06/12/2006 11:00PM

Lack of pace may hinder Shitaki

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Even though the turnaround is a little snug, trainer Alan Seewald said he expects another solid effort from Shitaki on Thursday at Monmouth Park.

Shitaki was second behind a runaway winner here June 3 on a sealed track. She returns on less than two weeks' rest to face seven rivals going a mile and 70 yards in the "long" division of the featured $47,500 first-level allowance races for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares. A six-furlong division will also be run.

"We're coming back on short notice, but she came out of the last race in good shape," Seewald said.

A 4-year-old, Shitaki makes her sixth career start Thursday, and Seewald said he feels she is poised for a big season, especially against statebreds.

"She had some problems as a 3-year-old," Seewald said. "There were some growing pains, nothing serious. She's probably better right now than she's been at any time."

Her major drawback: There is no speed in the race. As a closer, Shitaki is always at the mercy of the pace.

It's unclear who will dictate the pace, but the role could fall to Highland Lass, who was prominent throughout her seasonal debut May 20 at Monmouth while finishing second. She will be making her first start around two turns. Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading jockey, will be aboard for the first time.

The six-furlong division of this allowance pits Lady Carson M D against Lulu's Number in a battle of overpowering maiden winners.

Lady Carson M D scored a five-length victory on opening weekend, earning a 70 Beyer Speed Figure in her third start. She was 3-5 in that spot and figures to again draw strong support. Trained by Kelly Breen, Lady Carson M D will be ridden by Bravo.

Lulu's Number, a homebred for Patricia Generazio, scored a 12-length victory on May 27. Her 74 Beyer for that race equals Retainage for the best lifetime number in the field.

First works held over new turf course

The new turf course at Monmouth passed an important test Monday, when horses worked over it for the first time.

"All the riders came back raving about the new course," said trainer Tim Hills, who worked four horses Monday. "The big thing was that they all said it was consistent all the way around, something that the old course wasn't.

"The course really is perfect," he said. "It's lush, it looks good and healthy. No clods came up at all. Everything looks great."

The course, which will debut June 24, is the centerpiece of the renovations under way as Monmouth prepares to host the 2007 Breeders' Cup. The project fell behind schedule last fall during an exceptionally rainy October and the course was not ready for the start of this meet.

The next scheduled turf works, weather permitting, will be Friday, said racing secretary Mike Dempsey.

"Everything has gone very well," Dempsey said. "It couldn't be better. We've got nothing but rave reviews. We're on go for the 24th."