02/18/2004 1:00AM

Mass 'Cap back for 2004

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The Massachusetts Handicap is back on the Suffolk Downs schedule after a year's hiatus and highlights an open stakes schedule worth $860,000. The race was not run last year as part of schedule changes made in New England under which Suffolk raced a longer season. With a reduced 2004 season, to begin May 1 and run through Nov. 30, Suffolk officials were able to bring back the Grade 2 race, scheduled for May 29.

In addition to the Mass 'Cap, there will be nine other open stakes races, each worth $40,000 in the upcoming season. The purses were increased this year in order to meet minimum standards of black-type listed races.

One race not on the schedule is the James B. Moseley Handicap, a $250,000 sprint that became the headline event at Suffolk last year in the Mass 'Cap's absence. It is possible the race could be reinstated later in the season, track officials said.

The Suffolk Downs Derby was not renewed, but the Rudy Baez Stakes has matching conditions and moves to a midsummer date. The Suffolk Downs Oaks will be contested on the grass this season.

A full schedule of statebred races is expected to be announced at a later time.