09/29/2005 12:00AM

Alumni Hall fits better in Meadowlands Cup

Email
Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Alumni Hall is well-suited to the 1 1/8 miles of the Meadowlands Cup.

Trainer Neil Howard held Alumni Hall out of Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and will instead point him to the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 7.

Howard and owner Will Farish deemed the competition in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup to be too tough. While Alumni Hall, who won the Grade 3 Ben Ali earlier this year, is coming off a nice allowance win at Saratoga, horses such as Borrego, Flower Alley, and Lava Man are all coming out of solid Grade 1 performances.

"We thought a race like the Gold Cup just might have been a little much right now," Howard said. "We know he's comfortable at a mile and an eighth. We're not convinced he can't go a mile and a quarter, but Flower Alley, Suave, Lava Man, and Borrego have all been successful at a mile and a quarter. This made a little more sense from where we are and where this horse is right now."

Trainer Mark Hennig made the same decision with his top handicap horse, Tap Day, opting for the Meadowlands Cup over the Gold Cup. A 4-year-old, Tap Day has been stabled at Monmouth for three years, from late spring to fall, and he continues to train very well there, including a four-furlong breeze in 48.60 seconds on Sept. 23.

"There are days where he wants to work and he gets out there and goes quicker than we expect," said Rob Rader, who runs Hennig's barn at Monmouth. "The way he's training now, he could step up and win one of these big races."

Tap Day won the Frisk Me Now Stakes at Monmouth on May 29, and then finished second in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap. He most recently finished third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

The top two finishers in Monmouth's Grade 3 Iselin Handicap, West Virginia and Zoffinger, are expected to run in the Meadowlands Cup, as is the Bobby Frankel-trained Ice Wynnd Fire. Philanthropist is probable, according to stakes coordinator Mike Melendez. Melendez also said that Presidentialaffair, trained by Martin Ciresa, is a possibility, but more likely to run in the Maryland Million Classic.

Capozzene tries turf in Salem County

After a nearly seven-length win in the Junior Champion Stakes at Monmouth on the main track, it seemed logical to expect that Capozzene would return in another stakes race on dirt. But her connections have always wanted to run her on turf, and they get that chance on Saturday night in the Salem County Stakes.

The $50,000 Salem County, at one mile and 70 yards, drew a field of 11 2-year-old fillies.

The Junior Champion on Aug. 21 was carded for the grass, but switched to the main track because of a scorched turf course. While her trainer, Todd Pletcher, was eager to run Capozzene on turf, the surface switch did not stop her. She pulled away impressively to win by 6 1/2 lengths with Chris DeCarlo aboard.

"Todd has always planned to get her on the turf," said Anthony Sciametta, who oversees Pletcher's New Jersey string. "She's training really well and is a nice filly to be around. She's very laid back in the barn."

Like Capozzene, the Dennis Manning-trained Wild and Proud tackles turf for the first time on Saturday.

Manning raced Wild and Proud, a daughter of Wild Again, in two sprint races with an eye toward longer distances. In her first attempt at two turns two weeks ago, Wild and Proud took over the lead at the top of the stretch and won by nearly two lengths. Manning usually takes his time with 2-year-olds, and he expects Wild and Proud to have a bright future.

Along with Capozzene, Pletcher will saddle Ready to Talk and Game for More, both owned by James Scatuorchio. Ready to Talk won her maiden on the grass at Saratoga and is a strong contender in this race. Game for More has yet to try turf.

Perilous Pursuit, who ships in from the Belmont barn of Sal Russo, won her maiden at Saratoga in her career debut.

- additional reporting by David Grening