08/23/2007 11:00PM

Hesse favorite may scratch

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The $135,000 Charles Hesse Jersey Breeders Handicap, for New Jersey-breds, tops the fifth annual New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

The program comprises 10 races, including three stakes, exclusively for New Jersey-breds. A fourth stakes, the Eleven North for filly and mare sprinters, did not fill and will not be rescheduled.

Fagedaboudit Sal will be the one to beat in the 1 1/16-mile Hesse, provided he runs. He has emerged as the dominant New Jersey-bred going long, and has already defeated statebreds this meet in the Bernie Dowd and Lincroft handicaps.

But trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. had reason for concern Friday morning when the 4-year-old grey colt started coughing.

"This is a very important race for me, and the horse has been doing good," Carvajal said. "We took him to the track this morning and he coughed a little bit. It has me worried. I don't want to run the horse if he is coming down with something."

Fagedaboudit Sal always had good early speed. This season, he has learned to carry that speed all the way to the finish wire.

"He has matured," Carvajal said. "He's a very particular horse. He needs to have everything go his way."

Chuckie Lopez has the return call.

"The horse has natural speed, and Chuckie is a very good rider on the lead," Carvajal said. "I don't have to tell Chuckie too much when the race comes up. He knows what to do."

If Fagedaboudit Sal can't make the race, Carrots Only would likely inherit the role of favorite. He chased Fagedaboudit Sal the entire stretch in the Lincroft on the Haskell undercard, making only a small dent in the winner's final margin of 2 1/4 lengths.

"The track was like a highway for that last race," said John Mazza, trainer of Carrots Only. "We were catching him, but not fast enough. Speed wasn't backing up. I don't think the track will be as fast as it was that day."

Mazza also hopes a little more distance - 1 1/16 miles in the Hesse instead of one mile and 70 yards in the Lincroft - favors Carrots Only.

Chris DeCarlo picks up the mount.

Friendly Lover: Trio of top sprinters

The $110,000 Friendly Lover brings together three of the leading New Jersey-bred sprinters for the six-furlong dash: Joey P., Who's the Cowboy, and Hey Chub.

Joey P. and Who's the Cowboy both wound up trailing the impressive Talent Search in his 6 1/4-length romp in the open Teddy Drone Stakes here on Aug. 8. The 5-year-old Who's the Cowboy, winless in four starts this year, rallied to get third.

"We ran into a really fast bunch last time," said owner Gerry Sleeter.

Who's the Cowboy will have a new jockey, with Pedro Cotto Jr. replacing Eddie King Jr.

"We wanted to try something different," Sleeter said. "Eddie didn't do anything wrong. We just decided to make a change."

Joey P., fourth in the Teddy Drone, has already won two stakes at the meet: the Decathlon against open company and the Colts Neck Handicap for statebreds.

Joey P. is part of an entry with John's Pic. Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading jockey, was named on both halves of the entry.

Hey Chub makes his third start of the meet and first since finishing three-quarters of a length behind Joey P. in the Colts Neck on July 4. Trainer Jamie Woodington kept the 7-year-old Hey Chub in the barn, waiting for this spot.

"The Teddy Drone came up awfully close to this race," Woodington said. "It was very, very hot. I didn't think it was the best option.

"We just trained him on his regular program. He knows how to run. You just keep him happy."

Joanne McDaid has the return call.

The Friendly Lover will be an important test for Charley's Diamond. Trained by Kate Demasi, Charley's Diamond has won three straight allowance races here, the last two against open company. Lopez rides.

* Blues Cat, an easy third-level allowance winner in the slop at Philadelphia Park last time out, makes her stakes debut in the $110,000 Jersey Girl Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

* The afternoon also includes a Jersey Shore food fair, a crab cake cook-off, and a giveaway of folding chairs, the popular item that lured a record 72,745 paid admissions to Saratoga earlier this month.