08/28/2001 11:00PM

Forest Heiress: a Perkins ace


Oceanport, N.J. - Ben Perkins Jr. is poised to defend his leading trainer title in this final week of racing at Monmouth, and will try to use the biggest race of the weekend here to help close the deal.

The Perkins-trained Colleen Stakes winner Forest Heiress will be the likely top choice Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sorority for 2-year-old fillies. She will be looking to build on one of the most powerful performances of any horse this summer when she took the Colleen by 6 1/4 lengths and pushed her record to 2 for 2.

"We were kind of disappointed with her first race," said Perkins of Forest Heiress's debut, which came during a sudden thunderstorm. "It looked like she was stopping, but we figured it might just have been the wind and the storm that got to her. I knew she would run much better than that."

Al Max Diner, a barnmate of Forest Heiress and runner-up to her in the Colleen, and Ghost Wrestling, third in the Colleen, were also nominated to the race, but Al Max Diner is expected to try the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and Ghost Wrestling finished second in an allowance at Saratoga on Wednesday.

Others expected for the Sorority include Divine Angel, who has a victory and two other in-the-money finishes over the track for trainer John Tammaro III.

From Saratoga, trainer Todd Pletcher will enter two-time allowance winner Purple Princess, while Steve Asmussen could send recent maiden winner Goodness. Allen Iwinski will enter Haunted Lass, winner of the Everget Stakes at Delaware. Jeff Bonde will give Miss Jeanne Cat her first East Coast start, following her stakes win at Bay Meadows and fourth-place finish in the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Perkins is in a three-way battle for the title with trainers Willard Thompson and Tim Hills. Perkins's strength this meet has been with young horses.

"We've been having some fun with it at the barn," said Perkins. "It's going to come down to who gets what horses in the races. I've got bunch of horses to enter. Willard has a bunch of horses to enter. I think we've got about five or six that are legitimate. Our younger horses are coming up to their races ready to go. They would have been entered whether we were going for the title or not. It's going to be fun, and we'll just see who gets their horses in."

Thompson, who started the week tied with Perkins with 26 wins, is looking for his first title since topping the standings in the 1975, 1976, and 1977 seasons.

Hills picked up his 24th win of the meet Wednesday, but had an edge in money earned, mostly on the strength of Cousin Gigi's win in the Grade 3, $100,000 Eatontown Handicap on the Haskell undercard. Hills finished second to Perkins last season.

* Eibar Coa holds a comfortable lead at the top of the jockey's standings over Chuck C. Lopez. Coa was expected to contend for the title with Joe Bravo, but has pulled away since Bravo broke his leg in a spill here in July.

* Victor Carrero will likely take the top apprentice crown. He is comfortably ahead of Julian Pimentel and Jorge Duarte Jr., but all three may be closer at the Meadowlands, where the nation's top apprentice, Jeremy Rose, is also scheduled to ride.