08/07/2003 12:00AM

Charming Jim's trip all business


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The decision to send Charming Jim to the $100,000 Sapling Stakes came easily to Calder-based trainer Ed Plesa Jr.

"I've always been partial to Monmouth Park," Plesa said. "It's one of my favorite racetracks."

The colt arrived Tuesday for Monmouth's premier 2-year-old stakes on Saturday, while Plesa touched down Thursday morning.

Charming Jim had a win and a second in two starts at Calder.

He debuted with a victory June 14 and followed that with a loss to the unbeaten Sir Oscar in the $100,000 Criterium Stakes on July 5. In what was essentially a match race, Sir Oscar got up in the final jumps to beat Charming Jim by a neck.

"It was a hard-fought race," Plesa said. "We were down on the rail, which was not the best part of the track that day. If we were on the outside, we probably would have won."

Sir Oscar remained at Calder for the Florida Stallion Series, which gets underway Saturday. Charming Jim, who is not eligible to the series, hit the road.

"The Sapling looked like a good choice," Plesa said.

Eibar Coa will come down from Saratoga to ride Charming Jim, who faces six rivals in the six-furlong Sapling.

Trainer Dennis Manning sends out an entry of Limit Free and Stringtown Wonder, and both are coming off maiden victories. Limit Free rallied for a two-length triumph in his debut in the mud while Stringtown Wonder needed four tries to break through.

Carlos Cruz rides Limit Free. Chuck Lopez gets the mount on Stringtown Wonder, who adds blinkers.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Deputy Storm, winner of two straight starts, including the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth, the traditional prep for the Sapling. Leading rider Joe Bravo will be aboard.

Bustin' Out, a fading fourth in the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs, adds Lasix for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has a rich history in the Sapling.

Lukas has won eight of the last 16 runnings, most recently logging back-to-back wins with Double Honor and Yes It's True in 1997 and 1998.

Dashboard Drummer, with Jose C. Ferrer up, and Johnny Tornado, ridden by Eberd Estrada, complete the field.

The $50,000 Rumson Stakes for 3-year-olds, the scheduled supporting event for Saturday, drew only four entrants and was not carded.

The race office rescheduled the six-furlong Rumson for Sunday, in the hope of attracting additional runners.