10/03/2007 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup work nears end

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Everything continues to be on schedule as Monmouth Park prepares to host the Breeders' Cup for the first time on Oct. 26-27.

The Breeders' Cup anchors a four-day meet starting Oct. 24. That leaves precious little time until the biggest week in New Jersey racing history.

Preparing Monmouth for the Breeders' Cup has been a multiyear project. Some of the biggest renovations have long been completed. A new turf course debuted in 2006; the main track was replaced prior to this summer's meet. Since closing day on Sept. 2, a final push has been in full swing.

Temporary seats are being installed. The backstretch is prepped and ready to receive Breeders' Cup horses.

"Everything is on course," said Bob Kulina, Monmouth's vice president and general manager. "We only have only two full weeks left, but everything is moving along. The major capital projects are in their wrap-up stage. We're on schedule. It's a tight schedule, but I'm confident everything will be okay."

One of the biggest projects was the installation of temporary seats. Gone are the picnic tables and benches that ran from the top of the stretch to the grandstand enclosure. In their place stand banks of seats and benches, a portion of the 28,000 temporary chairs being added.

"Some of the seating is up," Kulina said. "Every seating section is being worked on. Different sections are at different stages. Some areas are almost complete."

Corporate hospitality tents have sprouted everywhere, while additional mutuel windows, comfort stations, and concession stands are being added.

Most of the work on the backstretch is complete. Barn 3, the one closest to the grandstand on the clubhouse turn, has been modified and fenced off to serve as the quarantine barn for foreign horses. Kulina expected final approval of the quarantine area following an inspection Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some outfits stabled at the track were moved to other locations as barns were cleaned and prepped for the arrival of Breeders' Cup runners.

"The backside is in pretty good shape," Kulina said.

The process has been greatly aided by an unseasonably warm and dry fall.

"The weather has really been great," Kulina said. "The only thing it hasn't been good for is growing grass. We're watering it almost around the clock. We're trying to get it to grow."

Most of what remains are smaller details. Delivery started Wednesday of the flowers to beautify the grounds. A few rooms in the main structure and the grandstand cafeteria are slightly behind schedule. Obtaining the right wall brackets has delayed installation of some televisions.

"Overall, I think the anxiety level of the operational staff is pretty low," Kulina said. "None of them feels behind the 8-ball."

Sprint stakes top Saturday card

A pair of $55,000 stakes headline the Saturday night card at the Meadowlands Racetrack: the Thomas Edison for grass sprinters and the Seton Hall for filly and mare sprinters on the main track.

Smart Enough is certainly quick enough to win the Edison. The 4-year-old gelding loves these five-furlong grass races and is 6-1-1 in 8 tries on the surface at the distance. After fading badly in Monmouth's 1 1/16-mile Oceanport Stakes, Smart Enough bounced back to win the five-furlong Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107.

Remain Silent also won a grass sprint stakes last time out, capturing the King Bold Reality here on opening day.

Pure Disco, a dominant winner over New Jersey-breds here on Sept. 22, owns the controlling speed in the Seton Hall.