06/03/2002 12:00AM

Macho Uno el hombre in Mass Cap


ELMONT, N.Y. - With bright prospects for the first Triple Crown triumph in 24 years, these are exciting days for racing. The 3-year-olds dominate the headlines but have no monopoly on drama. Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap was as thrilling a race as we've seen in some time, and the victorious Macho Uno was so impressive in it, in his second start of the year, that he is already a force majeure among older horses.

Few who saw the Mass Cap gave Macho Uno any chance at all in the upper stretch as he raced behind a wall of horses that appeared impregnable. But the resourceful Gary Stevens wheeled him to the outside at the furlong pole and Macho Uno accelerated brilliantly, winning by a length and three-quarters over Evening Attire, with Include, last year's Mass Cap winner, third.

It is doubtful there are many horses in training who could have taken advantage of the opportunity accorded to Macho Uno, who, throughout his career, has indicated great quality. He was, you may recall, the 2-year-old champion in 2000 and last fall was a strong fourth in a superb Breeders' Cup Classic won by the remarkable Tiznow, with Europe's brilliant Sakhee second and Albert the Great third.

"Mucho Uno has matured physically and is quite a race horse," trainer Joe Orseno said. "His next start is expected to be the $500,000 Suburban Handicap on July 6. We've mapped out a campaign for him that will include the Whitney at Saratoga, the Woodward at Belmont, and possibly the Jockey Club Gold Cup."

Tweedside, Sweetest Thing in thriller

Another exciting weekend performance involved the older grass fillies and mares in Belmont Park's $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap, with Tweedside the winner by a nose at almost 12-1 over the solid favorite, Sweetest Thing.

Tweedside is a 4-year-old daughter of Thunder Gulch, America's leading sire last year. She is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, who bought her as a yearling at Keeneland for $100,000. Most of her 14 starts have been on the turf but she won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on the main track last year.

Making her third start of 2002 in the Sheepshead Bay, Tweedside rated nicely off the pace established by Refugee. When Refugee stopped badly in the upper stretch, Tweedside went to the front a bit sooner than planned by jockey John Velazquez. Sweetest Thing, last in a field of 10 much of the way, closed furiously on the outside to miss by an inch.

"Tweedside is a pure stayer," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "There are more long races for her on the grass than on the dirt, so we have been keeping her on the turf. But if wet weather were to bump her race to the dirt, we'd probably take a shot at it because she's shown she can handle it. Her next start will be the $250,000 New York Handicap at a mile and a quarter on turf on July 4."