04/03/2003 12:00AM

Big Miss still tough at age 7


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Big Miss will try to capture the $35,000 First Episode Stakes for Massachusetts-bred fillies and mares for the second straight year Saturday at Suffolk Downs.

After winning in a strong allowance field in her last race on March 22, Big Miss is clearly still on top of her game at age 7. Previously, she finished second in her 2003 debut against open company in the Hannah Dustin Stakes and won the Isadorable.

Donald Caroli, who trains Big Miss, is just outside the top 10 in the standings, while maintaining a 27-percent win average this meet. Regular jockey Wilfredo Lozano will be aboard.

Just as she was last year, Sunlit Ridge is Big Miss's main competition. But the 5-year-old Sunlit Ridge, a former New England champion, has yet to finish ahead of Big Miss in their last three meetings, including the 2002 First Episode.

Sunlit Ridge is 0 for 5 this year and has just one victory in seven tries at the First Episode's 1 1/16-mile distance.

The field also includes last year's Mass Oaks winner, Little Time.

With just six horses and the seemingly overpowering nature of Big Miss and Sunlit Ridge, the race stands as exhibit "A" to support Suffolk's policy to offer just win wagering on all Mass-bred stakes to avoid huge show bets and minus pools.

Dates still not finalized

Suffolk has yet to finalize its new schedule, which would carry racing into the summer to replace the dates vacated when Rockingham Park decided to run harness racing this year. The request will likely call for a continued four-day-per-week schedule through late August, followed by a break to coincide with the Northampton Fair meet around Labor Day.

Dates for the balance of the year still need to be negotiated with the horsemen and the state, but will probably include a schedule that runs from mid-September through the Breeders' Cup.

* The $200,000 James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup Handicap had been scheduled to support the now-canceled Mass Cap, but will be moved a week later to June 21, placing it 27 days after the Met Mile and two weeks after the True North Handicap in New York. It thus fits better on the schedule for horses who might be pointed to the Moseley after running in the Met Mile or the True North.