06/15/2004 12:00AM

Bottazzi finds training itch irresistible


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The pink bridles are back at Monmouth Park.

That means Pat Bottazzi is back in the game.

Bottazzi, a dominant force in New Jersey racing in the early 1990's, has returned as a trainer and owner. He sends out Weston Field in Thursday's $45,000 optional claiming feature at Monmouth. The race has a three-other-than allowance provision and offers a purse of $43,000.

Like many of Bottazzi's best horses in the past, Weston Field arrived via the claim box and will sport the pink bridle and hot-pink-and-black silks of Bottazzi's Pretty Boys Stable.

Bottazzi took Weston Field, now a 6-year-old gelding, last summer at Monmouth for $16,000. He won twice with the horse last year, a $25,000 claimer and an allowance race.

Weston Field has had one start this year, a second in a sprint allowance at Monmouth. He stretches back out to 1 1/16 miles in this spot while trying turf for only the second time in a 44-race career.

Bottazzi, the leading trainer at The Meadowlands in 1991, once trained more than 40 horses. He has nine now at Monmouth with his son Pat Jr. handling much of the day-to-day operation.

Bottazzi wanted to slow down in 1995 and disbanded his stable, going into semi-retirement. But last year he felt the the itch and decided to get back in, claiming a handful of horses, including Weston Field.

"I loved the business, I loved working with the horses," said Bottazzi. "It's a challenge. I like to get a horse when he's down and work him back up."

It was hard being away, like an addict going through withdrawal.

"I didn't come here for three years," said Bottazzi. "Like a guy quitting cold turkey, I stayed away from the track."

But now Bottazzi is back in action. He has a solid shot in Thursday's race with one of only three in the nine-horse field not running for the $45,000 tag.

Andro's has the most turf experience in the race with seven grass wins, six coming in his native Peru. After five dirt starts in the U.S., he turned to the turf last time out and won for a $25,000 claiming tag at Delaware Park.

* A second pick four has been added on the first four races. Rolling pick threes will start with race 2 and continue through the day on all races except the start of the second pick four, which is held on the last four races of the program. Superfecta wagering will be offered on the fourth, the feature, and the final race on the card.

* Prominent trainer and owner Peter Fortay, 56, died June 4 following a long bout with kidney illness. Fortay trained Unky and Ally, winner of the 1999 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth.