08/04/2004 12:00AM

Haskell undercard worth price of admission


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The $1 million Haskell is not the only large pot on the line Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Monmouth bolstered Haskell Day with six supporting stakes, each worth $100,000. It will be the richest undercard ever offered on New Jersey's biggest racing day.

Two of the stakes are Grade 3 turf contests, the Oceanport Handicap and the Matchmaker for fillies and mares.

Sprinters go in the Regret for fillies and mares and the Teddy Drone.

The Ocean Place is a one-mile turf event for 3-year-olds while the Lady's Secret features fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

The Oceanport, at 1 1/16 miles, pits Red Bank Handicap winner Burning Roma against Battlefield Stakes winner Megantic.

Burning Roma, a multiple graded-stakes winner on turf and dirt looks to bounce back from a tiring sixth in the Poker Handicap at Belmont Park.

"The course was very hard and he didn't like it at all," said trainer Heather Giglio. "He's got tender feet and they must have been stinging him. He didn't look like himself running, and he pretty much pulled himself up. He only got beat four lengths and when he came back, he wasn't even blowing."

Burning Roma tuned up for the Oceanport with a strong dirt work Tuesday, going five furlongs in 1:01. It was the fastest of 11 at that distance.

"He really worked good," said Giglio. "And he came out of it really well."

Megantic stepped up in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes last time out and did not disgrace himself. He rallied for fourth, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths by Request for Parole.

"He ran the race of his life in the U.N.," said trainer Norman Pointer. "He got the highest speed figure of his career."

Megantic earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in the 1 3/8-mile U.N.

The 6-year-old Megantic has been in peak form over his last three starts. He registered a Beyer Figure of 102 for the Battlefield victory and a 101 for a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.

Frisky Spider heading to the Ocean Place

Trainer Bob Durso followed Haskell developments very closely, always keeping the race in mind as an option for Frisky Spider.

"I had thought about running in the Haskell if the race fell apart," said Durso. "If Rock Hard Ten and Lion Heart weren't coming, I'd go."

With the big boys on target for the Haskell, Durso opted to keep Frisky Spider on the grass in the Ocean Place.

The challenge for Durso is getting Frisky Spider to relax. He used his abundant early speed to post a sharp front-running win in the Restoration Stakes on June 19 but was overly rank in the Choice Stakes, where he faded to fourth on July 10.

Durso will remove the blinkers in an effort to make Frisky Spider more relaxed.

To the Crowd debuts for Gill

To the Crowd, a recent claim by leading owner Michael Gill, debuts for the new barn in Friday's $43,000 turf allowance feature for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf.

Weather permitting, To the Crowd will be making her grass debut following a $40,000 claim from trainer Allen Iwinski.

"It looks like a good spot," said Gammy Vazquez, who trains Gill's Monmouth division. "I just don't know about the grass."

Kiss Me Katie has a solid turf record with two wins and a second in three grass races. She most recently ran fourth in an off-the-turf allowance race at Colonial Downs.