06/16/2005 11:00PM

Better Than Ever's name says it all


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Ned Allard was very encouraged by Better Than Ever's two efforts in grass stakes last fall at The Meadowlands.

Still a maiden at the time, Better Than Ever finished fourth in both the Continental Mile and the World Appeal.

"I though both those races were very good," Allard said. "Sometimes you have to run as a maiden in order to get on the grass. He was not out of line in either one."

Better Than Ever gets another shot at his first grass and stakes victory in the $60,000 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Better Than Ever closed out his 2-year-old season with a maiden victory at Philadelphia Park. In his lone start this year, Better Than Ever just got up to take a seven-furlong allowance race at Philly Park for his second win in a row.

Now it's back to the turf for this 1 1/16-mile race where he faces eight rivals.

Allard will be looking for his second 3-year-old turf stakes of the season on the Jersey Shore. He sent out Touched by Madness for a gate-to-wire victory in the Jersey Derby on May 30.

Better Than Ever will be ridden by Harry Vega.

All Trumps, trained by Angel Penna Jr., will make his third straight grass start. He missed by a neck last time out in a Belmont Park allowance race on May 11. Aaron Gryder gets the mount.

Call My Bluff, trained by Derek Ryan, also makes his third grass start.

Call My Bluff chased Touched by Madness over a good course in the Jersey Derby. He finished fourth, 5 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Ryan continues to second guess his instructions to jockey Jose Velez Jr. to rate Call My Bluff.

"On the soft turf, I should have sent him closer," Ryan said. "They didn't run that fast."

Houseofroyalhearts, T. D. Vance, Westmoreland, Doctor Voodoo, and the entry of A to Z and Bank President complete the field.

Mighty Oak stretches out

Earlier in his career, Mighty Oak was effective in New Jersey-bred sprint stakes.

Mighty Oak is now 5 and trainer Mary Hartmann prefers to run the star of the barn in route races.

Hartmann used the statebred John J. Reilly Handicap as a tune-up for $60,000 Bernie Dowd Handicap at a mile and 70 yards, the supporting feature on Sunday's card.

"It was a good prep off the long layoff," said Hartmann.

Mighty Oak ran fourth in the Reilly in his first start since October.

Hartmann said she feels the added distance of the Dowd will help her horse.

"I believe at this point in his life, he's better going two turns," Hartmann said. "He won't sit back off the speed. Going two turns, he can usually have it his own way and he'll settle down on the front end."

While Hartmann usually spaces Mighty Oak's races about a month apart, Bill Anderson runs War's Prospect at every opportunity.

The front-running winner of the Reilly, War's Prospect will be making his fourth start of the meet. He ran fourth most recently as the beaten favorite against open company in the off-the-turf Wolf Hill Stakes at five furlongs on June 5.

Henny Hughes impresses in debut

Henny Hughes impressed everyone, including trainer Pat Biancone, with his debut effort Friday at Monmouth.

Henny Hughes got away slowly from the rail before gathering momentum to sweep past five rivals in the five-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

With Joe Bravo aboard, Henny Hughes pulled away by six lengths in 59.17 seconds.

"He was in first and had to stand and wait," Biancone said. "I told Joe before the race this is a very talented horse. I don't want to rush him by any means. The horse got an easy run and a good education at the same time."

The future looks bright for Henny Hughes.

"He's a nice horse and we have very high expectations," Biancone said. "He concentrates and he's not very baby-ish. He's very mature. I don't know if he will be, but he could be a real horse."

Biancone will ship Henny Hughes back to his home base at Saratoga before deciding on the next start.

* Veteran jockey agent Dixie Shea now has Velez's book.

* Joe Rocco Sr., who won 13 races here last summer, is back at Monmouth.