02/06/2003 12:00AM

Little separates eight older females


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Eight of the best female horses in New England make Saturday's $35,000 Hannah Dustin Stakes at Suffolk Downs a wide-open race.

The group's collective form is remarkably strong. Three runners are coming off victories, and all but one of the rest of the field finished in-the-money last time.

Two veteran mares, Big Miss and Shiloh Lane, are from the barn of Don Caroli, and there's little between them in terms of ability.

Big Miss continues to run despite an unresolved ownership dispute that has kept her earnings frozen. The mare's owner, Sally Venezia's Gal Sal Stable, has been unable to touch any money while a breeder's award court fight between husband Bob Venezia and farm-owner Kimberly Hills is decided. The latest court appearance scheduled last week was postponed to next month. In the meantime, Caroli continues to train the mare - and with less trepidation than before her last race.

"This time at least she's been training steadily," said Caroli. "Before her last race, I wish I could have given her more work. But I wasn't even sure if I could train the horse or if she would be taken away. She's been right on schedule this time."

Shiloh Lane comes into this spot with two straight wins over sloppy tracks. She has a glowing 7-for-10 record at Suffolk, but faltered in two stakes races last May. Her front-running style differs from Big Miss's stalking ways, but Caroli's two horses will be on their own as uncoupled entries in the Hannah Dustin.

"They're both individuals," said Caroli. "I don't think Big Miss can compete with Shiloh's speed, but I don't think there are many that can anyway. Big Miss is going to have to sit back and maybe make a run. As for the finish, I hope it's a dead heat between the two."

Lonesome River has won two of her last three races with a stumble on New Year's Day that unseated jockey Vernon Bush marring an otherwise perfect in-the-money record at Suffolk.

Conwiss, who battled with Lonesome River for the lead in their last allowance race, drew the rail for the mile and 70-yard Hannah Dustin. Joe Hampshire has been named to ride both Conwiss and Columbus Day Stakes winner Crescent Coast.

Track conditions could help Hampshire make his choice. Snow was forecast for Friday night and if the track is wet on Saturday it would favor Conwiss, who is 2 for 4 over off tracks.

Track gets replay show

Suffolk Downs and Foot-long Productions rolled out a new nightly recap show, Suffolk Downs Tonight, last week on Boston's PAX affiliate, WBPX-TV 68. The program returns Suffolk's replays to television for the first time in more than six years and will air every race night at 11:30 p.m.

"We're treating it like SportsCenter for the Suffolk Downs racing fan," said Christian Teja, the track's director of public and media relations and formerly of ESPN. "In addition to the races, we will provide the viewer with information that they have not received in previous incarnations of the show."

Hosted by track announcer Larry Collmus and analyst Pat Lamberty, the half-hour show will also be available on PAX affiliates WPXG-TV 21 in Concord, N.H., and WDPX TV 58, which serves Cape Cod. The three channels are available on nearly every major cable system throughout the Boston market.