04/17/2003 12:00AM

Virgin Voyage a dangerous shipper


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Virgin Voyage, who is based in New York for owner Paraneck Stable and trainer Jennifer Pedersen, figures to be a strong force at Suffolk Downs in Saturday's $35,000 Helena Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going one mile.

She was shipped to Turfway Park for her last start, the Bourbonette Stakes, and finished fourth after racing wide.

Virgin Voyage finished third, beaten a neck, in the Busher Stakes two starts back. Her earnings of $97,740 is easily the highest of anyone in the Helena field and she also has the highest recent Beyer Speed Figure.

Her rivals include two of the strongest Massachusetts-bred youngsters to emerge in recent years, Jill's Layup and Glory Be Good, who will be facing open company here.

Also in the field are I'mbackinaction and Yasou Doc's Angels, who finished one-two in perhaps the most exciting stretch drive this meet in the Yankee Fashion Stakes in February.

Jill's Layup returned to form with her score in the African Princess Stakes last time out. This race will be her first around two turns.

Glory Be Good will also try two turns for the first time. She drew the rail and Edwin Molinari will ride. Molinari returned from retirement earlier this week.

Yasou Doc's Angels is by Suffolk Sprint winner Pentelicus out of multiple New England stakes winner Speedland. Trained by Charlie Assimakopoulos, she hasn't raced since the Feb. 15 Yankee Fashion. I'mbackinaction has raced twice since that race, finishing seventh for a $40,000 tag at Aqueduct and fourth in a local allowance race.

Ritzy Dame is the first horse to start here after arriving from Florida for perennial leading owner Francis McDonnell and trainer George Handy. A daughter of Distorted Humor, she finished in the money in three Suffolk starts last fall, including a second behind Jill's Layup in the Mom's Command Stakes.

There is a short run to first turn in the Helena and plenty of speed. Among the speed types is News to Me, who ships from West Virginia following a wire-to-wire score going one mile at Mountaineer.

Still a chance for slots

According to Suffolk Downs officials, there are two more chances for slots to come to Massachusetts despite the defeat of two gaming bills in the Massachusetts House of Representatives earlier this week.

"What happened was not unexpected because we knew the House leadership had set it up to fail," said Bob O'Malley, Suffolk's chief operating officer. "What happens next is we have a chance when the Senate turns out a budget and it includes revenues from gaming. Also likely is that we get another hearing in the fall when the effect of the 2004 budget will begin to be felt. I remain positive about the chances."

Massachusetts is facing a $3 billion budget shortfall. State Senate President Robert Travaglini, whose district includes Suffolk Downs, and Gov. Mitt Romney support expanded gaming as a way to raise revenues without tax increases and avoid cuts to services.

Budget hearings will begin next month.

Summer stakes schedule

Now that Suffolk's summer dates have been approved, the meet's stakes schedule has been announced.

The $200,000 James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup has been moved to June 21 along with three other stakes, the $75,000 Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Championship, the $35,000 Keith Brodkin Memorial, and the $35,000 Old Ironsides Stakes. A $35,000 stakes race is carded every Saturday through the end of the meet Aug. 27.

Most of the stakes have been moved up from the traditional autumn meet, with one new addition, the $35,000 Suffolk Downs Derby July 19.