08/20/2003 11:00PM

Surface the main question for Sunlit Ridge


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - The $35,000 Eleanora Sears Stakes brings together a diverse group of Massachusetts-bred fillies and mares for a race that doesn't have an easily predictable favorite and should be wide open in the betting. Like all statebred races at Suffolk Downs, the betting is restricted to win and exotic wagers.

Most notable among the nine horses in the six-furlong race are: Sunlit Ridge, who is at her best on turf; Big Miss, who has 13 wins at Suffolk but only three at six furlongs, including last year's running of this race; and the speedy 3-year-old Glory Be Good, a stakes winner who ran second in her only races against older foes.

Sunlit Ridge has the best recent form, having won her last two starts, both on grass. She has earned more than $287,000 for owner Manny Roos in four racing seasons.

But trainer John Rigattieri wishes the race were on the turf.

"She's training great and she's fresh leading up to this race," he said. "If it were on the grass this would be a lot easier because she loves it so much out there. But on the dirt and going short she's about equal with the others in the race. Hopefully, we can get back out [on the turf] soon."

Big Miss is the defending champion but has tailed off in her last four starts, against tougher competition. Since winning the Isadorable Stakes and an allowance race in February and March, Big Miss, 7, has run in open stakes, matched against males and at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. She has been on the shelf since late June, but has a history of running well off layoffs for trainer Don Caroli.

Glory Be Good is poised to be one of the stars of the division if she can carry her speed under pressure from her older rivals. She defeated fillies and males in the First Episode Stakes on June 7, but has faded to second in her three attempts against older horses surrounding that win.

Other notables in the race include stakes winner African Princess on the rail; the Lori Lockhart-trained entry of Proper Gun and Expensive Verdict; and recent claiming race winner Conlua.

* Washington Post racing columnist Andrew Beyer will host a seminar Labor Day, Sept. 1, at Hinsdale Greyhound Park and OTB in southwestern New Hampshire.

He will offer picks and answer questions on the day's action. There will also be a contest with a grand prize of a trip for two to the Breeders' Cup.