03/20/2003 1:00AM

Top local 3-year-olds on display in Baez


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - New England's top 3-year-olds will sort themselves out Saturday in the $35,000 Rudy Baez Stakes.

The full 10-horse field brings together one of last year's local juvenile stars in Formal Escape, a recent Florida shipper in Legal Ploy, and New York-based Seattle Surprise, a supplemental nomination.

Formal Escape proved himself as perhaps the best 3-year-old on the Suffolk backstretch when he won the Collegian Stakes Jan. 25. That win made him the first stakes winner for his sire, 1997 Massachusetts Handicap runner-up Formal Gold. Trainer Robert Manning tried to gauge his colt's ability with a race in the Best Turn Stakes at Aqueduct, and Formal Escape finished seventh.

Strike 'n Go has scored two impressive victories in as many tries, and will get Lasix for the first time. Strike 'n Go is trained by Bobby Raymond and will be ridden by Jill Jellison, one of the hottest combinations at this track. Raymond and Jellison combined to win three races on consecutive Tuesdays and have won nine times over the past three weeks.

Seattle Surprise has rattled off two straight victories in Aqueduct claiming races - both since being stretched out to a mile by trainer Steve Jerkens. The Rudy Baez will be his first trip around two turns, his first stakes, and his first race outside New York.

Mass Cap Day schedule announced

Suffolk Downs announced the balance of the 2003 spring stakes schedule, including the stakes on Mass Cap Day, June 14.

In addition to the $500,000 Mass Cap and $250,000 Moseley Breeders' Cup, there will be the $75,000 Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders' Championship for statebreds, the $35,000 Keith Brodkin Memorial for turf sprinters, and the $35,000 Old Ironsides for turf routers.

Starting April 12, the 14-race schedule will feature a stakes on every Saturday, except June 7 (which had been the original date for the MassCap at the start of the meet) and Memorial Day.

Jockeys Dooley, Bush in fight

Irish-born jockey Clifford Dooley and rider Vernon Bush got into a scrap over some tight racing on Monday's St. Patrick's Day card.

The incident took place after the fifth race when Dooley had finished second with Try Again and Bush third on 7-5 favorite Forever Monteiro. While So Shattered and Headley Bettancourt passed them both for the win, Bush steadied his mount along the rail as Dooley urged his horse through the tight quarters.

According to witnesses, as the riders gathered around the television to watch the replay of the race, Bush loudly pointed out what he thought was careless riding to Dooley and other jockeys, although the stewards took no action and Bush did not lodge an objection. Dooley shoved Bush and punched him as Bush tried to shove back. The two were quickly separated.

After cooling off, both men apologized. Dooley went on to win race 6 and Bush won twice on the card.

Dooley was fined $50 by the stewards. He will also serve a seven-day suspension for a disqualification on Saturday's card. Bush was fined $25.

Irish-born apprentice Mark Phillips also lived up to what were no doubt many hunch plays by winning twice on the card.

Panell's trying weekend

Jockey Dyn Panell suffered through a rough St. Patrick's weekend, getting disqualified from an easy win with Jini's Jet in last Saturday's feature, then falling from his mount Ambi's Bro in Monday's third race and losing two eventual winners after taking off his remaining mounts.

Panell ended his run of bad luck Tuesday with a victory, but is suspended this weekend because of the Jini's Jet ride.