08/12/2008 11:00PM

Grasshopper headed to to Iselin


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Add Grasshopper to the lineup for the Grade 3, $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Neil Howard confirmed Wednesday that the 4-year-old colt, who competed in three straight Grade 1 races, will be heading to the Jersey Shore for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Most recently, Grasshopper was a distant third, beaten 13 1/4 lengths by Commentator, in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

"If he runs the same race as the Whitney, it should suit him well," Howard said.

Grasshopper made a splash last summer with a game second in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He has only one win since then, the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds in early February.

Monmouth's stakes coordinator, Mike Melendez, also expects Gottcha Gold, last year's Iselin winner; Kiss the Kid; either Actin Good or Cuba from trainer Bobby Dibona; and Five Steps.

Shopton Lane is also a likely entrant following his pacesetting win here in the July 26 Skip Away Stakes, the Iselin prep.

Trainer Bruce Levine kept the 4-year-old at Monmouth all summer with the Iselin as a possible target.

"You think about it," Levine said. "I don't like to set goals. You have to take it a race at a time. He ran well the last time."

The concern for Levine is timing.

"The only question mark is that the race is a little close for him," he said. "He likes a little bit more time. But for $300,000, I can bend my rules a little bit."

Pleasant Strike is a possibility for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Juveniles go on the grass

Two-year-olds hit the turf in Saturday's supporting feature, the $60,000 Continental Mile.

Trainer Kathy Mongeon is looking forward to running Rogersville following a miss by only a head in his debut at one mile on the grass at Colonial Downs.

"With a scratch, he wound up in the one hole," Mongeon said. "They had to unload everybody when somebody got hurt. Then they loaded everybody back, and I'm thinking he's falling asleep in there. But he broke on top."

Jockey Rafael Mojica Jr. got Rogersville settled into fourth before taking the lead turning for home.

"He was a little green," Mongeon said. "When he took the lead, he didn't know what to do with it. He head-bobbed all the way to the wire. It was a real game effort."

Which should set him up nicely for this race.

"He's been the distance on the turf, so we've got to take a shot," Mongeon said. "And he's improved off that race."

Star Player goes for third straight

Star Player carries a two-race winning streak into the $40,000 first-level allowance feature on Friday at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

After scoring a maiden win on the grass at Monmouth, Star Player captured an off-the-turf starter allowance in the slop on opening day at Saratoga.

The 3-year-old's Beyer Speed Figures have been steadily rising, peaking at an 83 last time out.

"The horse is going the right way," said trainer Chad Brown. "He's pretty versatile in that he can run on either surface. Timing-wise, this race looked pretty good."

Star Player will reunite with Jose Lezcano, who was aboard for the maiden win.

Start date for steroid tests uncertain

The New Jersey Racing Commission budgeted $460,000 for steroid testing starting in 2009, with $360,000 targeted to purchase equipment.

There is no target date, however, for starting a testing program at the state's racetracks.

"We anticipate implementing a steroid testing program sometime during the fiscal year," said Frank Zanzuccki, the commission's executive director. "We don't know exactly when that is going to occur."

Before testing can begin, the commission must adopt regulations, buy the test equipment, hire technicians, and resolve an ongoing dispute with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association over testing procedures and steroid penalties.

"If, by chance, we do not have steroid testing in place at the conclusion of the fiscal year, there would be a surplus in the testing account for that amount of money which could be used for other purposes, or applied to steroid testing in 2010," Zanzuccki said.

The commissioners, who met Wednesday morning at Monmouth, approved the entire commission budget including the steroid testing. It totaled $9,647,000, an increase of 1.3 percent over 2008.

In other actions, the commission approved revisions to this year's fall Thoroughbred schedule.

The Meadowlands abandoned the three all-turf days slated for Sept. 9, 16, and 23. They were replaced by Sept. 3 at Monmouth and Nov. 5 and 12 at the Meadowlands.

- additional reporting by David Grening