10/02/2002 11:00PM

Controls Free finds spot

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Trainer Earl Begley will ship Controls Free here from Baltimore for Saturday's $30,000 Bruce G. Smith Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Controls Free is racing here rather than in Maryland because he is in good form and turf opportunities are dwindling in the East.

Controls Free comes off a second and a fourth in stakes. Those performances prompted Begley to look far and wide for a race for him.

"He'd been running well at short distances and ran out of allowance options," said Begley. "I took a shot in the Lure Stakes at Pimlico going a mile. He ran really well there and impressed me. The race in Boston just comes up sooner than waiting for an allowance race. He's doing so well, I didn't want to just sit on him."

Waiting at Suffolk for Controls Free are three regional stars looking to gain end of year honors.

Tom Maior drew the rail for his first race on the Suffolk course. He won the Sam McCracken Memorial at Rockingham for trainer John Rigattieri. A Brazilian-bred, Tom Maior has finished no worse than third and has four wins since coming to New England.

The 3-year-old Slippery Gator, who finished first in the Old Ironsides in June but was disqualified, has been second in three straight races, including to Tom Maior in the McCracken.

Dhaffir, claimed in Kentucky, hasn't lost in two starts in New England, but is 0 for 3 on grass. He won the Lou Smith Memorial in July and exits a third-place finish at Saratoga.

Piermarini back in saddle

After 15 years of riding, numerous injuries, a star-crossed stint as a trainer, and time taken to start a family, Tammi Piermarini thinks she's where she wants to be. She's back in the saddle riding at Suffolk Downs.

Piermarini is making a comeback after retiring as a jockey in 2000. She was a fan favorite when she started her career in the mid-'80s using her maiden name, Tammi Campbell. She settled into a solid career, but suffered injuries and recurring bouts of meningitis.

Less than a year after turning to training, Piermarini landed a lengthy suspension when her horses tested positive for an ecstasy-like drug. The sudden lack of racing in her life convinced her to start a family.

"I paid the price for my mistakes," said Piermarini. "It gave me a chance to spend quality time with my daughter. I went to work on farms, but I don't like the farm life. I realized that I'm the type that wants to be out doing something. My husband has been great because he's able to be the mommy. We're back at the bottom right now, but I'm strong-willed and I know this is where I want to be."

Piermarini rode her own stock over the Northampton bullring to five victories and nine in-the-money finishes. She swept the early double on Wednesday at Suffolk.