06/03/2004 11:00PM

Gill ready for grass or dirt


Rain is in the forecast for the weekend, which means Sunday's featured race at Monmouth Park, the $55,000 Crank It Up Stakes, could be switched from the turf to the dirt. Either way, Mike Gill seems to have all his bases covered, as usual.

Gill, who led the nation last year in both money earned and races won, owns both Cape Trafalgar, a four-time winner on the turf who will go if the race remains on the grass, and Forest Music, who is entered for the dirt only. On the grass, Cape Trafalgar could be a slight favorite. If the race is indeed moved to the main track, Forest Music would be an overwhelming choice.

"Cape Trafalgar is a small filly, but she's been training really well of late," said Mark Shuman, the filly's trainer on the East Coast.

Cape Trafalgar was claimed in February out of her last start by Nick Canani, Gill's trainer in California, but has not had a start since that race. "She acts like she's a runner," said Shuman

The main competition for Cape Trafalgar in the five-furlong Crank It Up, which drew 10 entrants and four also-eligible runners, figures to come from Black Escort, a European turf-sprint specialist who will be making her U. S. debut for trainer Graham Motion, and Lulua, who won her last two starts at the Fair Grounds, both at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

Should rains force the Crank It Up to the main track, it will be interesting to see how many rivals remain in the race to face Forest Music. She comes off a game score in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes in her latest, registering her first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure since her maiden win.

That impressive maiden win prompted her connections to try her in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but she stopped badly there, and then failed in two subsequent starts against much lesser. Her latest effort, however, signals that she's back in top form.

"I'd like to run her in the Prioress," Shuman said of the July 3 race at Belmont Park, "and I have the intention of finding her a race in between. The timing of this is good, but if she doesn't run, then I may just train her up to the Prioress."

The Crank It Up is the ninth of 10 races on the Sunday card. Post time for the first race is 12:55 p.m.