08/31/2002 12:00AM

Pisces looks good at Calder


Pisces was a 31-1 outsider when finishing third in the 2001 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap. What a difference a year makes.

On Monday Pisces will likely start as the favorite in the 2002 edition of the Miami Mile, a Grade 3 turf race that drew a field of 10, including three-time Grade 1 winner Sir Bear, who was entered for dirt only.

After missing by a half-length to Mr. Livingston in last year's Miami Mile, Pisces won his next two starts, including Gulfstream Park's Grade 2 Appleton Handicap. Transferred to trainer Ken McPeek's barn following the Appleton, Pisces held his own with some of the top handicap grass horses in the country during the opening half of the season, finishing second in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile, second in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap, third in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Handicap, and fifth, beaten less than three lengths by division leader Beat Hollow, in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve.

"I was going to run him in the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, but the Miami Mile looked like a good spot and easier race for him," said McPeek. "He's been running really well but unfortunately hasn't been able to win for us. He just hung at the end of the Stars and Stripes and his race against Beat Hollow was great."

Roger Velez, Pisces's regular rider, will take the call.

Pisces will take on the best of the local turf division in the Miami Mile. The group includes Unite's Big Red, Band Is Passing, and Marquette. Junior Deputy, Pay the Preacher, and Doowaley, first, second, and third in the off-the-grass Elite Jeblar Handicap on Aug. 12, also figure prominently.

Trainer Gary Cortolillo has had trouble finding a race for Grade 1 winner Unite's Big Red, whose races have been washed off the turf since he finished third in the Jackie Wackie Handicap on April 28.

Band Is Passing, fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the 2001 Miami Mile, has been idle since March 16 when fifth behind Unite's Big Red in Gulfstream's Equalize Handicap.

Marquette returns from Delaware, where he finished fifth after contesting the pace in the Sussex Handicap. A former Grade 2 winner, he won the Kissin Kris Handicap earlier in the session.

The sleeper could be Doowaley, an Irish-bred who was a listed winner in Italy last season. He finished a game third after being hard-used on the lead over the main track in the Elite Jeblar and should relish the switch back to grass.

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