10/19/2004 11:00PM

Hawthorne is likely next stop for Toll Taker


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Go west, young filly.

Hawthorne Race Course will likely be the next destination for Toll Taker following her victory in the Grade 3 Astarita Stakes last Sunday at Belmont Park.

Trainer Tim Hills has a number of options for the 2-year-old, who is coming off her third straight dominant sprint win. The $100,000 Showtime Deb Stakes for Illinois-breds on Nov. 13 is the front-runner.

"It's pretty definite we'll go for that, if she's still training well," said Hills. "For $100,000, it's such a slam dunk."

After the Illinois detour, Hills will take Toll Taker to Florida for the winter. Hills envisions Toll Taker stretching out next season and projects her as a possible Kentucky Oaks contender.

"She's real tall, leggy, and growthy," said Hills. "I'm thinking she needs an opportunity to grow."

The Astarita win also moved Hills closer to the stable's goal of winning 100 races this year. He had 88 victories through Tuesday.

"I've got more than two months to go, so I should be able to get 12 more wins," said Hills, the leading trainer at Monmouth Park this summer. "Hopefully, we'll keep it going."

Farro leads trainer standings

The wins, according to Mike Farro, just fall into place.

If that is the formula, it has worked well so far, lifting Farro to the top of the trainer standings at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

Farro, who handles the New Jersey division for his wife, Patricia, led the way with 6 wins from 21 starters through the Tuesday afternoon card. Steve Klesaris, Alan Seewald, and Todd Pletcher were right behind with five each.

"We're just getting lucky at the right time, I guess," said Farro. "The horses just like the track. We've got horses that fit the conditions."

Farro won't go out of his way to get a first Big M title.

"We're just going to run them where they belong," said Farro. "We're not going to change anything to try for that."

When the Big M season concludes on Nov. 13, the Farros will consolidate their horses at Philadelphia Park for the winter.

Choose back in sprints after fading

Choose, who last ran in Monmouth's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, returns Friday night in a six-furlong allowance race.

Thrown in against Lion Heart and My Snookie's Boy in only his fourth career start, Choose contested the Long Branch pace for a half-mile before fading badly. He was beaten 27 lengths.

"We caught a little Haskell fever," said Pat McBurney, assistant trainer to John Forbes. The Long Branch is the traditional prep for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.

Choose went to the sidelines after the Long Branch with a flare-up of an old ankle inflammation.

Choose, who started promisingly with wins at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth, returns at the distance where he had early success.

"We're going back to sprints because he stopped so badly going long," said McBurney. "He's bred to go long on the turf, but we need to start him back short."

McBurney said the Big M's six-furlong Rushing Man Stakes for 3-year-olds on Nov. 6 could be Choose's next stakes engagement.

* The Big M Friday night card will go with only one stakes: the Grade 3, $200,000 Violet Handicap. The other two stakes on the calendar, the $65,000 Long Look for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles and the $60,000 King Bold Reality at 5 1/2 furlongs, did not fill.