06/12/2005 11:00PM

Feature split into divisions

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The one-mile turf allowance feature Wednesday at Monmouth Park proved so popular that the race office split it into a pair of nine-horse divisions each worth $41,000.

Gadget Man tops the first division, the sixth race.

A 4-year-old gelding, he has a record of 1-2-1 in five Monmouth grass starts. He switches back to the turf today for trainer Joe Pierce after two dirt allowance races this meet.

Rises the Phoenix is another horse shifting back to the grass. He won three straight races for New York-breds at Aqueduct over the winter and spring for trainer Jason Servis.

Rises the Phoenix gained some grass experience last fall. He debuted on the turf at Monmouth, where he finished eighth, then rallied for a third-place finish in a race at The Meadowlands.

Clerpark, in contrast, has made all three starts this year on grass. He is one of the top contenders in the other division, the eighth race.

Both career wins for the Todd Pletcher-trainee have come on grass.

Clerpark is a horse who likes to stalk the pace. He lost all chance last time as the favorite at Keeneland when a bump at the start knocked him off his game.

"He was with us at Palm Meadows over the winter," said assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta. "He put in some really nice works on the turf."

Clerpark had an easy half-mile work in 50.40 seconds on Saturday at Monmouth.

"He seems okay," Sciametta said. "Everything seems in good order."

Watch Pletcher and Ready to Talk

Fantast, a winning first-time 2-year-old filly from the Pletcher barn earlier this meet, paid a very generous 6-1.

Expect a shorter price Wednesday when stablemate Ready to Talk debuts in a similar five-furlong maiden special.

Ready to Talk, who has been training at Monmouth since May, has shown ability in the morning.

"This filly works really well from a pole and that shows me she's a runner," Sciametta said.

She has not done as well from the starting gate, a potential problem. So is the rail.

"We just got to get away from there with the one-hole and hope for the best," Sciametta said. "She does train like she's a nice little filly."

Yukon Be Great is the only filly in the field with experience. She ran sixth in her May 30 debut at Philadelphia Park.

Ryerson braces for Afleet Alex

Jim Ryerson watched the Belmont Stakes with more than a passing interest as Afleet Alex scored another impressive win.

Trainer Tim Ritchey will now point Afleet Alex to the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 7.

Ryerson's Park Avenue Ball could be waiting there for the rematch.

The two colts met once before in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Afleet Alex rallied to finish second, a half-length behind Proud Accolade. Park Avenue Ball was never a factor, finishing fifth, 15 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Park Avenue Ball won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park last fall and has not run since finishing second by a length to Preakness runner-up Scrappy T in Aqueduct's Withers Stakes at the end of April.

Ryerson takes the fact that Scrappy T went on to finish second in the Preakness as a positive.

"Scrappy T showed he's a fairly fast horse," Ryerson said. "I don't think it puts us in that league, but it gave us some encouragement."

Park Avenue Ball continues to train at Monmouth where he worked six furlongs on Sunday in 1:15.40.

Ryerson said "we are hoping to make the Long Branch", Monmouth's traditional Haskell prep on July 16.

Afleet Alex most impressed Ryerson with his ability to make the transition from a precocious 2-year-old winner of the Sanford and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga to a classic runner.

"There are so few horses who are dominant 2-year-olds at Saratoga that have been dominant 3-year-olds in the Triple Crown," Ryerson said. "To be able to do it over that span is very, very rare."

* The general membership meeting of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association last week produced three nominees for president of the organization: Dennis Drazin, the NJTHA's legislative counsel and trainers Bob Durso and John Forbes.

Members will receive ballots in the mail by July 15 with the tally taking place on Aug. 29.