 before he finished sixth behind heir apparent Trust N Luck in the In Reality Stakes, launched his comeback with a promising second-place finish behind the older and more experienced Juggernaut in Tuesday's feature.

Lawbook suffered a season-ending suspensory injury during the In Reality. He was scheduled to return on May 11 against 3-year-olds in an overnight stakes but was forced to scratch after dropping his exercise rider and running off for nearly three miles on the morning before the race.

Trainer Thomas Heard Jr. is pointing Lawbook for the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes on July 12.