09/27/2002 12:00AM

Capsized's speed the determining factor

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CHICAGO - Last autumn Capsized had sore feet and Mystery Giver wouldn't eat. A year later Capsized has comfy shoes and Mystery Giver is diving into his food. Both are good-feeling horses now, but what Capsized has and Mystery Giver does not is speed, a potentially deciding edge when the pair squares off in the Sea O' Erin Breeders' Cup Mile.

A solid field of nine was entered in the Sea O' Erin, a $150,000-added turf race that tops the Washington Park undercard. Also of interest Sunday is a ninth race allowance that will match Unshaded, Chindi, and Meadowminer at seven furlongs.

The 8-year-old Buenos Dias, a winner of three of his last five, comes in from Maryland for trainer Lawrence Murray, while Pisces invades from Kentucky for trainer Kenny McPeek. Both are legitimate contenders, while Al's Dearly Bred and Smilin' Slew are sharp locals, and Mercenary, off since mid-July, came within four lengths of Congaree this past spring at Lone Star.

Still, Capsized should be favored, with Mystery Giver a longer-odds horse with a legitimate shot at an upset. Capsized comes off consecutive wins at Saratoga, where a quick burst of speed sent him past a strong turf allowance field July 24. A month later he easily took the Fourstardave, which was moved from turf onto a sloppy main track. That race showed how good Capsized has gotten; he had never before won on a wet track, and the place horse, Pure Prize, returned to win the Kentucky Cup Classic.

"He's always had good moments, but he's lacked consistency," said trainer Lisa Lewis. "He's been plagued with foot problems, but we tried glue-on shoes and that's helped him."

While Capsized is a natural miler, Mystery Giver wants to go farther. One thing he does not want to do is race on the lead, yet that was where he wound up when there was no pace in the Arlington Million. First early, Mystery Giver was last under the wire.

But the Million is best seen as a throwout, and to see Mystery Giver in the flesh now is to see a completely different horse than the one who won the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup this past winter at Fair Grounds. Then, Mystery Giver was a lanky colt who showed ribs and clearly was immature, but he has filled out nicely and Mystery Giver's coat shines with health.

"It's hard to believe, but he's diving into the feed tub now," said trainer Chris Block.

It's no small matter that Mystery Giver picks up the services of jockey Rene Douglas, who Block tried and failed to secure for the Million and the Arlington Handicap. Douglas was the last to win with Mystery Giver and has been a dominant force in Arlington grass races.

Noble Ruler is likely to start only if the race is rained onto the main track.

Two Item Limit to BC Distaff

Two Item Limit probably is bound for a return trip to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, trainer Steve DiMauro said Friday. Shipped here from DiMauro's New York base, Two Item Limit easily won an Illinois-bred overnight handicap two weekends ago. Last season's Illinois horse of the year, Two Item Limit never had run in a statebred race.

The step down in competition and a chance to train over the Breeders' Cup host track are the reasons DiMauro sent Two Item Limit here, and she has continued to do well on this surface.

"I think my owner's leaning in the direction of running," DiMauro said. Two Item Limit was third in the Distaff last year, but DiMauro feels the race "will be a lot tougher this year. The thing is, she's doing really well out there."

Two Item Limit is scheduled to breeze a half-mile on Oct 2.

* Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said Hail the Chief, a rising star in the handicap division this past spring, is scheduled to make his return from a lengthy layoff this fall in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. O'Callaghan also reported that his graded-stakes-winning filly Chamrousse underwent surgery to remove a bone chip in a hind ankle and is out of action until this winter.

* Wiggins, second in the Spectacular Bid Stakes here, skipped Saturday's Arlington-Washington Futurity to point for Illinois-bred stakes. Wiggins's first target is a $35,000 race on Tuesday at Fairmount Park, but his main objectives are a pair of $100,000 statebred races this fall at Hawthorne.

"I'd rather be a big fish in a little pond," said Tony Granitz, who took over Wiggins's training when the colt was sold after his last race.