10/04/2005 11:00PM

Alumni Hall appears smartly spotted

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Discretion could prove to be the better part of valor for Alumni Hall in the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes on Friday night.

The Meadowlands Cup is the signature event and richest race of the Thoroughbred meet at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

Trainer Neil Howard was thinking of running Alumni Hall in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last Saturday at Belmont Park following his commanding allowance win at Saratoga. Instead, Howard set his sights a bit lower.

Several factors entered the decision to run here. The Meadowlands Cup is 1 1/8 miles, a furlong shorter than the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Alumni Hall is 6 for 9 at 1 1/8 miles.

Then there was the caliber of the competition, which figured to be tougher in New York, where Borrego blew everyone away in the Gold Cup.

"It's easy to say it on Monday morning, but after the way that horse ran the other day, I think we're better off doing this instead of running in the Gold Cup," Howard said.

, with regular rider Robby Albarado aboard, will be one of the choices in The Cup. The 6-year-old has had a solid season with four wins, including the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Howard said a solid performance in the Meadowlands Cup could move Alumni Hall on to the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29 at Belmont.

is a horse who usually runs well in New Jersey. Trained by Mark Hennig, Tap Day has won both of his races at The Big M.

After winning the ungraded Frisk Me Now Stakes by 9 1/4 lengths at Monmouth Park in May, Tap Day stepped up to run second in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap at Belmont and third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"His last three have been very good," said assistant trainer Rob Rader. "We're looking for him to run very well. He's training well and he likes The Meadowlands."

is the only Grade 1 winner in the field, having won the 2004 United Nations Stakes on the turf at Monmouth.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won The Big M's opening-night Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes with Magna Graduate, goes for a second straight Meadowlands Cup victory. He sends Purge, the winner of last year's Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Pletcher won last year's Meadowlands Cup with Balto Star.

Ice Wynnd Fire returns to a stakes for trainer Bobby Frankel after a pair of allowance wins at Saratoga.

Completing the field are Royal Assault, Itsawonderfulife, Unforgettable Max, and Zoffinger.