07/22/2003 11:00PM

Grand Hombre takes next step


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The enormously talented but largely untested Grand Hombre puts his unbeaten streak on the line Friday afternoon at Monmouth Park.

The 3-year-old heads the featured $39,000 allowance race at 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Dennis Manning once harbored hopes of running Grand Hombre in Monmouth's Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational

on Aug. 3. A training schedule disrupted by continuous rain at the start of the meet and the horse's lack of seasoning persuaded Manning to follow a less aggressive schedule.

Grand Hombre is making only his third career start, following a maiden score at Gulfstream Park on March 8 and a confident Monmouth allowance victory on June 29.

"He's training very well," Manning said. "This spot is far enough away from the last race so it fits the schedule really well."

The allowance race represents a developmental step for a horse with strong upside potential.

"He's had a race over the track and he has two-turn experience," Manning said. "He's doing very well."

Grand Hombre, with Carlos Cruz aboard, faces five rivals: Sir Ray, Double Chocolate, Honky Tonk Dance, Mudslide Slim, and Sledge.

Haskell field shaping up

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide tops the roster of likely Haskell runners.

Trainer Barclay Tagg shipped the gelding to Saratoga on Monday and will probably delay the trip to Monmouth until race day.

Other Haskell probables include Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes winner Peace Rules, WinStar Derby winner Excessivepleasure, the New Jersey-bred Kool Humor, and Congrats, a recent allowance winner at Belmont Park.

Possible Haskell runners are Sky Mesa, who ran third in the Dwyer at Belmont in his seasonal debut, and Ohio Derby winner Wild and Wicked.

'Tranquility' seeks third Salvator

Sea of Tranquility and his quest for a unique place in Monmouth Park stakes history highlight the weekend action.

On Saturday afternoon, the 7-year-old will try to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Salvator Mile for the third straight year.

Only Peanut Butter Onit, the stakes record holder with a time of 1:34.40 in the 1991 renewal, and Sea of Tranquility have recorded consecutive victories in the stakes, which dates back to 1948.

Sea of Tranquility began his roll in 2001 with a powerful move on the turn to beat Hal's Hope and Thistyranthasclass. His win last year was not as decisive: Sea of Tranquility was awarded first after First Lieutenant finished first but was placed third for interference.

The race also offers Sea of Tranquility a rematch with Jersey Giant. The two New Jersey-breds met in Monmouth's Skip Away Stakes on July 4, with Jersey Giant prevailing by a half-length. The next-closest pursuer trailed the top two by

9 3/4 lengths.

Jersey Giant heads into the race on a roll. He has won all three starts this year and five of his last six overall.

Other expected runners include Bowman's Band, a 5-year-old veteran closing in on $600,000 in career earnings; Highway Prospector, from leading owner Michael Gill; and Vinemeister.

Mike Melendez, Monmouth's stakes coordinator, listed Docent and Run to Victory as possible Salvator runners.

Rain, rain, go away

The new week got off to a wet start.

A wave of thundershowers, which started Tuesday and continued overnight, pushed the two grass races on Wednesday's card onto the main track.

Training took place on the sealed strip Wednesday morning, but the maintenance crew harrowed the strip and left it open for the start of racing.

The track was labeled sloppy for the first race, but the rapidly drying strip was much closer to "good."

Trainer makes steady recovery

Monmouth trainer Bertrand de Brevedent continues to make a steady recovery from a heart attack he suffered July 12.

"He is on a limited schedule," said his wife, Jennifer Burke, who serves as a Monmouth television analyst. "Right now he can work 3 1/2 hours a day."

In de Brevedent's absence, Burke took over as manager of his 10-horse stable.

An assistant trainer to Christophe Clement for 10 years, de Brevedent went out on his own in 2001.

The best tonic for the recovering trainer has come from his horses' performances on the racetrack.

"The two wins since the heart attack have been the best medicine," Burke said.