07/02/2003 11:00PM

Hackendiffy may be vulnerable


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - At first glance it looks like Saturday's $100,000 Cleveland Gold Cup could be conceded to Hackendiffy, based on his second-place finish to Wild and Wicked in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby two weeks ago. But a closer analysis of the race indicates that he might be vulnerable in the 1 1/8-mile race at Thistledown.

Hackendiffy will face six Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, and he has dominated his division for the past 18 months. All five of his career wins have come in statebred stakes.

Hackendiffy's forte is sheer speed but he will be seriously challenged for the early fractions by Cat Singer and Ben's Reflection - two very quick horses he has not faced before. If Cat Singer and Ben's Reflection soften up Hackendiffy early, the Gold Cup should set up for Forest Picnic, Hackendiffy's main rival the past two seasons. Hackendiffy and Forest Picnic have been one-two in four stakes and Forest Picnic chased down Hackendiffy in the 1 1/16-mile Best of Ohio Juvenile here in October.

Also, Hackendiffy is coming back quickly after a hard race in the Ohio Derby.

Hackendiffy, who has earned $236,750, is trained by Bernard Flint. He will be ridden by Mike Rowland at 119 pounds, the same weight assignment as his rivals.

Ricardo Feliciano will once again ride Forest Picnic for his uncle, trainer Miguel Feliciano.