06/07/2001 11:00PM

El Mirasol el choice in Battlefield

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - In Sunday's $75,000 Battlefield Stakes, a prep for the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap July 1, the horse for the turf course is El Mirasol. A 6-year-old, El Mirasol - stabled here in the barn of John Forbes - has put together solid races in Florida preparing for Monmouth, where he scored his last victory, in the Bet Twice Stakes on June 17, 2000.

"He's a hard-hitter," Forbes said. "He's had his problems, but he's a tough old horse."

El Mirasol, owned by Gil Thompson and Jim Velsor, ran second to top turfer North East Bound in last year's Battlefield Stakes, on Haskell Day. The race was moved to Sunday, three weeks before the Grade 1 U.N. El Mirasol ran third in two stakes at Gulfstream this winter - the Grade 2 Appleton Handicap and the Equalize Stakes for Florida breds. In the Appleton, El Mirasol was only beaten a half-length.

The horse to watch in the Battlefield is Runspastum, a 4-year-old Woodman colt trained by Alan Goldberg. Runspastum last ran in the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap here May 28, thirteen days before the Battlefield. Runspastum was blocked throughout most of the stretch run, and finally mounted a late surge for show. If he runs to the same form Sunday without the traffic trouble, he will be hard to beat.

Bill Mott, who won five turf stakes last year, sends out the 4-year-old Rob's Spirit, a Grade 3 turf victor as a 3-year-old.

North East Bound works

North East Bound, possibly the best horse stabled on the grounds, worked out Tuesday, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.2. "It was what I was looking for," trainer Bill Perry said.

North East Bound's latest race was a disappointment, as he finished sixth in the Grade 2 $200,000 Dixie Handicap on Preakness Day, on the lawn. Previously, he had won the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile on the turf at Keeneland April 13.

"For whatever reason, I don't feel like he ran his race that day," Perry said.

Last year North East Bound - owned by Julian DeMarco and Richard DiSano - won the Grade 3 Oceanport and the Battlefield Stakes on the turf at Monmouth. He has shown his versatility on both grass and dirt surfaces, but is now focused on the turf.

His turf preference emerged in a huge way on Nov. 4, when he missed pulling off a major upset in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile on the grass. He raced on the lead and was barely nailed at the wire by War Chant.

According to Perry, North East Bound will likely run next in the Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park on June 16, a $300,000 race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 on turf.

"I would like to run him at this meet," Perry said. "But I'm not sure if there is a spot that fits him."

o Sunday's $50,000 Spend A Buck Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf gives the 10 horses entered a shot at a breakout race on turf. One of the horses who has shown a preference for turf is Spruce Run. Trained by Linda Rice, Spruce Run is 2 for 2 on the Hialeah turn this spring, winning his maiden and an optional claiming allowance.