09/10/2008 11:00PM

Commentator scaring away Mass Cap foes


Suffolk Downs officials are in the classic big horse-big race conundrum as they try to attract horses for next Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap.

"I keep telling everyone there's good news and bad news," said Sam Elliott, Suffolk's vice president of racing. "The good news is we've got Commentator. The bad news is we've got Commentator."

Elliott is sure the good will outweigh the bad when the field lines up for Boston's signature horse race.

The presence of Commentator, a multiple Grade 1 winner and recent victor of the Whitney at Saratoga, will help as the track pushes to return the 1 1/8-mile race to the graded status it lost when it was shelved for two years due to lack of purse funds.

Commentator, who races for Tracy Farmer and is trained by Nick Zito, is expected to be the highweight. A 7-year-old, Commentator won the Whitney by 4 3/4 lengths, leading wire to wire.

Student Council finished second in the Whitney, then faltered in his attempt to defend his 2007 Pacific Classic title Aug. 24 at Del Mar, finishing fifth. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, had initially nominated three horses to the Mass Cap - Pyro, Zanjero, and Magna Graduate - before calling to add Student Council's name to the list. According to Elliott, Asmussen promised that at least one runner from his stable will run in Boston.

Also committed to the race is Dr. Pleasure, who finished third in the Mass Cap last year while in the midst of what eventually became a 13-race losing streak. A 5-year-old son of champions Thunder Gulch and Beautiful Pleasure, Dr. Pleasure underwent throat surgery earlier this year and finally broke through with an allowance victory Aug. 10 at Saratoga.

Fairbanks finished second in the Mass Cap last year, and he is nominted this year along with two of his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates. One of them, A. P. Arrow, is a late-runner who could take advantage if the front-running Commentator sets too fast of a pace.

Others who could be entered next Thursday are Sweetnorthernsaint, trained by Leo Azpurua Jr., and Angliana, trained by Gary Contessa.

The Mass Cap is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program, which gives the winner a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The race will highlight a card with three other stakes races: the $100,000 James B. Moseley Sprint Handicap and the $50,000 Drumtop and $50,000 Robert O'Malley.