02/21/2002 12:00AM

Pisces has a shot . . . if he's lucky


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Class wins stakes, and Hap is the class of Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Hap was good enough last year to win four stakes in only six attempts, including the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga and the Keeneland Turf Mile. He was second in the prestigious Arlington Million, and gave a creditable performance against many of the world's best grass horses in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Incidentally, the BC Turf is run at 1 1/2 miles. Hap prepped for it by winning at a mile, which tells you something about his versatility.

Hap, a 6-year-old horse by Theatrical who has earned almost $1.3 million, was freshened after the Breeders' Cup Turf and will be making his first start since that Oct. 27 race. Despite the inactivity, he has been assigned top weight of 123 pounds and will be making generous concessions to all the others.

Is there a chance of an upset by any of Hap's opponents? Perhaps, but a lot of pieces must fall into line in order for it to happen.

Pisces would appear to have the best chance for an upset because the 5-year-old horse by Prized has been racing in the finest form of his career. Early last month he won the Grade 2 Appleton Handicap here and he has trained smartly in the interim for Mohammed Moubarak. Roger Velez, who has been aboard in most of Pisces's victories, will again have the mount. But Eddie Arcaro and Bill Shoemaker could both be riding Pisces and it wouldn't mean anything unless there is a strong pace up front in the Canadian.

"Pisces comes from off the pace and it helps him to have a few leaders battling in front of him," Moubarak said.

"He is also a heavy horse and he lands hard. He appreciates ground that has a little 'give' to it. As for weight, our horse gets nine pounds from Hap. If he needs a race to be ready after a long layoff, we've got a chance."

Pisces is the only horse Moubarak is training. He has begun his new assignment as the manager of the Buckram Oak Farm racing stable, whose 25 horses are trained by Nick Zito, Bill Mott, and Carl Nafzger.

Francis tackles new subject matter

"Shattered," the last novel by the internationally acclaimed mystery writer Dick Francis, is indeed the last novel. He and his wife, Mary, who did the research for his popular books with a racing background, agreed 18 months ago to end the series, a decision which was finalized with Mary's death.

Now Francis, 81, is writing a tribute to Mary at his home in he Grand Cayman Islands, though he said Thursday he has no idea when the book will be finished.

Francis and his wife were inseparable and her passing was a blow. He has traveled extensively ever since, including a world-wide trip last fall. He flew to Australia to see the Melbourne Cup, then went racing in Hong Kong, and also visited Dubai, where he was amazed by the elaborate facilities at Sheikh Mohammed's private training complex.

Francis leaves the Caribbean in 10 days for an annual trip to England to see the Grand National steeplechase at Aintree. He was one of England's leading steeplechase riders before he turned author. He also has a trip to Keeneland scheduled for late April to pay tribute to the late George Sloan, founder of the International Steeplechase Group.