07/05/2002 12:00AM

Determined vets get Gerosa back on track


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Gerosa has always shown a world of potential, but serious injuries have plagued this talented 5-year-old his whole career. With his gutsy victory Thursday - his first race in more than one year - the undefeated Gerosa may finally be past his problems and have the opportunity to consistently display the talent he has flashed in his few starts.

More than one year ago, the connections of Gerosa were unsure that he would ever race again. Gerosa, owned by the Phantom House Farm partnership and trained by John Forbes, started his career as a 3-year-old with two consecutive victories and seemed to have a bright future. But he suffered a fractured cannon bone in September 2000, and surgery was done to repair the fracture. When Gerosa returned to the races June 10, 2001, he won again, but came out of the race with a recurrence of his injury.

Forbes said a number of veterinarians concluded that Gerosa would never be able to race again. But instead of heeding that advice, Forbes said he consulted Dr. Jackie Shellow in Miami, who referred him to Dr. Dean Richardson of the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. When Dr. Richardson examined Gerosa, he decided to redo the surgery. The first screw from the initial operation was not fully in place. Richardson replaced it with a new screw. The operation was successful and with Gerosa's victory Thursday, he seems fully recovered.

Forbes said the work of Dr. Shellow and Dr. Richardson, along with local doctor Dr. Bernie Dowd, is responsible for Gerosa's successful return.

"They're the reason he's back," Forbes said. "He's a testimony to the work of veterinarians, who don't get a lot of credit, and the people that own him that have stuck with him through the end."

Gerosa, a son of Cherokee Run, resumed training at the beginning of the Monmouth meet and was working strongly for his return. Forbes said there were anxious moments trying to get him fit off such a long layoff. But on Thursday, Gerosa was clearly in racing shape and showed a whole new dimension by winning from off the pace.

In the 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance, Gerosa rated in third in the five-horse field through most of the backstretch. Turning for home under jockey Eddie King, he dropped back along the rail and seemed to be out of the race. But at the top of the stretch, Gerosa kicked back into gear and battled gamely to the wire to edge out Pounding by a nose.

"He was a touch green and Eddie said he was paying more attention to the horses around him," Forbes said. "But once Eddie found room and kicked through, he just took off."

Forbes said the most important thing with Gerosa's return was not that he won, but that he came out of the race in great shape. With that in mind, Forbes said they have penciled in either the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 27 or the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap on Aug. 18 as possible starts for Gerosa.

"I don't think any of us have seen how talented he is yet," Forbes said, adding that Gerosa "just has a heart of gold."

Perkins has good young talent

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. has a solid 2-year-old division every year, but this year's crop of colts is probably the best he has had in recent years.

Wildcat Heir, a full brother to stakes winners Forest Heir and Forest Heiress, was an impressive first-time winner when he romped to his maiden victory June 26 with a

94 Beyer Speed Figure. Sunday, the highly acclaimed Max Forever, a $200,000 2-year-old Ocala Breeders' Sale purchase in February, makes his debut.

Max Forever, a son of Montbrook owned by Raymond Dweck, has impressed everyone who has been watching his workouts throughout the meet. He was put in training here before the meet started, and in nine workouts leading up to his debut he has fired two bullets.

Off his impressive debut, Perkins said he is considering Wildcat Heir for the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga on July 25 or the Grade 3 Sapling here Aug. 10. He said the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga at the end of the meet is a long-term goal for the

2-year-old Wildcat Heir, owned by New Farm.

Joe's Son Joey looks tough

Joe's Son Joey has emerged as one of the top turf sprinters in the country this year, and his second-place finish in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine in his last start validated that. He was clear two lengths at the eighth pole, but jumped a shadow and was eventually beaten a length by Nuclear Debate, also a heralded turf sprinter from California.

Joe's Son Joey, trained by Tim Hills, won the Turf Monster at Philly Park two starts back and should be a heavy favorite in Sunday's undercard feature, the $50,000 John McSorley Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs.

- On Friday's card, Hills won three races in four starts, the first trainer to do achieve that feat this meet, to take a strong lead in the trainer standings with 15 wins.