09/30/2003 11:00PM

Jersey Giant taking next step up for Ryerson

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Jersey Giant helped make the summer of 2003 an enjoyable one for trainer Jim Ryerson.

A 4-year-old gelding bred in New Jersey, Jersey Giant emerged as a major threat in open company, winning the Skip Away and Skip Trial Stakes at Monmouth Park. Jersey Giant also raced well in a pair of Grade 3 stakes, running second in the Salvator Mile and a strong third in the Iselin Handicap to finish one length behind the winner, Tenpins.

"He's done everything we could have asked," said Ryerson. "We had a feeling he'd be better this season. He closed out last year well and we thought he had a chance to take the next step. To run these races against horses like Tenpins has been a surprise and made for a happy summer."

Now comes an even bigger challenge: tackling Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi on Friday night in the Grade 2, $400,000 Meadowlands Cup.

"Volponi, his last year speaks for itself," said Ryerson. "He's run against top company this year. He's run hard, he's run well. He's the horse to beat. Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves and run like we've been running. The challenge for us is to run there the races he's run at Monmouth."

Jersey Giant turned in an exceptionally fast work in preparation for the Meadowlands Cup, zipping six furlongs at Monmouth on Saturday morning in 1:09.40.

"He was keyed up before the work, and the track was very fast," said Ryerson, best known as the developer of Meadow Flight and Unbridled's Song. "I'm happy it was a week out. He worked a little faster than we would have liked, but he's come out of it fine."

Ryerson hopes familiarity with the track and the short ship from Monmouth Park to the Big M will help Jersey Giant.

"He's won up there last year, so he's familiar with the track and the lights," said Ryerson.

Barn change for Bowman's Band

The desire by owner Martin Schwartz to keep Bowman's Band in the New York metropolitan area was a major factor in the trainer change from Maryland-based Michael Matz to Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens.

Bowman's Band makes his debut for Jerkens in The Meadowlands Cup.

"Allen likes to stay in the area," Schwartz said. "My hope is Allen is such a legend that he can take him up one more level. Michael did a wonderful job. We had a slight disagreement over where we would campaign and I wanted to be in the metropolitan area."