07/02/2007 12:00AM

Magic Mecke on familiar path


MIAMI - Magic Mecke returned from a seven-month layoff to win the 2006 Mecke Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths. It was a formula that worked so well that trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. will try it again when he sends the 7-year-old out to defend his title off a similar hiatus Wednesday.

The $100,000 Mecke is scheduled to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and is the highlight of Calder's 13-race holiday card.

Magic Mecke celebrated July 4 a year ago by rallying from last place to a 2 1/4-length triumph in the race named after his multiple Grade 1-winning sire. The victory was Magic Mecke's first since he'd captured the Pete Axthelm Stakes here in his 3-year-old finale in December 2003 and came in his first start since finishing fifth in the Bonnie Heath Turf the previous November.

Magic Mecke made three more starts after capturing the 2006 Mecke, including an allowance race win, before finishing a troubled second behind Revved Up in the Bonnie Heath to close out the campaign, just as he'd done the previous season.

"He's just a delicate horse," said Plesa, who trains Magic Mecke for the Trilogy Stables. "Kind of like Best of the Rest was. I guess you can say he's at a disadvantage when coming off this type of layoff, but we've always done a pretty good job getting him through it in the past and he couldn't be going into this race doing any better."

Plesa said his main concern Wednesday will be the weather, as Magic Mecke would almost certainly scratch if the race were to be taken off the turf.

Said Plesa: "There are two things I can't control with regards to this race, the weather or the pace, although it's the weather I'm the most concerned about. I think he's fresh and versatile enough to deal with the pace."

A field of 12 was drawn for the Mecke and also includes Keep Cool and Bob's Proud, who finished second and third behind Magic Mecke in the 2006 edition of the event. Magic Mecke's main competition figures to be provided by Jet Propulsion, who returns for the first time since upsetting the Grade 3 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths on April 28.

Jet Propulsion will once again try to play catch me if you can in the Mecke, as he's always been at his best on the lead. The biggest question mark could be the distance. A 4-year-old son of Double Honor, Jet Propulsion has failed to hit the board in both his starts at 1 1/8 miles.

If the Mecke is moved to the main track, Cheiron and Rehoboth would be the major beneficiaries, as they were when finishing first and second in the Band Is Passing Stakes, which was switched from turf to dirt on June 17.