05/28/2004 12:00AM

First Lieutenant back on dirt


OCEANPORT, N.J. - First Lieutenant has never been the luckiest horse.

Injuries have limited the 7-year-old to only 21 career starts. When he has run, misfortune has often been his companion. He was disqualified from a victory in Monmouth's Grade 3 Salvator Mile in 2002, and wound up in a traffic jam in the 2003 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

First Lieutenant will try to improve his luck with a change of surface for the $70,000 Frisk Me Now Stakes, a one-mile race on Sunday at Monmouth Park. He returns to the main track for the first time in eight races.

"His best races in the past have been on the dirt," said trainer Vicki Oliver. "He's always run well on this surface, so we're just going to give it a try. We'll see if he can still run against this company at age 7."

First Lieutenant will get competition from the Michael Gill contingent. Gill, a record-setting owner at last year's meet, entered a trio: White Buck, My Request, and English Harbour.

Will all three run?

"I don't know yet," said trainer Gamaliel Vazquez. "Mike does the handicapping. He will decide if he wants to run them all or wants to run some."

Pretty Wild, Vinemeister, Cool N Collective, and Unforgettable Max complete the Frisk Me Now field.

Lavender Baby leads Fort Monmouth

The Sunday card also includes the $60,000 Fort Monmouth Stakes for fillies and mares going one mile on the turf.

Gill has a solid contender in Lavender Baby, who set the pace in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day at Pimlico before finishing seventh. It was her first start following a claim at Fair Grounds.

"She ran a big race in the Gallorette," Vazquez said. "Something spooked her at the eighth pole. She ducked out really bad."

Lavender Baby is a versatile runner, an advantage when breaking from post 13.

"She doesn't have to be in front," said Vazquez. "She can do it both ways, either in front or coming from off it. She's a useful filly to have."

Oliver will saddle Party Queen in the Fort Monmouth. The mare lost a turf allowance race at Keeneland by only a neck in her most recent effort.

"I think she was back to her old form back at Keeneland," said Oliver. "I think she should have won the race, except she got stopped down the backside. That cost her the win. I hope she can repeat that in the stakes. If she can, she'll be tough."

Boulmetis, longtime racetracker, has retired

Sam Boulmetis, a fixture at Monmouth Park for more than 50 years, has retired.

Boulmetis had served as a steward since 1969, when he concluded a riding career that earned him a plaque in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Boulmetis, 76, won four riding titles at Monmouth: 1949, 1953, 1955, and 1956.

"I thought it was time," said Boulmetis, who lives in nearby Rumson. He will serve as a backup official and plans to remain active in the Jockeys' Guild.

Retirement means more time for fishing and an upcoming three-week vacation in Ireland with his wife, Bebe.

Monmouth will always have a fond place in Boulmetis's heart.

"It was very enjoyable," he said. "It wasn't like it was even work. The only time it was like a job was when you had to punish someone."

Steve Pagano replaces Boulmetis as chief state steward. Jimmy Edwards, the 1975 Eclipse Award winner as the top apprentice jockey, moves from the Monmouth race secretary's office to join Harvey Wardell as associate stewards.

Rain knocks all but Red Bank off turf

A downpour Friday morning affected Saturday's opening card. Monmouth had carded three turf races, but only the Grade 3, $100,000 Red Bank Handicap remained on the grass.

The $55,000 Gilded Time Stakes for 3-year-olds at five furlongs and a filly-mare allowance were shifted to the main track.