02/23/2006 1:00AM

Cassidy playing it safe with Moscow Burning

Moscow Burning will be a heavy favorite in the $100,000 Pro or Con.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Moscow Burning may have dusted rival California-breds and Florida-breds in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf last month, but that race has not affected trainer Jim Cassidy's long-range plans for 2006.

He is content starting Moscow Burning against statebreds when the opportunity exists. She will be a heavy favorite against such company in Saturday's $100,000 Pro or Con Handicap at a mile on turf at Santa Anita.

Cassidy could have started Moscow Burning in Monday's Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap or waited for a race next month.

"My thought was to keep her with California-breds for awhile and not have her overachieve running a second or third in a [graded] race," Cassidy said.

Owned by Bullseye Racing, Moscow Burning, a winner of 10 of 25 starts and $1,177,535, is the 124-pound topweight and has drawn the outside in a field of eight.

has been best at 1 1/8 miles or farther in the last two years, a span that includes a win in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park in 2004. Cassidy said he feels Moscow Burning can be effective at the shorter distance of the Pro or Con, recalling that she won at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course earlier in her career.

"Backing up to a mile doesn't bother me that much, because she can quicken at any time in a race," he said.

The post is a greater concern. Moscow Burning will be helped by the presence of speedy mares such as Alphabet Kisses and Cyber Slew, who are drawn in posts 6 and 7.

, a Grade 1 winner in 2004, is making her first start on turf since a ninth-place finish in the 2004 California Cup Distaff. Trained by Marty Jones for Harris Farms, Alphabet Kisses was eased in the Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs on dirt on Jan. 29, finishing last of eight after fighting for the early lead.

has a good record on turf, having finished third at 27-1 behind the Cassidy-trained Ticker Tape in the Tuzla Handicap against open company at a mile on turf on Jan. 26.

If either of those two mares try for the lead, jockey David Flores could save considerable ground aboard Moscow Burning in the first furlong.

Memorette, Thrilling Victory, and Unusual Spring are each capable of an upset. Memorette placed in five graded stakes in the first seven months of 2005, Thrilling Victory is a three-time stakes winner, and Unusual Spring is trying for her third consecutive win.