05/08/2002 11:00PM

Two Easterners passing on Gold Cup

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CHICAGO - Include and Evening Attire, two heavy-hitting handicappers from the East Coast, are bypassing next weekend's Hawthorne Gold Cup in favor of the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs. The trainers of both horses, Bud Delp for Include and Pat Kelly for Evening Attire, had expressed interest in the Gold Cup to Hawthorne racing officials during the last week.

Evening Attire recently scored a blowout win in an Aqueduct allowance race. Include, who should be one of the nation's top handicappers this summer, was an easy winner of the Jennings Handicap at Pimlico in his first start of the season.

Include, who is based in Maryland with Delp, worked six furlongs in about 1:14 on Thursday morning, Delp said. Delp has mapped out a summer schedule for Include, with the Suburban and Whitney Handicaps to follow the Mass Cap if Include progresses well. The Whitney, run at Saratoga, is contested the same week that Delp will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Both Delp and Kelly said they hope to travel to Chicago this fall for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington.

Duckhorn on the fence

With the strongest East Coast horses passing next Saturday's Gold Cup, the race will have a distinctly Midwestern flavor, which is nothing new. Defending champion Duckhorn, who won the Ben Ali at Keeneland in his last race, could show up again, but trainer Pat Byrne said he is also considering the Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico.

"I want to see the weights at Hawthorne first, see who's running," Byrne said.

Duckhorn took advantage of a wet track and a short field to win the Ben Ali, while Parade Leader, who finished second in the race, had no chance to catch a loose-on-the-lead Duckhorn. He may get another shot in the Gold Cup, since trainer Neil Howard said Parade Leader, the New Orleans Handicap winner in March, definitely is pointing for the race.

Also being considered are the second- and third-place finishers in the Oaklawn Park Handicap, Bowman's Band and Dollar Bill. Hail the Chief, an impressive winner of the National Jockey Club Handicap at Sportsman's in his last start, also is a possible starter.

Meier looking to return next week

Jockey Randy Meier, out of action since he was injured in an April 11 spill at Hawthorne, said he hopes to resume race riding Friday, May 17.

Meier initially thought he was okay after being interfered with and thrown from his mount, wound up in the hospital for four days after the accident. Meier had broken ribs, a deflated lung, and a broken toe.

Injury is nothing new for the 47-year-old Meier, who said he has been hospitalized from riding accidents more times than he can remember. "Mark Guidry, Carlos Silva, all those guys I've been riding with here for a long time, I don't think they've been hurt combined as many times as me," Meier said.

Strangely, Meier said, he seems to come back better each time. After suffering the worst injury of his career, when he broke his neck two years ago, Meier returned to have what he said was the best year of his career last season.

Meier said he has ridden his wife's jumper around for a few days, and that on Wednesday he got on horses at the track for the first time since his injury.

It's possible Meier could pick up the mount on Duckhorn on Saturday in the Gold Cup, since he rode Duckhorn to victory in the race last year.