07/27/2003 11:00PM

Home field edge to Perkins


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Wednesday kicks off a very interesting week of racing for trainer Ben Perkins Jr. at Monmouth Park.

Perkins will run the unbeaten Unforgettable Max in the Wednesday's featured $39,000 allowance race.

Sunday, Perkins swings for the track's biggest prize, the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, with Max Forever.

Perkins expressed ambivalence about a Haskell bid following Max Forever's victory in the Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes.

While the Long Branch serves as Monmouth's traditional Haskell prep, Perkins had reservations about sending a horse with one graded stakes victory into battle against the likes of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Blue Grass winner Peace Rules.

The closer the race, the stronger the Haskell pull and Perkins opted to take the plunge.

"We're local guys," Perkins said. "We've got the local horse. He's won over the track, so we'll take our chances."

Perkins, who trained Storm Tower when he finished second in the 1993 Haskell, likes the way Max Forever is coming up to the race.

"He's training great," Perkins said. "He ran a great race in the Long Branch. We know he likes the surface."

Max Forever, the only locally based horse pointing toward the Haskell, has a record of 2-1-0 in four starts at Monmouth.

The convenience of no shipping is an alluring factor in the decision. So is the monetary consideration.

"The Haskell is a huge purse," Perkins said. "That's reason enough to stay home and try to pick up a check."

Perkins could be in line for a major check with Unforgettable Max.

The colt made his debut last August at Monmouth amid considerable fanfare. Favored at 1-2, Unforgettable Max romped to a 4 1/2-length win under a hand ride from jockey Eibar Coa. His next and most recent race was an allowance win over Aqueduct's inner track last December.

Unforgettable Max has been training sensationally for his return, earning bullets in his last three drills. The clockers caught him in 58.80 seconds for five furlongs in the fastest of 45 drills in his most recent work, July 20.

Completing the field are Something Smith, Areyouamused, Vow, Wacky for Love, and NJ Devil.

Jersey Giant to Iselin

Vinemeister and Jersey Giant, the top two finishers in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile Saturday, both exited the race in good shape.

Trainer Alan Seewald will look for another stakes or an allowance race for Vinemeister following the colt's first graded stakes victory. Seewald will try to find a race no longer than a mile and 70 yards for Vinemeister, ruling out Monmouth's Grade 3, $200,000 Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles Aug. 23.

Trainer Jim Ryerson has circled the Iselin for Jersey Giant, an improving New Jersey-bred who rallied for second in the Salvator, a game effort on a speed-favoring track.