06/26/2001 11:00PM

License Fee runs tough every time


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Her trainer doesn't think she's the best filly in the country, but License Fee gets a chance to keep one of the best streaks in the female ranks alive when she travels to Monmouth Park Saturday for the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap.

A winner of three straight graded stakes on turf and dirt, she will be the starting highweight in the 1 1/16-mile contest.

"It's been a fun ride for the last two years," said License Fee's trainer, Elliott Walden, of his versatile 6-year-old mare. "There's been lots of thrills, and she's always so consistent. I'm not going to go out and say she's going to win the Breeders' Cup. She's not the best filly in the country, but in spots like this one this weekend you've got to outrun her."

With the disappointment last weekend for Beautiful Pleasure in the Hempstead at Belmont, and with inconsistency the rule in the filly and mare ranks, License Fee's 16 wins in 42 starts puts her near the top of the division. She will likely spot four or five pounds to her rivals on the short list of likely entrants.

"This is one very good filly," said Walden. "I'm really proud of her. She's good right now. She places herself well in the race. She knows where the line is and she knows when to turn it on."

Jockey Pat Day, Walden said, "knows her. We won't get too cute. He just points her in the right direction and he knows she's going to show up with her best."

Main local competition for License Fee will likely come from Monmouth Beach Stakes winner Wittenberg. She will be one of three stakes starters over the weekend for the husband-and-wife training team of Phil and Vicki Oliver.

"She ran a big race last out," said Vicki Oliver, who trains Wittenberg for her father, G. Watts Humphrey Jr. "The Molly Pitcher has been on our calendar for a long time, and she should make a good showing. If she runs back to her last race she'll be right there."

Haskell purse: How high is up?

With word that Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Point Given is pointing toward the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5, Monmouth Park management is preparing to finalize plans for some sort of increase to the $1 million purse.

"We have three or four options that we'll be looking at over the next few days," said Bob Kulina, Monmouth's vice president of racing and general manager. "We're ecstatic about getting Point Given here. We just have to hope the racing gods continue to smile on us for the next few weeks."

Track officials have said that the purse could be increased to $1.5 million, but further purse enhancements could be on tap should Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos decide to come to New Jersey.

"We're already looking at a lot of money," said Kulina. "Some of the things we're looking at include more adjustments depending on the participants and what they did in the Triple Crown. We would probably make some kind of across-the-board increase. We want everyone to participate, and our focus now shifts to trying to put on a strong race."