05/29/2002 11:00PM

How will Macho Uno get me this time?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Positioned after the big Memorial Day holiday and right before War Emblem's bid for immortality, this is The Lost Weekend at Belmont Park, where Saturday's Sheepshead Bay Handicap has no sizzle and Sunday's card has no stakes.

This calm before the Triple Crown storm redirects the spotlight to Suffolk Downs (of all places) and Saturday's $500,000 Mass Cap. If form holds, the race could be one of Macho Uno's final preps for the Breeders' Cup Classic - either the one at Arlington Park or next year's at Santa Anita, I forget which one.

I don't harbor any ill will toward Macho Uno (okay, maybe I do). It's just that after nosing me out of two pick threes linked to Point Given in the 2000 Juvenile, and then beating me out of a win bet on 8-1 shot Hail the Chief at Gulfstream in March, his personal tab with me has mushroomed into some serious loot. (Note: Two weeks ago, Hail the Chief added insult to injury by winning the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup.)

I should realize it's nothing personal between me and the macho man, because who among us hasn't come into contact with horses who exist for the sole purpose of driving us mad? (Merely by mentioning the name "Nabo Smiso," for example, I can trigger painful flashbacks for Daily Racing Form chairman and publisher Steve Crist, although I'm not at all sure that would be a prudent thing to do.)

You know these horses. They're the ones that are up the track when all they have to do is land somewhere in the trifecta at 4-5, and they are the very same ones that reach back for something extra when they are 15-1 and sense that you have bet against them.

So even though I should know better, I downloaded the Mass Cap past performances off the drf.com website just to see if my personal albatross has a shot at winning. And mind you, Macho Uno's only graded stakes win in 19 months since the 2000 Juvenile came in the Pennsylvania Derby at the expense of a filly!

Despite yet another layoff, Macho Uno is obviously a contender, and it was somewhat surprising to look at his Beyer line and see that with one exception - his 3-year-old allowance comeback in a sprint at Saratoga - he has never taken a backward step in terms of speed figures. Naturally, he needed every ounce of that career-best 111 to run down Hail the Chief in deep stretch at Gulfstream, but that's beside the point.

Macho Uno will probably need another big figure to win, because defending champ Include won the 2001 Mass Cap with a 117, and kicked off his current form cycle with a nine-length romp in the restricted Jennings Handicap - the same race he returned in last year.

Evening Attire (112), John Little (110), and Mongoose (108) also bring figure firepower to what is perhaps the division's deepest race of the year thus far.

My Mass Cap betting line looks like this: Include (5-2), Macho Uno (3-1), Mongoose (7-2), Evening Attire (8-1), John Little (10-1). That adds up to 95 percentage points, allowing for the small chance that every so often a non-contender will jump up to win for no explainable reason.

Whether I bet on the Mass Cap (and on whom) will depend on the tote board, but with Macho Uno in the mix, chances are good that whatever move I make will be the wrong one.

(Give me a) Sunday Break

Unlike Macho Uno, Sunday Break hasn't done anything bad to me parimutuelly, but like Andy Beyer says, I will be rooting against him "with every fiber of my being" in next week's Belmont Stakes.

To begin with, politics aside, I'm a fan of War Emblem because it's refreshing to see an unpampered horse with chips in both ankles kicking butt and taking names wherever he goes.

The second thing is that Sunday Break is just getting way too much publicity relative to his accomplishments, which to this point are exceedingly minimal.

Yes, poor Sunday Break missed out on his chance to run in the Kentucky Derby because of the Derby's flawed qualifying system. Meanwhile, if he hadn't been babied along in that joke of an allowance race against four tomato cans in March, and had instead run in the Gotham over the same racetrack 10 days earlier, he would've gotten in.

Or, after stalking a head-to-head duel between Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro from perfect stalking position through the first mile of the Wood Memorial, he could've punched his ticket to Louisville by passing one of them, either one, in the stretch. He couldn't get by Medaglia d'Oro, and we've seen how much of an impact that colt has since made.

Now, to just flat-out dismiss Sunday Break's chances in the Belmont would be foolish because of the Neil Drysdale factor alone, but if he does win, it will be because he showed quite a lot more than he has so far.

Sunday Break hardly busted any stopwatches in the Peter Pan. By one length he beat Puzzlement, who remains eligible for a second-level allowance. By the grand total of three lengths he beat a 50-1 shot named Deputy Dash, whose lone win came by a nose on Aqueduct's inner-dirt track in the dead of winter.

Oh, and by the way, the third choice in the Peter Pan, which was a very weak race this year, is still a maiden.