08/08/2005 12:00AM

Classic goal for Roman Ruler

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Roman Ruler, winning the Haskell, could be headed to the Travers on Aug. 27. Trainer Bob Baffert said the main target is the Breeders' Cup Classic.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Roman Ruler was on his way to Saratoga on Monday morning, the day after his victory in the Grade 1, $1 million at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Bob Baffert, still basking in the glow of his third Haskell victory in the last five years, said Roman Ruler "came out of the race just fine."

Saratoga is home to the next $1 million 3-year-old stakes, the Grade 1 Travers on Aug. 27, but Baffert said he was not sure what Roman Ruler's next race would be.

"Maybe the Travers, maybe something else," he said. "I haven't made up my mind yet. The ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup Classic, and we'll map out a plan to get there."

The Classic will be run Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.

With the Haskell victory, Roman Ruler proved he was Grade 1 material and that he could win at 1 1/8 miles.

An enormously talented 2-year-old who won two Grade 2 races in his first four starts, Roman Ruler missed the Triple Crown this year with persistent foot problems. He launched a comeback with a win in the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park and moved up another level in the Haskell.

"We'll wait 10 days or so and see how he comes out of this," Baffert said. "We're going to enjoy him. There's no urgency now. Now that he's got the Grade 1 under his belt, we can think about going for the Classic."

Inside trip hurt Park Avenue Ball

Park Avenue Ball didn't get an ideal trip in the Haskell. He broke from post 2 and wound up boxed along the fence for a good portion of the race before finishing third.

"Hindsight is 20-20, but with an outside post, I might have had an easier kind of trip," said jockey Chris DeCarlo. "It wasn't that the trip was terrible. He just didn't like being inside. I didn't want to check him and swing him out."

DeCarlo eventually angled outside and Park Avenue Ball ran evenly through the lane.

Trainer Jim Ryerson said he was encouraged that Park Avenue Ball proved he belonged at that level.

"He can run with those two horses," Ryerson said, referring to Roman Ruler and Sun King. "Maybe on a given day, he could finish better than that, but it wasn't to be. He ran good."

As for Park Avenue Ball's next start, Ryerson said he does not envision the Travers.

"That would not be on the top of my list," Ryerson said. "I don't think that's in the plans."

More likely options include the Grade 2, $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day at Philadelphia Park and the Grade 3, $250,000 Pegasus Stakes at The Meadowlands Racetrack on Sept. 30.

It's back to sprinting for Joey P.

Joey P. will head back to sprints after taking his best shot in the Haskell.

Joey P. was a pace factor in the Haskell until the top of the stretch. He rated close to the fractions set by Sun King and launched a bid on the final turn, but couldn't get by the leader and was no factor in the lane. He faded to last in the seven-horse field.

"He was trying, but he just couldn't go that far and he couldn't beat that kind of horse," trainer Frank Costa said.

"He put up a good fight for seven-eighths, but those other horses were tough."

Cutting back in distance could put Joey P. back in winning form. Racing only at Monmouth, Joey P. won his first five races, all sprints, including the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes. His only other two-turn effort resulted in a third in a one-mile allowance race against older horses, which served as his Haskell prep.

Joey P. has had five hard races since June 12 and will now get some rest, according to Costa. Joey P.'s next start has not been decided.

Final Assault rounding into form

Final Assault could finally be ready to pick up where she left off last season in Wednesday's $44,000 allowance feature.

Final Assault finished last season with three solid efforts at Monmouth, recording two wins and a loss by only a neck.

She struggled to regain that form in her first two starts this year, but looked to be headed in the right direction last time out with a third-place finish behind Diavla on a sloppy sealed track. Diavla came back to get second in the $100,000 Lady's Secret Stakes on the Haskell undercard.