06/15/2003 11:00PM

Finally, chance to try turf


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The logjam of stakes horses denied turf racing opportunities by the soggy weather breaks slightly Wednesday afternoon in the featured $50,000 money allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

The field of nine includes several horses who were entered for the Red Bank and Oceanport handicaps and remained in the barn when those races shifted to the main track.

This marks the fourth time this meet that trainer Phil Oliver has entered the Irish-bred Autonomy. He hopes the 6-year-old finally gets to run here.

"Everyone is so backed up with turf horses that they're running horses where they can," Oliver said.

Autonomy could be a horse for the Monmouth turf course. He won all three of his starts over it last meet, including the Battlefield Stakes.

Oliver thinks the season more than the surface contributed to that success.

"He seems to do well in the summer," Oliver said. "At the end of last year he was tailing off after a hard summer. It makes it look like he does better at this track but the timing just might be right."

The field includes a number of proven grass runners. Revved Up won the Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park in August. Emergency Status captured last year's Jersey Derby at Monmouth. Run to Victory rallied for third in the Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico. Crash Course won the Cliff Hanger Handicap at the Meadowlands last fall. Strategic Partner finished third in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream. American Freedom beat New Jersey-breds on grass in the Lincroft Handicap.

No excuse for Burning Roma

Trainer Heather Giglio had no explanation Sunday morning for why Burning Roma ran so poorly in the $100,000 Oceanport Handicap the previous afternoon.

"He didn't look good to me running," Giglio said. "Just the way he was moving, he didn't look all that great. So far today, he's all right. He just didn't run. It happens some times."

When Joe Bravo called on Burning Roma for run, he had no response. He finished a well-beaten fifth as the 3-2 favorite, and Bravo wrapped up on him when it was clear he would not factor in the outcome.

Giglio plans to look for a turf spot for Burning Roma's next start.