08/12/2003 11:00PM

Agreement reached on Sept. purses


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The local horsemen's association and the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority reached a tentative agreement Wednesday afternoon covering the purse structure for the September dates at Monmouth Park.

Under the agreement worked out between Bruce Garland, senior vice president of the sports authority, and Dennis Drazin, the horsemen's legal council, Monmouth would race five days a week in September for $250,000 per day.

Monmouth had guaranteed purses of $300,000 a day for the traditional core meet, from the weekends of Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Purses for the balance of September remained a sticking point between Monmouth and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Both sides acknowledged that purses would fall below the $300,000 level. Some dire projections had them plummeting to $150,000 a day in September.

Monmouth executives at one point suggested cutting the September dates from five days a week to three to keep purses closer to $300,000 a day. The horsemen's board rejected any proposals that reduced racing days.

"We have reached a tentative agreement," Drazin said. "It still requires ratification by the board."

If approved by the horsemen's board, Monmouth can finally print the condition book and release the stakes schedule for the extended season, which concludes Sept. 28.

Rain, rain, go away

There was no turf racing at Monmouth on Wednesday, marking the 29th time in 58 racing dates that the course was not used.

Monmouth has run only 65 grass races during this rain-drenched season, compared with 135 at the same point last year.

The course has not seen action since Haskell Day on Aug. 3.

The two grass races on the Wednesday card were shifted to the main track, which was labeled fast.

The racing office hoped to be back on the turf by Thursday.

The prospective return to grass would be a welcome development for Friday's feature, a $37,000 allowance race set for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Pipe Bomb won on the Colonial Downs turf in his most recent outing. He takes a step up in class, having run for a $25,000 claiming tag last time.

Todd Pletcher sends out Twice as Royal, who has not raced since winning his maiden on the turf at Gulfstream Park in February.

Completing the field are Shybynature, Reprizedrullah, Brass Arrow, Letrado, Cyane's Thunder, Midnight Interview, and Ransom the Royalty.

Little suspense in meet titles

The three major Monmouth titles remain runaway romps.

A healthy Joe Bravo appears well on his way to a ninth riding title and first since 2000. He started the week with 77 wins, 22 ahead of Jose C. Ferrer.

Bravo's last two Monmouth seasons were cut short by injury.

Leading owner Michael Gill and his main Monmouth trainer, Mark Shuman, maintain sizable leads in their categories.

Gill has 46 wins while runner-up E & G Stables has 11, one more than Runnin Horse Farms, the leading owner for the past four Monmouth seasons.

Shuman has 38 of those Gill wins, giving him a 17-win advantage over Tim Hills, the leading trainer last season.