07/18/2001 11:00PM

Carterista is split after attracting 21 entries

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MIAMI - The overwhelming response to Saturday's Carterista Handicap, which forced racing secretary Bob Umphrey to split the race into two divisions worth $50,000 each, reflects the lack of a clear-cut leader in the handicap turf division here.

With division leaders Band Is Passing and Pavillon committed to richer stakes up north, 21 horses entered the one-mile Carterista, 10 of whom run in the fourth race, the first division, and 11 in the 10th race.

The opening division of the Carterista drew the two biggest names in the race, Honorable Pic and Hal's Hope.

Honorable Pic upset Band Is Passing in Gulfstream Park's Equalize Stakes earlier this year, and is undoubtedly the one to beat in the opening split of the Carterista. But Honorable Pic has shown some vulnerability of late, including in last Saturday's Calder Turf Sprint Handicap in which he finished a tiring fifth after pressing the pace into the stretch.

The loss was the first for Honorable Pic over the local turf course and it remains to be seen whether he can bounce back on such short notice. He'll have to handle early pressure Saturday from not only Hal's Hope but also Sam's Concord and Uncle Rocco.

Hal's Hope has not hit the board in three tries on grass, although he did finish fourth behind Whata Brainstorm in the 2000 Calder Derby. Owner-trainer Harold Rose experimented with Hal's Hope in the recent Primal Handicap, having him rate off the early pace of Puchungo, who won the race. But that Hal's Hope would not pass longshot Puchungo may have convinced Rose that Hal's Hope must have the lead to win around two turns.

Should a speed duel develop it could play into the hands of either Special Coach or Tahkodha Hills, second and fourth, respectively, in the recent Americana Handicap. The improving Pisces also could benefit from a hot pace.

Take Charge Megan, upset winner of the Americana, is among the major contenders in the second division of the Carterista. Mr. Livingston, who finished a tiring third in that race after disputing the pace, figures to improve off that effort, his second start in 15 months.

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