06/03/2003 11:00PM

Cry for dry Belmont Day


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The weather, not surprisingly, remained the primary topic of conversation Wednesday at Monmouth Park.

The meet has gotten off to one of the rainiest starts in three decades.

"I was the claims clerk in 1972 and I remember it rained constantly that year," said Bob Kulina, Monmouth's vice president and general manager. "Even when we had early meets in April and May, I don't remember this much rain."

Wednesday, the start of the new race week, brought another torrential downpour overnight into early morning. The maintenance crew terminated training at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than normal, to seal the track for the card that afternoon.

Monmouth has not been able to run a single turf race since the season began May 24. The two turf races on the Wednesday were shifted to the main track and the lone grass race slated for Thursday also was taken off.

The race office announced that Friday's card was also off the turf.

The inability to race on the grass could impact the Saturday card, which features the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes.

The final leg of the Triple Crown goes off at 6:38 p.m. First post at Monmouth is 12:55 p.m. and race office hopes to card 12 live races. It will be hard to reach that goal without turf races.

"We're hoping, perhaps against hope, that by Saturday we can get on it," Kulina said.

Separate Belmont pool

Monmouth will offer advance Belmont wagering starting at noon on Friday. Bettors will have a "shop for odds" option on the final jewel of the Triple Crown. Players can wager into the Belmont pools and receive the national simulcast prices, or they can keep it local as Monmouth will have its own Belmont Stakes pool. Monmouth gates open at 11:30 a.m. on Belmont Day.

Funny Cide to Haskell?

While Funny Cide prepares for his date with Triple Crown destiny in the Belmont, speculation already is starting about possible starters for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Aug. 3.

Barclay Tagg, Funny Cide's trainer, has mentioned the Haskell as a summer objective for the chestnut gelding. If Funny Cide runs in the Haskell, he could find a familiar rival awaiting him.

Bobby Frankel has targeted the Haskell as the next start for Peace Rules, third in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness.

Frankel said Tuesday at Belmont that he will train Peace Rules up the Haskell.

Peace Rules should feel at home at Monmouth, where the traditionally speed-favoring strip would complement Peace Rules's front-running style.

The Meadowlands to keep schedule

The Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet will again feature a mix of afternoon and evening racing.

The 28-day season, which runs Oct. 2 to Nov. 8, will have racing Tuesday afternoons starting at 1:10 p.m. The Wednesday through Saturday cards will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Meadowlands made the shift to Tuesday afternoon racing last year with positive results. Taking advantage of a dark day at the New York Racing Association tracks, The Meadowlands signal helped fill the gap at simulcast and off-track betting outlets.

Racing continues at Monmouth through Sept. 28 before the circuit shifts north to The Meadowlands.

Friday features split

The Friday features will be split $37,000 divisions of a nonwinners-of-two allowance originally slated at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The race proved popular with 21 entries but the composition of the fields remains in flux with the shift to the main track at the same distance.

Trainer Bob Durso has an entry of Stormy Ray and Flank Attack in the first division.

Flank Attack has stakes experience, having run fourth in a pair of Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-olds, the Tropical Park Derby at Calder and the Jersey Derby on the opening weekend at Monmouth.

Rarified, from the Alan Goldberg barn, has less seasoning but has shown steady improvement in each of his four starts. A closer who has responded well to added distance, Rarified drew off to a commanding seven-length maiden win at Philadelphia Park on May 20.

In the second division, Single Rainbow ships down from New York for trainer Phil Serpe in search of a softer spot.