10/24/2007 11:00PM

Hoping for nature to cooperate

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - At the end of every racing day during Monmouth Park's traditional summer season, patrons exit to the soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra singing "Summer Wind."

Oh, how they may long for those days on Saturday, when Monmouth plays host to second of two days of the 24th Breeders' Cup. According to The Weather Channel, the summer wind won't come blowin' in from across the sea. The only thing that may linger there to touch your hair is the rain from a storm. Although the high temperature is forecast to be 70 degrees, there is an 80-percent chance of rain on Saturday - with thunderstorms - following a Friday that also called for an 80-percent chance of rain.

This Breeders' Cup might be wet and wild.

The forecast left officials of Breeders' Cup, Monmouth Park, and the track's owner and operator, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, hoping for the best, yet soberly realistic about what they faced.

"We're off the turf today," Dennis Dowd, the senior vice president of racing for the authority, said Thursday morning as he patrolled the stable area at Monmouth Park. "The Europeans are used to turf like this. And this new turf course does drain."

Monmouth installed a new turf course for its 2006 season. Chris DeCarlo, who rides regularly at this track, on Thursday morning said it won't become a bog "unless they get five inches of rain."

"They won't go into it as much as they do at Belmont," Decarlo said. "But it'll be soft."

Demi O'Byrne, who represents the powerful Coolmore team of John Magnier and Michael Tabor, found himself facing the same predicament as three weeks ago in Paris, when their Dylan Thomas slogged through a soft course at Longchamp in the Arc de Triomphe. Having won that race, Dylan Thomas is seeking to become the first Arc winner to capture the Breeders' Cup Turf.

"The latest forecast looks like a bugger," O'Byrne said Thursday morning.

This is the first Breeders' Cup to be held at Monmouth, which traditionally races in the summer. It is conducting a special four-day meeting this week, concluding Saturday, to play host to the Breeders' Cup.

This is also the first Breeders' Cup that will have 11 races spread over two days. Three new races - the Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile - were to be run on Friday, with eight more on Saturday. On Saturday, there are three stakes preceding the Breeders' Cup races, with first post time at 11 a.m. Eastern. The first Breeders' Cup race, the Juvenile Fillies, is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., with the last, the Classic, at 5:35. In between, in order, are the Juvenile, Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, and Turf.

All eight Breeders' Cup races will be televised live on ESPN in a seven-hour telecast beginning at noon.

As of Thursday morning, there were three scratches from Saturday's Breeders' Cup races - Cry and Catch Me in the Juvenile Fillies, Dixie Chatter in the Juvenile, and Attila's Storm in the Sprint.

Because this is one of the smaller facilities at which the Breeders' Cup has been held, seating was pre-sold. There are no walk-up tickets available. Monmouth closed its lovely picnic area in the upper stretch to put in temporary seats and bleachers to try and accommodate demand. There also are temporary bleachers on the clubhouse turn. All those bleacher seats, and those along the apron, are uncovered. The combination of less seating to begin with, plus the likely inclement weather, could affect the attendance.

Those who brave the elements will see a terrific lineup of horses in eight Breeders' Cup races, concluding with a $5 million Classic that could decide Horse of the Year.

In addition, Eclipse Awards for horses are likely to be determined in several divisions, and trainers and jockeys could see their Eclipse Award hopes rise or fall depending on the day's events.

Trainers Steve Asmussen, Carl Nafzger, Todd Pletcher, and Barclay Tagg all have outstanding chances to win at least two races. If any can get a double - and the championships that come with them for their horses - he could get an Eclipse Award himself.

Similarly, a big day by jockeys Robby Albarado, Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, or John Velazquez could prove vital with Eclipse Award voters.

Joe Talamo, a cinch to be named the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice for 2007, is seeking to become the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race. Talamo, 17, is aboard the unbeaten Nashoba's Key, who is the morning-line favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf.