06/19/2003 12:00AM

Moseley a standout as a stand-in


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - With the Massachusetts Handicap on hiatus until 2004, the James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup Handicap has become the year's premier racing event in New England. The Moseley, with 12 highly competitive sprinters, headlines a solid card at Suffolk Downs on Saturday.

The full and wide-open field make the Moseley an intriguing betting race. The morning-line favorite, True Direction, ran a huge effort coming off a six-month layoff to win an allowance race at Belmont Park on Memorial Day weekend. Trainer Carlos Morales, who campaigned Yankee Victor to a Met Mile win in 1999, says True Direction has the goods.

"This has been a good horse from the beginning," said Morales of the lightly raced 4-year-old. "He's had some health problems, but this year he's really turned into a mature horse and is looking even stronger than last year. If I can keep him sound, this horse is going to be in big races all year long."

My Cousin Matt comes to Boston trying to follow in the footsteps of Cigar, Formal Gold, and Behrens. All three raced in Dubai and then made their U.S. returns at Suffolk. Cigar and Behrens each won the Massachusetts Handicap while Formal Gold was a gutsy second to Skip Away in that race. The bad news for My Cousin Matt is that Cigar and Behrens have been exceptions to the rule, and many Dubai returnees have come up short in their return to action.

"The flight coming back really knocked him out, but we expected that," said trainer Scott Lake, who leads the nation in races won this year. "We had a plan to take our time with him after Dubai, and we've done a lot of jogging, then slowly built him back up. He's responded well, and I don't think the layoff or the trip should have any effect."

Peeping Tom brings Grade 1 credentials to the race, having won the Carter Handicap in 2001. He is winless in stakes this year, but he is coming in off a huge effort when third behind Aldebaran in the Met Mile.

Owner Michael Gill and trainer Mark Shuman will look to overpower the race with a three-horse entry of Pioneer Boy, Tasty Caberneigh, and Highway Prospector. All three could win, and they give Gill, who once was the leading owner at Suffolk, a strategic edge in the full field. Gill and Shuman have entered 12 horses on the 14-race Moseley card.

Captain Red, who set the track record for six furlongs over Aqueduct's inner dirt track this winter, is the likely pacesetter. A 6-year-old, he was once a local horse, but he developed so well that his owner, Boston businessman Anthony Pyliotis, shipped him to New York.

* On the Moseley undercard, Massachusetts-breds race for the richest statebred purse of the year in the $75,000 Breeders' Championship. There will also be two $35,000 turf races, the Old Ironsides and the Keith Brodkin Memorial.

* Fans will receive a Seabiscuit poster commemorating the 1937 Mass 'Cap winner with paid admission.