06/22/2004 11:00PM

Jersey determined to bring in Smarty


OCEANPORT, N.J. - It has been a good week for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority in its quest to lure Smarty Jones to its racetracks.

Trainer John Servis indicated New Jersey could have a shot at a Smarty double: the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 8 at Monmouth Park and the Pegasus Handicap on the opening weekend at The Meadowlands in early October.

"I talked to John [Servis] this morning," said Bob Kulina, vice president of the NJSEA, on Wednesday. "He will look to breeze the horse in eight to 10 days and if the horse does well, there is a strong possibility the Haskell will be on his agenda."

The Haskell would be Smarty Jones's first start since suffering the first career loss in the Belmont Stakes.

"If he comes and runs in the Haskell, it will be the biggest day in the history of New Jersey racing," said Kulina.

The next objective would be the Grade 2, $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 6 at Philadelphia Park, where Smarty would get a hero's reception from the hometown fans.

The longer-range goal remains the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

Smarty Jones will probably need a race between the Pennsylvania Derby and the Breeders' Cup. Enter the Pegasus, dropped last year due to budget cuts.

The Meadowlands will slot the Pegasus, at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds, on the opening weekend of the meet that starts Oct. 1. The Meadowlands Cup, a 1 1/8-miles handicap, will go the following weekend as a fallback position if Smarty can't make the Pegasus.

The Pegasus, which had been worth $250,000, will likely carry a bonus provision to elevate a Smarty Jones victory into the $250,000 to $500,000 range.

"We have some dollars to play with and we will have a purse that warrants a champion," said Kulina.

Past history indicates the NJSEA will do everything and anything to lure Smarty Jones.

"We will make this work," said Kulina.

The NJSEA has gone the "extra mile" to lure top runners in the past. Examples include:

* Boosting the 1987 Haskell purse to $500,000 to draw Alysheba for an epic showdown with Bet Twice and Lost Code. Bet Twice was the winner in what is widely regarded as the greatest Haskell.

* Shifting the date of the 1988 Meadowlands Cup to accommodate Alysheba when weather scrambled trainer Jack Van Berg's plans. Alysheba got the victory as a stepping-stone to a Breeders' Cup Classic win.

* Increasing the distance and purse of the 1998 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth to snare Skip Away. He won the race that was extended a sixteenth to 1 1/8 miles with the purse doubled to $500,000.

* Dropping the 1997 Meadow-lands Cup and using the money to inflate the Pegasus to $1 million to attract Touch Gold. Behrens won that night as Touch Gold finished last in the four-horse field, well beaten as the 2-5 favorite.

* Paying appearance fees to trainers to bring top contenders to the Haskell.

Holiday weekend stakes

Balto Star, last year's winner, tops the list of 27 nominees for the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on July 3.

The U.N. starts an Independence Day weekend that also features the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares on July 4.

Balto Star scored a stunning front-running victory last year under Jose Velez, Jr. at 37-1. The 6-year-old gelding most recently finished second by a head in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 22.

Others considered likely to run in the 1-3/8 mile turf race include Megantic, winner of Monmouth's Battlefield Stakes earlier this month, and Rochester, second in Grade 3 races in his last two starts - the Elkhorn at Keeneland and the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Bobby Frankel nominated five: Epicentre, Gigli, King's Drama, Nothing to Lose, and Vangelis.

The Molly Pitcher, at 1 1/8 miles, attracted 17 nominations.

Probable runners include Pocus Hocus, winner of the Monmouth Beach Stakes, and Final Round, who won the 2003 Grade 3 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Social Security heads feature

The consistent Social Security will be the one to beat in the $41,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares going six furlongs on Friday.

Trained by Joe Pierce, she has won three of her last four, working her way up from a $16,000 claiming tag to allowance winner.

She faces five rivals: Niblick, Deacon Lake, Paint it Black, Gulf of Gdansk, and Winner Takes All.