06/10/2002 11:00PM

Fresh horses propel Hartmann to top of trainer standings


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Most of the names near the top of the Monmouth Park trainers' standings are familiar - Eddie Broome, Kevin Sleeter, Alan Seewald, and Tim Hills. One trainer who is new to the top, and enjoying every minute of it, is Mary Hartmann.

Hartmann had seven wins at the meet last year and has nearly matched that already with six wins this meet through last weekend. She is tied for the lead with Broome and Sleeter. Hartmann said this has been her best start to a Monmouth meeting. So what has been the difference this year?

"My horses were off all winter at James Crupi's New Castle Farm in Ocala, Florida, and they have come to the races real fresh," Hartmann said. "The farm did a great job with them and all I have done is put on the finishing touches."

Although Hartmann may be at the top of the standings for the first time, she is no stranger to success. Hartmann worked in Crupi's barn before going out on her own, and Crupi won training titles here in 1992 and 1993.

Hartmann's specialty this meet, and throughout the year, has been with maidens. For the year, she is winning at near a 50-percent clip with first-time starters. And with a barn full of New Jersey-bred maidens ready to run through their conditions, Hartmann is sitting on a big meet. Her barn is made up of primarily Jersey-breds, many of whom are 3-year-olds that have matured since last summer. Hartmann has 23 horses in the barn with a few more to come.

Hartmann's horses have also tasted success in New York. She saddled 2-year-old filly Milliondollarlady, a Florida-bred Ocala yearling purchase last August, to a third-place finish in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont last Thursday. Milliondollarlady, the top juvenile in the barn, previously ran in two three-furlong races at Gulfstream Park, winning once. The Fashion Stakes was a big jump up, and she did not disappoint.

"It was a very tough field and I wasn't sure how she would do," Hartmann said. "But I was thrilled with her performance. She came out the race super."

Hartmann said the Grade 3 Sorority on Aug. 25, the premier race for 2-year-old fillies at the meet, would be a goal for Milliondollarlady, but right now she is planning her campaign one race at a time.

Sea of Green prepping for return

Sea of Green, winner of the Rumson Stakes and second in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup last year, returned to the track Saturday for the first time in nearly four months. There were no signs of rust, as he fired a rapid three-furlong workout in 34.60 seconds, in hand, with jockey Chuck Lopez aboard. The workout was the second fastest of 15 at the distance.

"It was a little quicker than I wanted with his first time back to the track," trainer Janis Gerace said. "But he's looking pretty good and should be ready to run by July."

Sea of Green was an ultra-consistent sprinter last year as a 3-year-old, running in MATCH Series races on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. In the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup, he ran well behind Grade 1 winner City Zip and finished ahead of Grade 1 winner Songandaprayer.

Sea of Green was freshened up for his summer campaign at Gerace's farm in Vincentown, N.J. Gerace said she hasn't picked out a return spot for Sea of Green. While there are many stakes opportunities for 3-year-old sprinters at Monmouth, stakes sprints for older horses are not as plentiful.

Key Lory heads Oceanport field

This weekend will feature the Grade 3, $100,000 Oceanport Handicap, the first graded stakes at the meet since the Red Bank and Jersey Derby on Memorial Day weekend. The 8-year-old Key Lory, winner of the Red Bank and the Oceanport last year, will be seeking to extend his undefeated turf streak to five races.

At least eight horses are expected for the Oceanport. Crash Course, trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Croll, will be one of the toughest competitors for Key Lory. Crash Course won graded stakes at Gulfstream over the winter. Also set for the Oceanport are Full Flow, One Eyed Joker, Spruce Run, Szep, and either Navesink or Sardaukar from the barn of Alan Goldberg.

Probable starters for the race are Boastful and Cynics Beware.

Al Max Diner set to fire fresh

Al Max Diner has been firing quick workouts in the mornings, preparing for her meet debut in the eighth race Thursday, a two-other-than allowance feature.

Al Max Diner, trained by Ben Perkins Jr., won her maiden first time out last summer and then ran second to stablemate Forest Heiress in the Colleen Stakes. In her only start this year on Jan. 6, she ran third in the Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct. Eibar Coa rides Al Max Diner, the likely favorite, from post 2.

Completing the field are Lucky Baroness, Formal Dress, Storm in Philly, Joyeux Noel, Alexandra's Angel, and Talkin to an Angel.