08/06/2003 11:00PM

Older foes try to derail Megan's Halo

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Ever since Megan's Halo got a chance to stretch her legs, her competition at Suffolk Downs hasn't had a chance. She tries for her fifth straight victory Saturday in the $35,000 Highland Happening Stakes.

Maturity has played a role in the 3-year-old filly's streak, but it's clear the chance to go around two turns has hit her between the eyeballs.

"When we first got her she was such a nervous filly, and you could just see how much she needed to relax," said owner-trainer John Assimakopolous. "As soon as she stretched out, she got her feet under her and totally relaxed. That got her confidence going, and now she's just a happy, confident filly."

The Highland Happening, run at 1 1/16 miles, will be the second stakes test for Megan's Halo in two weeks. She cruised by three lengths in the Suffolk Downs Oaks July 26.

Originally this race was written for the grass, but with so much rain over the past week, Suffolk racing secretary John Morrissey didn't even go through the pretense of scheduling the race for the turf.

Megan's Halo will start from post 8 under Jose Bermudez, who has been aboard for her last three victories. She has been on or near the front by the halfway point of her last four races, and should have little trouble avoiding a wide trip around the clubhouse turn. A daughter of Jules, she will have to take on older foes, but it won't be the first time.

"There's always a concern taking on older with a 3-year-old," Assimakopolous said. "I think there's some older mares in there that are tougher than the ones she beat in her allowance races, but if the race runs true to form, there should be some speed for her to run at and she should have a really good shot."

Copelan's Devilet is one of those tougher older runners. Copelan's Devilet has won six times this year, all on the lead.

Copelan's Devilet, a 5-year-old mare, has been a reclamation project for trainer Kevin Joy, who claimed her for $5,000 in February and has won three allowance races with her. She started the year with Assimakopolous, racing for the Yasou Stable Trust of his father, Charles.

Dance Dance has won three of her five starts since coming to Suffolk. She was claimed in Kentucky for $25,000 by current owners Eighth Note Stable and trainer John Botty.

Love Not War, who won the Kayla's a Gem Stakes last time for her second straight victory, will try to prove that that win at 30-1 odds was no fluke.

Fall meet to start Sept. 15

Suffolk will run a 25-day live meeting starting Sept. 15 to wrap up a tumultuous year in New England racing.

The schedule will mirror the one Suffolk has used all year, with racing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays and a first post of 12:45 p.m.

The current meet ends Aug. 27, followed by a two-week break coinciding with the Northampton Fair in western Massachusetts.

The autumn meet will offer seven $35,000 stakes restricted to Massachusetts-breds, beginning with the Second Episode Stallion Stakes Sept. 20.