05/23/2007 11:00PM

Massachusetts Handicap to return this fall


The Massachusetts Handicap will be back on the schedule this fall at Suffolk Downs as the track's new majority owner, Richard Fields, continues the push to revive the flagging East Boston track.

Since taking over controlling interest on Suffolk's board in March through his Coastal Development LLC, Fields's focus has been on restoring optimism regarding the track's future. Business had been stagnant at Suffolk for years, and its signature race has had to be canceled three out of the last four years.

Tentative plans call for the MassCap to be run in late September with a six-figure base purse and a bonus system tied to other major races. Track officials hope to lure a major horse prepping for the Breeders' Cup Classic in an attempt catch the same magic as in 1995, when a similar bonus system lured Cigar to Boston for the first of two MassCap victories.

Because the MassCap was not run the last two years, it is not eligible for a grade according to the American Graded Stakes Committee. It was a Grade 2 race in 2004 when Offlee Wild beat 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide by a head.

"Without the grade, the purse and the purse structure are of the utmost importance when it comes to attracting the best field," said track spokesman Christian Teja. "The race will take place, but we're still evaluating how best to structure the purse and when is the best time to run it."

The MassCap has a storied history dating back to 1935 when the track first opened. In addition to Cigar, other MassCap winners include Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Stymie, Riva Ridge, and Skip Away.