06/18/2001 11:00PM

City Zip, 'Song' bring star power to Shore

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - With the approach of the showcase race of the Monmouth Park meet, the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, the spotlight shifts to 3-year-olds in late July and early August. But Monmouth already has hosted some top 3-year-olds, with more to come in the next few weeks.

The race on the immediate horizon for top-notch 3-year-olds is the Grade 3, $100,000 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes on July 4. The six-furlong Jersey Shore has the makings of an exciting race, with Grade 1 winners Songandaprayer and City Zip as possible participants. As has been the norm this meet, Grade 3's have been drawing strong fields.

City Zip, trained by Linda Rice, was sold for a mere $9,000 as a yearling. The colt has overachieved from the start, exceeding all expectations of his connections. City Zip won all three of the juvenile colt and gelding stakes at Saratoga last summer - the Sanford, Saratoga Special, and Grade 1 Hopeful. In the Hopeful, he dead-heated with Yonaguska. He crossed the wire first in the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont, but was disqualified and placed second. Since that race, he only has one win in seven starts. But most of those races, run at longer distances versus Grade 1 foes, have only showed that City Zip is more geared for sprints.

City Zip, who is 2 for 2 at six furlongs, was entered for the Riva Ridge on Belmont Stakes Day. Rice scratched him from the race when he reopened a quarter crack that had plagued him all spring. He has returned to the track since, now pointing for the Jersey Shore BC.

"He's a tough customer from six furlongs to a mile," Rice said. "He has always surpassed all our expectations for him. Nobody anticipates their horse winning all the juvenile stakes at Saratoga."

If City Zip does run, he has the advantage of Rice's amazing success this meet. She has recorded four wins and one place in five starts, as she has horses stabled here in addition to her major stable in New York.

Songandaprayer, the winner of the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth, is also looking to use the Jersey Shore as a springboard for sprinting success. A $1 million purchase who is trained by John Dowd and owned primarily by Bobby Hurley, Songandaprayer has also shown that sprinting is his best game. He set lively fractions in the Kentucky Derby before fading, displaying his quick zip that will surely come out July 4.

Fillies in focus

A strong crop of 3-year-old fillies has already un here. Expect more quality fillies in the future, with the Grade 2 Monmouth Park Breeders' Cup Oaks to be run July 28.

Harmony Lodge, a $1.65 million filly trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Little Silver Stakes here on June 2. The filly, who has three wins in four starts, is pointed for the Prioress at Belmont and the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, two sprints in which she could face Silver Tornado.

Silver Tornado, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner El Corredor, scratched out of the Little Silver when the track came up sloppy, but romped in an allowance here the following Wednesday. Silver Tornado, trained by Rice, is 3 for 3 lifetime, and made that last winning start after an extended layoff.

Among the other top fillies who have raced at the meet is Mystic Lady, a 3-year-old trained by Mark Hennig, who won the Grade 3 Jersey Derby when it was taken off the turf.

Dutrow entry solid in Thursday's feature

Thursday's card is unusually strong for a weekday. The card includes two maiden races on the turf, a $50,000 allowance on the turf, a $39,000 allowance sprint, and the featured $43,000 optional claiming allowance.

In the six-furlong feature, Richard Dutrow Jr. sends out a solid entry of Appealing Danger and Rich Reward. Both have been posting high Beyer Speed Figures in top-level allowances in New York. Rich Reward most recently won an allowance at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Normandy Beach enters the race on a two-race winning streak, and benefits from being sent out by the red-hot Eddie Broome barn. Normandy Beach won an optional claiming allowance here opening weekend, and will also benefit from the services of top rider Joe Bravo.