06/21/2001 11:00PM

Gone on Sheila's big adventure


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Michael Stidham has had the Ocean Hotel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the agenda for Gone on Sheila for nearly a month.

Gone on Sheila is one of the likely favorites in Sunday's Ocean Hotel, run at five furlongs on the Monmouth Park turf for 12 fillies. She has one win in her only try on the turf, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Fair Grounds on Feb. 26. Trainer Stidham has since been looking for an opportunity for Gone on Sheila to return to the turf.

"We've been shopping around for a good spot for her," Stidham said. "It is a long ship, but a good spot for her to get a stakes win."

Gone on Sheila, stabled at Arlington Park, has shown her versatility in four career starts - she won a maiden race and placed in the $100,000 Star Shoot at Woodbine, both on the dirt. She has been pointing for the Ocean Hotel since a sixth-place finish in an allowance at Churchill Downs over the main track on May 23. Jockey Joe Bravo gets the call.

Ben Perkins Jr. saddles the entry of Kidsarefun, who is supplemented for the race, and That's It Doc. Both are stakes winners on the dirt, and That's It Doc makes her first start for Perkins after moving from Charlie Harvatt's barn.

Linda Rice sends out Sparkling Numbers, who won a maiden race on the turf at Hialeah. She will be ridden by Jose Ferrer.

First Lieutenant eyes Skip Away

First Lieutenant suffered chipped ankles as a 2-year-old and nagging injuries as a 3-year-old. But now, the 4-year-old, trained by Phil Oliver, is nearing peak form and prepared to make some waves in the handicap division.

First Lieutenant worked an easy five furlongs in 1:03.00 Thursday, in preparation for his next start - either the Skip Away Stakes or the Suburban Handicap. Oliver is leaning toward the Skip Away Stakes on June 30, a much easier spot than Belmont's Grade 2 Suburban the following day, which is likely to attract Include, Albert the Great, and Unshaded. First Lieutenant will probably start in two, possibly three, races before his main objective: the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap here on Aug. 26.

"I don't know how good he is," Oliver said. "I think he's a pretty good horse, but we'll find out how good in the next few months."

First Lieutenant is 2 for 2 this year. He won an allowance here June 7 and at Keeneland in April.

United Nations draws 29 nominees

Nominations closed earlier this week for two of Monmouth's premier races: the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap and the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Handicap. Weights are to be released Sunday night for both races.

The United Nations, to be run July 1, carries a purse of $500,000 this year, the highest in the storied race's history. The U.N., a 1 3/8-mile turf event, has had among its winners a long list of turf champions, such as Round Table (1957), Dr. Fager (1968), Fort Marcy (1970), Manila (1986), and Steinlen (1990). Monmouth Park took in the U.N. in 1999 when Atlantic City Race Course could no longer host the race. The purse this year was raised from $350,000 to reinforce the race's importance among the nation's top turf stakes.

A total of 29 horses were nominated for the U.N. Trainer Bill Mott, the sole winner of Monmouth's runnings of the U.N., with Yagli (1999) and Down the Aisle last year, has nominated King Cugat and Subtle Power. Christophe Clement has nominated three horses: Craigsteel, Forbidden Apple, and last year's favorite, Honor Glide.

The timing of the U.N. is crucial this year. If starters in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont on June 9 can make it here on three weeks' rest, the race should come up strong. The top three finishers in the Manhattan - Forbidden Apple, King Cugat, and Tijyr - are all nominated for the U.N., which will be televised live on CBS.

The Molly Pitcher has once again drawn a strong list of nominations, 30 in all this year. The race will come into clearer focus concerning the ins and outs after this weekend, with the running of the Grade 1 Hempstead at Belmont. Most of the entrants in the Hempstead are also nominated for the Molly Pitcher, so those that don't run there will likely come to the Jersey Shore next weekend.

o Ready to Roll, the winner of the Battlefield Stakes on the grass June 10, worked out on Thursday. He breezed six furlongs in 1:18.00 on a fast track, his first workout since winning the Battlefield. The Dennis Manning-trained horse is nominated for the Grade 1 U.N.