05/22/2003 11:00PM

Quarter crack puts Best of the Rest on hold


MIAMI - The complexion of Monday's $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap changed dramatically late this week when trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. declared defending champion Best of the Rest from the Grade 3 stakes due to a nagging quarter crack.

Best of the Rest would have been the 122-pound highweight and the odds-on favorite to win the Memorial Day Handicap for the second straight year.

"He sustained a quarter crack after winning the Sunshine Millions Classic back in January," Plesa said on Friday. "We patched it and he was doing fine, but about a week or so ago he pulled the patch off and he has some soreness in the foot. It's a small problem. If you came back to the barn and watched him walk around the shed you couldn't even tell there was anything wrong. But he missed a work and is just not 100 percent so there is no sense in running him."

The defection of Best of the Rest will leave High Ideal and Mr. Livingston as the likely favorites for the Memorial Day. High Ideal finished second, beaten a half-length by Best of the Rest, in the 2002 renewal of the race.

Stay Forever also fighting foot trouble

Trainer Marty Wolfson, who will send out both High Ideal and his uncoupled stablemate Shotgun Fire in the Memorial Day, knows what it's like to deal with quarter crack troubles. He is fighting the same problem with Stay Forever, who, like Best of the Rest, was one of the stars of Gulfstream Park's inaugural Sunshine Millions card - winning the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

"Stay Forever's foot problem has been ongoing," said Wolfson. "She's had a chronic quarter crack, which is one of the reasons she's only started nine times. In fact, she missed two weeks of training leading up to the Sunshine Millions because of her feet, but was able to overcome it and still win the race. The trouble re-occurred after she ran in the Suwannee River, and it has really thrown her schedule off."

Wolfson had contemplated sending Stay Forever to Maryland to run in the Gallorette Handicap on the Preakness undercard, but scrapped the plan because of her bad foot.

"Right now I'm just waiting this thing out," said Wolfson. "When the foot gets well it won't take me long to get her ready. I'd like to get a race into her in July and then take her to Arlington Park for the Beverly D. That's the main goal at the moment."

* Sunday's $40,000 Ravolia Stakes at a mile on the turf will likely have a surface switch due to a lot of rain this week. Seven 3-year-old fillies were entered for the overnight stakes, led by stakes winners Running Debate, Fencelineneighbor, and Dakota Light. Running Debate and Dakota Light are the more accomplished of the trio on the main track, and would benefit most if the Ravolia comes off the turf.