05/16/2003 12:00AM

'Contact' tries to snap skid


Sunday's $60,000-added Saratoga Handicap has something in common with Radar Contact, who will run in the six-furlong dash for older horses. They're both a little late.

The Saratoga was originally slated to be run a week ago, but racing secretary Gregory Brent had to call the race off after only four horses were entered to run. Brent offered the race again for Sunday and six names were found in the entry box.

Radar Contact, a stretch-running son of Flying Continental, was entered both times the Saratoga was offered. Trainer Larry Ross hopes to use the race to break a lengthy win drought for Radar Contact that dates back to December of 2001, when he got up to win the six-furlong Albany Handicap at Golden Gate by a head over Rio Oro in 1:08.60. Radar Contact has raced 11 times since that victory and he has notched seven in-the-money finishes, but his late move has invariably fallen short.

"He is always right there at the finish, but he hasn't quite been able to get over the hump," Ross said. "The real killer was three races back in the Ken Maddy, when he was beaten a neck by El Dorado Shooter. One more jump and he would have gotten there, and that was a $100,000 race. It would have made his year."

Ross isn't complaining about Radar Contact's efforts, or even his results. The trainer noted that the 7-year-old has earned over $378,000 from 35 starts, or more than $10,000 a start. Still, he admits it would be nice to pose for a winner's circle photo.

"The problem is that for him to win, they really have to go crazy up front," he said. "There does appear to be a lot of speed in this race, so maybe Sunday will be his day."

Four of the Saratoga entrants are candidates to contest the early issue: El Dorado Shooter, My Captain, Senor Bay, and recent New Zealand import Matter of Honour, who made a favorable impression while pressing hot fractions in last month's Atherton Handicap.

El Dorado Shooter withstood fractions of 21.08 seconds and 43.16 en route to his victory over Radar Contact in the Ken Maddy, however, and handicappers have to wonder just how much faster he would need to go in order to falter. The 6-year-old El Dorado Shooter, who is trained by Cliff DeLima for his wife, Barbara, has won 10 of 21 career starts for over $400,000 in earnings and has hung up triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in three of his last four outings.