05/03/2006 12:00AM

Mass 'Cap returns in fall of this year

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The Massachusetts Handicap will return in 2006 after a one-year hiatus, Suffolk Downs announced Wednesday. The Grade 2, $300,000 Massachusetts Handicap will be run on Sept. 30, far from its traditional late-spring date, in an attempt to make it a prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Mass 'Cap was canceled last year when slow simulcasting business prompted Suffolk to redistribute funds from its major stakes events into day-to-day races. It was last run in 2004 when Offlee Wild upset Funny Cide. The race had also been canceled in 2003.

For years the Massachusetts Handicap was positioned as a major stop on the handicap season and was usually run in June. First run in 1935, it has been won by champions Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, War Admiral, and Riva Ridge. After the track closed in 1989, new owners, led by James B. Moseley, brought the race back in 1995 for the first of two appearances by Cigar during his 16-race winning streak. Skip Away followed with wins in 1997 and 1998.

The Mass 'Cap will be in competition for the top Northeast handicap horses with the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which will be run Oct. 7 at Belmont Park.

Suffolk opens its 2006 season Saturday.