05/05/2004 11:00PM

Magic Mecke back on favorite turf


MIAMI - Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. may never be able to fill the shoes of the recently retired Best of the Rest, but he has a pretty good replacement in Magic Mecke, who returns to his favorite course as the horse to beat in Saturday's $75,000 Carterista Handicap.

Magic Mecke has won half of his 10 starts over the Calder turf and has been worse than second on that course just twice. He concluded his 3-year-old campaign with three consecutive victories here, including decisive tallies in the What a Threat and Pete Axthelm stakes.

Magic Mecke ran twice this winter at Gulfstream Park, finishing fourth after a very eventful trip in the Sunshine Millions Turf and eighth against some of the top long-distance grass horses in the country in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"It's a long campaign, so I decided after the Gulfstream Breeders' Cup that it was the right time to give him a breather," Plesa said. "He's training very aggressively for his return. He worked outstanding last Friday, going a mile in 1:44 and change."

Plesa's main concern in the Carterista is Hear No Evil, who lost to Magic Mecke by one length in the Pete Axthelm but finished second ahead of him in the Sunshine Millions Turf. Hear No Evil is at his best when loose on the lead, and the speedster is liable to clear off early once again on Saturday.

"There's not much we can do about it if he gets to the lead," Plesa said of Hear No Evil. "My horse can be a little funny - sometimes he'll lay close, and other times he'll take himself back. But we're not going to go after Hear No Evil and challenge him for the lead. Gary [Boulanger] is a very experienced rider, and I'll just leave things up to him."

Hear No Evil won the Unbridled Stakes over Calder's main track last summer and is also a stakes winner on grass. He comes off a subpar effort last month at Keeneland, where he was overmatched in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile and finished last of 10.

Marco's Word won on both turf and dirt during the Gulfstream meeting. He was also beaten just a half-length by Miesque's Approval while finishing in front of Grade 1 winner Honor in War in an allowance race over the Gulfstream turf on March 15.

Super Frolic and Dancing Guy are better suited to dirt than turf and would be among the ones to beat if the Carterista comes off the grass.

Completing the lineup are Mr. Livingston, Believe I Can Fly, Crack the Veneer, Latino, What a Dr., Sir Ray, and Romolo's Fritzi.