03/13/2003 1:00AM

Roos entry ideal for new stakes concept

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. - The third richest race of the Suffolk Downs season will be run Saturday when the Massachusetts breeding program inaugurates the $50,000 Ernie Lowe Stallion Stakes.

The six-furlong race is a new concept for the track, beyond the fact the purse is $20,000 higher than a normal mid-meet stakes race. It is restricted to Massachusetts-bred horses that were sired by a Massachusetts stallion and honors Lowe, one of New England's most colorful trainers, who died last summer.

Over the past two seasons, the talent level of registered Mass-breds has increased markedly. Last fall, both of Suffolk's open stakes races for juveniles were taken by Mass-breds. But the program allows for horses to be sired by stallions from other states as long as foaling occurs in Massachusetts. This new race will attempt to reward some of the state's homegrown talent and the farms, owners, and breeders that have been most prominent in the program.

The result is a diverse field of horses of both sexes. But the breeding lines are very uniform. Three of the 11 entrants are by the sire Militron. Another three are by Sundance Ridge while two others were sired by 1981 Massachusetts Handicap winner Soldier Boy.

It would seem the race was ideally written for the brother-sister entry of Stylish Sultan and Sunlit Ridge, who are owned by Manfred Roos.

At this time last year, Stylish Sultan was being put through his paces in front of out-of-town owners and reportedly carried a $250,000 price tag. But a deal to sell the then 3-year-old Stylish Sultan to bloodstock agent Emmanuel de Seroux, husband of Laura de Seroux, trainer of Horse of the Year Azeri, fell through last March.

After an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Bay Shore in New York, Stylish Sultan returned to New England and won the Beacon Hill Stakes at Suffolk last May, then finished fourth in the Rockingham Park Derby last summer. His only start since then was a trouble-filled second-place performance in the Second Episode Stakes at Suffolk in November.

A strong performance Saturday in his 4-year-old debut would push Stylish Sultan's earnings past the $100,000 mark.

Sunlit Ridge's consistency might attract large place or show wagers were those bets not precluded in Suffolk's Mass-bred races. She has missed the board just once in 14 career sprints, including several attempts against males. A 5-year-old mare, Sunlit Ridge hasn't won since she was elevated from second to first in the Second Episode, giving Roos a one-two finish that day. Sunlit Ridge hasn't finished first in more than a year.

Beyond the Roos entry, there are few other stakes-proven performers in the field. African Princess hails from one of the strongest families in Mass-bred history, but hasn't won since the Mystery Jet Stakes a year ago.

Dawn's First Light won a $5,000 claimer in his last race, and has hit the board in statebred races in the past. Woodside won the 2001 African Prince Stakes, but most recently finished second in a $4,000 claimer.