08/03/2005 11:00PM

Papa Dancer a new challenger


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Established Massachusetts-bred fillies and mares square off against a rapidly improving youngster in Saturday's $40,000 First Episode at Suffolk Downs in one of the most wide-open statebred stakes here this year.

Defending champion African Princess, fresh off her third-place finish in the Last Dance Stakes on July 4, drew the outside post in the field of six for the 1 1/16-mile race. She takes on Ask Queenie, who has finished first or second in her last five statebred races, against both males and females.

The new face is Papa Dancer, who defeated Stylish Sultana in the Mystery Jet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last Saturday. The First Episode will be the ninth career race for Papa Dancer, and she has been no better than fifth in three starts against older horses.

Last year, African Princess picked the right days to run her best races. She was the even-money favorite in this race in 2004 and won by 12 lengths without ever being threatened. African Princess has hit the board in 8 of 9 starts at the distance, and she also has the quickness to have won four times at six furlongs. Her speed should allow her to avoid a wide trip from the outside post.

Ask Queenie has been like an ATM machine for her owners, the Lockhart family. Her fourth-place finish in her last start was the only time she has finished off the board. She had a three-race winning streak in statebred stakes from the end of last year into the beginning of this season.

Lloyd Lockhart is the breeder of the 4-year-old Ask Queenie. His daughter Lori Lockhart is the trainer, and her daughter Laurine Barreira is listed as the owner. Ask Queenie beat African Princess by three lengths when they completed the trifecta behind Jini's Jet in the Last Dance Stakes.

Papa Dancer could gain confidence if she's able to get loose on the lead the way she did last week. Her two career wins were both wire jobs, but she faltered in her other dirt starts when she failed to get clear. The First Episode will be her second race around two turns and her first on dirt. She is owned by her breeder, John Yee, and trained by George Saccardo. Taylor Hole has the mount.

Judge Nancy exits a victory in a $4,000 conditioned claiming race, her ninth career score from 60 races and her 29th in-the-money finish. Cindarullah is 0 for 5 this year at Suffolk and finished fifth behind Ask Queenie and African Princess in the Isadorable Stakes in May. The maiden Overtime Xena completes the field.

Handicapping contest

Suffolk will hold the first of two qualifiers for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicap-ping Championships on Saturday.

The $40 contest entry-fee includes a buffet lunch, simulcast program, and Daily Racing Form. Players will make mythical $20 win and place bets on 15 pre-selected races from Suffolk, Saratoga, Del Mar, Monmouth, and Calder.

The entire pool from the entry fees goes back to the top 10 finishers. The top two finishers earn a trip to Las Vegas for the national championship at Bally's on Jan. 27-28.