07/21/2004 11:00PM

Grinch more than just horse for the course

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Grinch has an affinity for Monmouth Park.

A daughter of Salt Lake, Grinch has raced here twice this meet and scored impressive allowance wins both times.

Grinch will attempt the next step, to a stakes victory, in the $60,000 Serena's Song on Saturday at Monmouth.

The Serena's Song is the mile and 70-yard prep for Monmouth's premier race for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks on Aug. 15.

Trainer Joe Orseno believes there is more to Grinch than simply a filly with a home-field advantage.

"I don't think it's this track," said Orseno. "She's always had the ability. She's a big filly that's maturing and developing, and I took my time with her and let her come into her own."

Grinch, who has won 3 of 7 career starts, will again be ridden by Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading jockey.

Orseno expects another big effort.

"I just think she's right, right now," he said. "She's run very well and she'll get a stiffer test on Saturday."

Tempting Note, ridden by Stewart Elliott, should be one of the key challengers in her first start since February at Aqueduct.

She had a pair of second-place finishes in the Busanda and the Nijana over the Big A's inner track. Tempting Note had the misfortune to run against Island Sand, who went on to win the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, in the Busanda.

"She trained great coming up to that race," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "We thought she was going to win and we were a little disappointed, but look who beat her. You don't normally run into many Acorn winners in January at Aqueduct."

Misfortune continued to dog Tempting Note at Monmouth. Perkins had planned to run her sooner except for an accident in the barn.

"We planned to run her on the opening weekend, but a loose horse ran into her in the barn," said Perkins.

Tempting Note sustained a gash on her leg in the incident, which delayed her return until Saturday.

"It was nothing major but it set us back a month," said Perkins.

Uphill Skier makes rare appearance on grass

Perkins will have a busy stakes afternoon Saturday as he also sends out Uphill Skier in the $60,000 Spruce Fir, a handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares that offers a rare opportunity for statebreds to run on turf.

Uphill Skier and Out of the Will are the 120-pound highweights in the one-mile race.

Uphill Skier, a 4-year-old filly by Appealing Skier out of a Kris S. mare, will be making only her second grass start.

"We wanted to try her on the turf," said Perkins. "She has the breeding to run on the turf."

Uphill Skier made her turf debut last time out against open company in Monmouth's five-furlong Betsy Ross Stakes. She ran evenly to get fifth.

Out of the Will won a five-furlong open allowance on grass at Monmouth in her most recent outing. She is trained by Tim Kelly.

Firecard, entered for the main track only, and Picnic Theme are next on the scale at 119 pounds.

Picnic Theme most recently finished third against open allowance company in the mud.