05/14/2003 11:00PM

Picture Gallery seems at peak for Drumtop


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Picture Gallery has been slow to live up to her potential, but she will get a chance to prove her worth Saturday in the $35,000 Drumtop Handicap at Suffolk Downs.

Picture Gallery races for Patricia Moseley, Suffolk Downs's chairwoman, and she's entered in a race named after one of the foundation mares of the Moseley family's racing and breeding operation.

Picture Gallery comes into this 1 1/16-mile stakes on a two-race win streak and appears to be back in top form. She won three straight here at this time last year.

"She was doing so well last year, then we ran her on Mass Cap day, and she must have done something serious because she never trained quite the same after that," said trainer Jeff Hooper. "She was always a slow learner anyway, and hypersensitive. When she was young she would just get so flustered, and then when the dirt would start hitting her she'd get really angry. She needed to come around with time."

After a poor performance in February, Picture Gallery turned things around with a close loss in an allowance. She then won two straight. Picture Gallery has never ventured far from Suffolk, and with the entire summer ahead of her, Hooper is feeling confident.

"We're tickled to death about the way she is right now," he said. "She's been slow to come around, but I think I like that better than some of those that are flashy right at the beginning then never really live up to their talent."

Three Massachusetts-bred females from trainer Lori Lockhart were entered against Picture Gallery, including the stakes winner Little Time. Recent winners Island Melody and Light Wave will also be a part of the 10-horse field.

Hot dogs and horse races

With the Massachusetts Handicap on a one-year hiatus, Sunday's Hot Dog Safari and special racing program could be one of the biggest events of 2003 at Suffolk Downs.

The daylong charity festival is organized by local media personality Eddie Andelman to benefit the Joey Fund to cure cystic fibrosis. The charity was founded by Joe O'Donnell, a shareholder in Suffolk Downs and owner of the track's concessionaire, Boston Concessions Group, in honor of his son who died from the disease.

Dozens of hot dog makers and vendors will be on hand in a celebration of "the ultimate sports food." The fairlike atmosphere takes place alongside the day's races.

Boston's WB56 will televise the event for three hours, including six races, beginning at noon. Last year's inaugural broadcast received honorable mention for an Eclipse Award for local television.

The Safari kicks off at 9 a.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, with children under 12 free. Former Boston Bruin Ray Bourque will be the grand marshal of the event and tops the list of local celebrities who will be on hand.