09/25/2001 11:00PM

Delp seeks deja vu in Meadowlands Cup


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For trainer Buddy Delp, most of the time he has spent campaigning Include over the last two seasons has been a trip down memory lane. As Include's star has risen in the handicap division, it makes sense that Delp would try him in some of the same races that Delp once dominated with Spectacular Bid.

On Friday night, Include will make his first start in three months in the $500,000 Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup - a race that Spectacular Bid won in 1979. For Include, the race will provide an opportunity to confirm his credentials as a contender for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

"I can't compare Include to Bid. I know Include is the second-best horse I've ever trained," Delp said Tuesday. "Include has tactical speed, but not the same kind of speed that the Bid had. Early on I knew I had something special in the Bid. We didn't really find out until we got into that campaign, but it turned out he was super-special."

None of that has diminished the regard that Delp has for Include, who - like Spectacular Bid - is owned by Robert Meyerhoff. Delp simply says he doesn't think any horse in the last 20 years could have given the Bid a run for his money.

Delp said the Meadowlands Cup is important for Include because a good effort would put him in position for a shot at a championship with a victory in the Classic.

He could lay claim to a title after starting the year by winning five straight races, including the Pimlico Special and Massachusetts Handicap. He was forced to the sidelines after finishing third in the Suburban Handicap, in which he aggravated an old splint injury.

Include will likely face four in the Meadowlands Cup, with Iselin Handicap winner Broken Vow the biggest threat over the 1 1/8 miles. Gander, the runner-up in the 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, could help heat up the pace, and Generous Rosi and Open Sesame are the wild cards. Include will carry high weight of 121 pounds.

"He does have to carry a lot of weight, and being away is a problem, but he's also showing some freshness," Delp said. "That could be a blessing in disguise, I guess. We knew we were going to miss some races along the way. With the way the Classic is run, I think Include has a very legitimate chance to win that race. But he does pretty much have to win this race first."

*All the wagering proceeds from the Meadowlands Cup will be donated to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's New York Heroes Fund to aid relief efforts for the terrorist attacks. In addition, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority will donate all admission proceeds.