05/06/2008 11:00PM

Bravo gunning for 14th title

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - There are only two places where Joe Bravo wants to spend a summer: the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore.

Since there is no racetrack in the Hamptons, Bravo, not surprisingly, will be back at Monmouth Park when the meet begins Friday.

Bravo, born in nearby Long Branch, will be looking to continue his Monmouth dominance. He won another title here last summer, a lucky 13th crown as he managed to shake the injury bug that had dogged him in recent years.

He comes into this meet rested and relaxed.

"We had a good winter down at Gulfstream," Bravo said. "I worked hard there but there is no comparison to the summertime here, where I ride a lot of races."

Bravo, 36, is most enthused about the earlier start this season for Monmouth's 2-year-old program. The first baby race is slated for May 16. In the past, the first juvenile races arrived in June.

"They are starting a little earlier, so I'm out there working as many as I can, scoping them out," Bravo said. "I'm looking for next year's Big Brown."

Robinson cautions state industry

Dennis Robinson has sounded a warning for the New Jersey industry.

Robinson is president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority that owns Monmouth and the Meadowlands Racetrack.

In his remarks at a Monmouth press conference Tuesday, Robinson saluted the efforts of Gov. Jon Corzine and state legislative leaders in securing a new three-year, $90 million purse supplement from the Atlantic City casinos. The supplement allows Monmouth to keep purses at last year's level of $330,000 a day.

In return, the tracks are barred from adding slot machines or video lottery terminals for the life of the deal.

Robinson said, though, that the racing industry can not survive on a series of handouts. Long range, secure funding is needed to keep the tracks healthy and the state's breeding industry alive.

"We must start now on a long-term industry plan," Robinson said. "It is a $1 billion dollar industry that provides thousands of jobs.

"The racing industry also provides thousands of acres of open spaces while preventing sprawl. Racetracks in the nearby states of New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have been allowed to diversify their game product mix by adding VLT's."

Robinson called video lottery terminals at New Jersey racetracks one of the options that must be considered to maintain purse levels and keep the state's racing competitive within the region.

Renovation to last years

Monmouth is in the middle of a major project to prevent runoff from the barn area from polluting a creek that runs behind the track.

The full scope of the work required has not been determined.

"We are in negotiations with the Department of Environmental Protection," said the track's vice president and general manager, Bob Kulina. "It's major, a four-to-five-year project."

Currently, Monmouth is adding gutters to the barns in the Elkwood area separated from the main stable area by the railroad tracks that bisect the property. The object: catch rainwater before it touches the ground.

Eventually, the entire stable area will have gutters. The second phase of the project will capture water currently contaminated by bacteria, pump it to a retention lake to be created on the backstretch before shipping it to a treatment center.

* Carolyn and Gerry Sleeter, annually among the top owners and breeders of New Jersey-breds, have been named winners of this year's Buddy Raines Award, given by Monmouth Park for "conduct exemplary for professionalism, integrity and service to the sport."

* Jockey Herb McCauley will be back in the saddle at Monmouth for the first time since breaking his leg severely in a spill here in 1998, an injury that seemingly ended his career. McCauley, who made a comeback last fall, is listed on five mounts, including Casino Transaction in the feature, the $70,000 Red Cross Stakes.