09/23/2004 11:00PM

Filly stakes, jumpers highlight Shore finale


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Monmouth Park season ends Sunday with a stakes on the flat and one over the jumps.

The New Jersey circuit shifts north to The Meadowlands Racetrack starting Friday night with first post set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

The final racing fling on the Jersey Shore is an 11-race card topped by the $60,000 Just Smashing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs and the Grade 2, $75,000 Metcalf Memorial Steeplechase at 2 1/2 miles over National fences.

Storm Minstrel, a winner of 2 of her last 3, makes her stakes debut in the Just Smashing following an impressive allowance win at Saratoga.

Storm Minstrel overcame a bump at the start to rally three wide for a head victory over Ambition Unbridled. Ambition Unbridled came back to win Monmouth's Candy Eclair Stakes on the turf in her next start.

Trained by Mark Hennig, Storm Minstrel got a Beyer Figure of 87 for her latest victory, equalling her highest figure.

"We've got a lot of 3-year-old fillies and we're trying to get them stakes placed," said Robbie Rader, who trains Hennig's Monmouth division. "We're running out of opportunities."

Storm Minstrel has started to mature, Rader said.

"She's learned how to run," he said. "She used to just go to the lead and you'd hope she could hold on. She's learned in her last three races that she can sit back and make a run."

Leading rider Joe Bravo has the mount.

Breeders' Cup Steeplechase prep

Steeplechasing returns to Monmouth for the first time in more than a decade with the Metcalf, the last prep for the Grade 1, $175,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase on Oct. 23 at Far Hills, N.J.

Top contenders include Tres Touche, winner of the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga; Sur La Tete, who makes his first start in open company after winning two-thirds of the Steeplechase Triple Crown for novice jumpers; and 9-year-old stakes winner Pelagos.

Tres Touche recently passed $500,000 in jump earnings, becoming the eighth U.S. steeplechaser to reach that level.

Under jockey David Bentley, Tres Touche will carry top weight of 158 pounds.

"His biggest forte is jumping," said Bentley. "He gets lengths at his hurdles. You probably don't realize it watching, but if you get a length at each fence, it adds up."

Monmouth last ran a steeplechase event in 1992 and was the home of the Midsummer Hurdle Handicap from 1951-86. The Metcalf was a fixture at the Monmouth County Hunt Races until that meet was discontinued in 1995.

Ryerson intends to separate top 2-year-olds

Trainer Jim Ryerson is blessed with two talented 2-year-olds in Park Avenue Ball and Doctor Voodoo.

Park Avenue Ball most recently won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park and will aim for the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 9.

Doctor Voodoo captured his first stakes Wednesday in Monmouth's Rockhill Native, drawing away to a 7 1/2- length win in the six-furlong race. Doctor Voodoo took a major leap forward with an 87 Beyer after posting Beyers in the 60's in his previous four outings.

"The way he ran that race was a surprise to me," said Ryerson.

Ryerson does not have a spot picked out for Doctor Voodoo but he plans to keep his two stakes-winning 2-year-olds apart.

Meadowlands safety remains an issue

The condition of the main track at The Meadowlands remained a hot topic of conversation on the Monmouth backstretch as the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association called a special meeting Friday morning.

"The issue is: Do we have a surface safe for jockeys and horses?" said Dennis Drazin, the general counsel to the NJTHA, who chaired the meeting.

The NJTHA formed a five-member committee of trainers Dennis Manning, Frank Generazio, Bob Durso, J. Willard Thompson, and Terri Pompay to review the texture of the track prior to opening night.

Some recent samples of the track showed large numbers of pebbles and stones.