03/21/2002 12:00AM

B.W. Beetle faces first distance test

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. - B.W. Beetle is looking for a test, but Saturday's $30,000 Rudy Baez Stakes for 3-year-olds at Suffolk Downs doesn't look too taxing.

After two easy victories by a combined 18 lengths, the only possible concerns about B.W. Beetle are the mile distance of the Baez and his relative inexperience compared to the others in the field.

His connections, however, believe there's little reason to worry.

"I have every confidence that he's actually going to get better going around two turns," said trainer Karl Grusmark, who was pleased with the horse's recent five-furlong bullet work in 1:02. "Of course, until they actually do it, you're always a little concerned. This race will really tell, but if he runs as well as we're hoping, we'll be looking at bigger and better things down the line."

Method Man and Stylish Sultan are the only two stakes winners in the field. Method Man won last summer's Floyd Duncan Stakes at Rockingham. He was second against claiming company at Gulfstream in his last race.

Stylish Sultan has won two straight, including the Collegian Stakes last month. He is part of an entry for owner Manfred Roos with Mister Silence.

Five others were entered for the featured eighth race, which will highlight a special late-morning card fronted by the simulcasts from Dubai. The first Suffolk race will be 10:35 a.m.

Five wins and a track record

Jockey Winston Thompson won five times Wednesday, including a race that tied a 59-year-old track record. In the second race, The Way Holme covered 5 1/2 furlongs over a muddy track in 1:04.74. Rounded off to fifths, the time matches the record set in 1943 by Cocopet.

Thompson also survived an inquiry and objection after hanging on for his fifth win in race seven aboard Katovilla.

Howarth handed 30 days

Jockey Al Howarth Jr. was given a 30-day suspension for "extremely careless riding" in last Wednesday's ninth race. His mount, Stuck Up, clipped heels with Hosea Kaz and spilled rider Teo Perdomo, and also forced Teamster Joe and jockey Taylor Hole to pull up.

Perdomo was shaken up and taken to an area hospital. He missed last Saturday's card, but returned to action Monday. Howarth and his mount were disqualified from second to seventh.

Howarth has appealed to the State Racing Commission, but did not receive a stay pending that appeal.

It is the harshest punishment handed down to a jockey since Susan Walsh joined William Keen and James Gigliotti in the stewards' stand at the beginning of the fall meet.

Beginner's luck

Nancy Fitzgerald seamlessly moved from owning racehorses to training them when she saddled Mystery Deputy to a 70-1 victory Tuesday.

"We had the luck of the beginner," said Fitzgerald, a native of Quebec City in Canada. Mystery Deputy was the first horse she started as a trainer.

Fitzgerald started off owning horses in Ontario in 1992 before moving to New England and taking on a small string under her own care. Now she plans on staying.

"We were very lucky here," she said. "We're not going to change anything like that now."

* The backstretch non-profit service organization, the Eighth Pole, is going ahead with a benefit dinner for former jockey Billy Daniels despite his death from cancer earlier this week. The now-memorial dinner will take place 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Suffolk Downs Topsider Room with tickets available for $20. All proceeds will benefit the Daniels family.