07/14/2003 11:00PM

Florida invasion a hit for locals


OCEANPORT, N.J. - New Jersey-based horses and horsemen had a big impact last weekend at Calder's Summit of Speed.

Trainers Tim Hills and Dennis Manning each won a stakes, and "Jersey" Joe Bravo rode both winners.

Hills won with Joe's Son Joey in the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint, and attributed the success to the abundance of five-furlong grass races run at Monmouth and The Meadowlands.

"Certain categories are very competitive here," Hills said. "This is one of the hotbeds for sprinting on the turf. You don't get many classic distance horses here, but the sprints are a category people build up.

"The main thing about New Jersey racing is that it's a very nice place to develop a horse. The atmosphere is nice and the facility is superb for bringing along young horses. The track is safe and they have a good program here."

Hills will shop for another turf race for Joe's Son Joey, preferably a graded stakes, at a distance up to a mile.

Manning also scored with Valid Video on the main track in the Grade 3, $300,000 Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds.

That win capped a perfect day for Bravo, who found everything falling perfectly into place.

It started with an upgrade to first class on the flight to Florida and a brand new rental car with only six miles on the odometer, and concluded with two horses primed for victory.

"You got two horsemen right there that really take care of their business," Bravo said. "You look at Tim Hills and Dennis Manning, they get the best out of their horses. They're there every morning at the crack of dawn. They may not have million-dollar horses, but they get the best out of these $20,000 to $30,000 horses. They beat the big dogs."

Bravo and Hills team up again Thursday afternoon with Catalina Cat, who runs in the seventh race, a filly-and-mare turf allowance going 1 1/16 miles.

Catalina Cat is a 3-year-old

Tabasco Cat filly who makes her Monmouth debut. She has run five times on the grass, posting one win among her four in-the-money finishes.

She most recently rallied for second in the Oakley Stakes for Virginia-breds at Colonial Downs.

Danse de Sable will likely be the favorite. An Irish-bred filly, she began her career in Europe with a win and a third in three starts.

The 3-year-old Danse de Sable has had one race to become acclimated to the United States, a sixth-place finish in a 1 1/4-mile turf allowance at Belmont Park. The shorter distance should help, as will the touch of trainer Patrick Biancone, who posted victories with three of his first four runners at the meet.