07/12/2005 11:00PM

Can Chekhov make leap in Long Branch?

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The field for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, Monmouth Park's premier event, will come into sharper focus following the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes on Saturday.

The Long Branch is the traditional prep for 3-year-olds hoping to step up to the Haskell on Aug. 7.

In order to step up, Chekhov must first grow up.

"He's like a kid at school, when the teacher tells you he's smart, but he just hasn't learned how to do it yet," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "We'll just keep teaching him, and if it comes in his next race or the race after that, then that's what it will be."

With Biancone and owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, Chekhov, a $3.3 million 2-year-old purchase, hails from the same team that won last year's Haskell with Lion Heart.

Chekhov has won only won 1 of 6 career starts and most recently finished 17 1/4 lengths behind Afleet Alex in the Belmont Stakes. Saturday, he will face a field that will likely include Park Avenue Ball, winner of the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont last fall; Smokescreen; Secret Woods; and Tani Maru.

War's Prospect should have a full tank

Trainer Bill Anderson hopes a little rest will revive War's Prospect for the $60,000 Colts Neck Handicap for New Jersey-breds on Sunday.

A 4-year-old gelding, War's Prospect was very busy early in the meet. He ran in four stakes from May 14 to June 19, against state-bred and open company, in distances ranging from five furlongs to a mile and 70 yards.

He looked a bit tired in the last outing, fading to fourth in the Bernie Dowd Handicap.

At six furlongs, the Colts Neck looks like an ideal fit for War's Prospect, who posted his lone win this year at that distance, against statebreds in the John J. Reilly Handicap on May 28.

"He's back with statebreds and he's sprinting," Anderson said. "We ran him fairly close together. That's why I gave him the break with this spot coming up. No sense hitting open company again when this spot was coming up."

War's Prospect tuned up July 8 with a strong five-furlong work in 59.80 seconds in the mud.

Three last-out winners meet in feature

Awanda, Big City Danse, and Summer Sting all posted wins last time out and now square off Friday in Monmouth's $51,000 featured allowance for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares going six furlongs.

At 5, Awanda is the veteran of the group. She ended a streak of three straight second-place finishes when she won July 6, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 73.

Big City Danse and Summer Sting are both 3 and fresh from career-toppers. Big City Danse earned a Beyer Figure of 69 in her victory, and Summer Sting earned a 75.

* Erick Ramirez and Chris Russell are two new apprentice riders at Monmouth. Ramirez was fifth in the Charles Town standings with 68 wins from 449 mounts before shifting to Monmouth. Russell got his start in Southern California where he post 19 wins in 236 rides.

* The 13th annual Backstretch Appreciation Day Picnic on Monday was a "rousing success," according to its chairman, Dan Perlsweig. The event, free to all backstretch workers and their families, drew more than 1,500 for the food, beverages, and amusements. A major highlight: grand-prize drawings for gifts, including bicycles and color televisions.

* The annual Haskell Charity Golf Classic takes place Monday at the Eagle Oaks Country Club in Farmingdale, N.J. The event benefits the Monmouth Park Charity Fund. Tickets are $300 per person and include all green fees, driving range, cart, lunch, dinner buffet, and awards. More information is available from the Monmouth marketing office at (732) 571-5638.