01/23/2003 1:00AM

Local star Mr. Meso vs. Maryland shipper


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - If the cold snap that caused two days to be canceled this week finally breaks a bit Saturday, 10 3-year-olds will run in the $35,000 Collegian Stakes at Suffolk Downs.

In what is becoming a familiar pattern in Suffolk stakes, the entries for the six-furlong Collegian include a reigning New England champion and a shipper running in what his connections hope is an easy spot.

The local star for this race is Mr. Meso. In his last two starts, the Massachusetts-bred Mr. Meso won the Tony DeSpirito Stakes against open company and the Norman Hall Stakes against statebreds. He is trained by Lori Lockhart and owned by Laurine Barreira, Lockhart's teenage daughter.

Lockhart thought Mr. Meso had potential even after the colt finished seventh in his debut last summer at Rockingham Park. At the time Lockhart had her stable split between New Jersey and New England.

"He was in trouble the first time out," said Lockhart. "But the way he started to train after that had my assistants and everybody back up here excited. It wasn't a surprise to us when he ran so well this fall."

Mr. Meso's regular jockey Winston Thompson will be back aboard for the Collegian. Lockhart also entered Gib Merlin and named Thompson to ride. Thomson and Gib Merlin teamed up for a 12-length allowance victory last month. Gib Merlin was soundly defeated by Mr. Meso in his only other Suffolk start.

The lone shipper in the Collegian is Tidal Wave, who comes from Maryland for trainer Bruce Jackson and owner Arthur Appleton.

Tidal Wave and Mr. Meso each has made five starts. While Mr. Meso has three victories to Tidal Wave's one, Tidal Wave's Beyer Speed Figures are about the same as Mr. Meso's and he has never finished worse than third. Tidal Wave won his maiden on New Year's Day over a sloppy track at Laurel in his first start wearing blinkers.

Formal Escape will make his second career start after having been off for five months after winning his debut. The horse he beat in that first start, Farmer Inthe Dell, went on to be one of the leading 2-year-olds at Suffolk last year, and the Beyer Figure Formal Escape generated that day stacks up with the favorites in this race.

Formal Escape is a son of Formal Gold and was bred by his sire's owner, John D. Murphy, of Quincy, Mass. Formal Gold showed an affinity for the Suffolk surface when he narrowly lost to Skip Away in the 1997 Massachusetts Handicap.

Completing the field are Jacks World, A Gentle Man, Clever Dance, Dare to Be Great, Gold Miner's Find, and Strike 'N Go.

* The cancellations Tuesday and Wednesday were the second and third of the year. There was just one weather cancellation at Suffolk in 2002.