09/16/2004 11:00PM

Jay's Wish set for peak try

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Jay's Wish has never been better, a fact that gives trainer Frank Costa confidence as the gelding gets his first stakes test Sunday in the $60,000 Friendly Lover Handicap at Monmouth Park.

The Friendly Lover at six furlongs attracted seven for the final stakes of the meet for New Jersey-bred horses and geldings.

Jay's Wish gets in light at 112 pounds with Michael Baze set to ride.

Jay's Wish hasn't been worse than fourth in five statebred allowance races this year, and the latest effort was his best yet. Breaking alertly from the outside post in an eight-horse field, Jay's Wish led every step for a two-length victory. He earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that makes him competitive in this spot.

"He's been running very good," said Costa. "He seems to be getting better with time."

The addition of Lasix two starts back helped. Jay's Wish lost by only a head in the first start on the medication and got the win last time out.

Jay's Wish, who has never raced outside of New Jersey, will face several established stakes campaigners, including Trueamericanspirit.

A 4-year-old gelding, Trueamericanspirit dominated the New Jersey-breds early in the meet, winning the John J. Reilly and Lincroft handicaps. He has tailed off lately, most recently running seventh in the Jersey Breeders Turf Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Trueamericanspirit, co-highweight in the race with Upturn at 120 pounds, will have Joe Bravo aboard for trainer Tim Hills.

Upturn, a $35,000 claim by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. at Belmont Park in May, has paid dividends with a win, two seconds, and a third in the four starts since the barn change. Eibar Coa will ride.

Our Wildcat (116), Dixie Two Thousand (114), Primo Nova (112), and El Progreso (109) round out the field.

Pocus Hocus heads Lighthouse field

Pocus Hocus is the mare to beat in a surprisingly tough $65,000 Lighthouse Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Pocus Hocus, who also has been entered in the Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont Sunday, has been a familiar figure at Monmouth this summer. Trainer James Jerkens twice shipped her down from his New York base for stakes engagements.

Pocus Hocus won the Monmouth Beach Stakes in mid-June and returned on Independence Day and ran fourth in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap.

She earned a 91 Beyer in the Monmouth Beach and an 86 in the Molly Pitcher. Bravo has the mount.

Pocus Hocus will be tested by Chrusciki and Twist and Pop.

Chrusciki registered a career-best 94 Beyer last time out in Monmouth's Lady's Secret Stakes on the Haskell Day undercard. This will be her second showdown with Pocus Hocus this meet. Chrusciki set the pace in the Monmouth Beach and yielded only in the final jumps to lose by a head. Stewart Elliott will ride.

Twist and Pop is another sharp New York claim by Dutrow that has thrived in New Jersey. He grabbed the mare for $22,500 at Aqueduct in early March. Twist and Pop has won three times since the claim, including Monmouth allowance victories in her last two outings. She earned Beyer figures of 87 and 86 in those wins. She will have Elvis Trujillo aboard.