08/28/2006 11:00PM

Big money for statebreds

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - These are sweet times to run a horse at Monmouth Park, especially a New Jersey-bred.

The feature race Thursday, a first-level allowance for statebreds, carries a hefty $55,000 purse. This same race was worth $50,500 on Aug. 18. The listed value in the condition book is $46,000.

Correcting an underpayment from earlier in the meet, Monmouth Park has pushed purses higher and higher throughout August.

Three stakes on the Labor Day weekend will now be worth $100,000, with the value of the City Zip Stakes on Saturday and the Blue Sparkler Stakes on Sunday each increased by $40,000. The Icecapade Stakes on Monday was originally worth $75,000.

Purses have been hiked for races in all classes. The bigger purses end on Labor Day. For the balance of September, races will carry the values listed in the condition book.

Because of the purse, it comes as no surprise that Thursday's one-mile race attracted a full field of 12 with another horse, Ryans Golden Light, on the also-eligible list.

Luna Park looks primed to snare a share of the pot. A 3-year-old colt trained by John Tammaro III, Luna Park is the most lightly raced horse in the field with only five starts, all at Monmouth. He is also the most consistent, with a record of 1-1-2.

He did not race last year because of shin problems. He debuted in a sprint in June, rallying to get fourth. He has run exclusively in routes since then, hitting the board all four times.

"He came closing very well in that first race," Tammaro said. "I was a little disappointed that he didn't keep up better early in the race. Usually, you sprint a horse first time unless it's a very well-bred horse. It was pretty obvious he wanted to go a little further."

The last race was a hard-luck defeat. Ridden by Alan Garcia, Luna Park finished third, beaten only a neck, after battling gamely between rivals with blinkers on for the first time.

"With the blinkers, he left right with the leaders," Tammaro said. "It took Alan a quarter of a mile to get him to settle down and come back to him a little bit."

Speed could be an asset on Thursday from post 10. At a mile on the main track, the first turn at Monmouth comes up very quickly.