08/05/2002 12:00AM

Maiden fillies have an eye on Sorority

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - With the 3-year-olds out of the Monmouth Park spotlight after the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last Sunday, the focus shifts to 2-year-old fillies on Wednesday as two divisions of a maiden special weight highlight the nine-race card.

The meet has produced some outstanding performances from juvenile fillies so far, with Mike's Wildcat debuting here before traveling to New York to win the Astoria Stakes at Belmont. Freedom's Daughter, who won her maiden impressively here, went to Saratoga and won the Grade 2 Schuylerville. And last Saturday, Forever Partners lay her claim as the most impressive juvenile filly this meet with an 11-length romp in the $50,000 Colleen Stakes, coming one tick off the 5 1/2-furlong track record.

Wednesday's two maiden races have the potential to produce starters for the Grade 3 Sorority here Aug. 25, the premier race for 2-year-old fillies at the meet.

In the first division, run as the first race, Advancing Storm is using the five-furlong maiden race as a prep for the Sorority. A $650,000 yearling purchase at the August Fasig-Tipton sales at Saratoga, Advancing Storm has been surrounded by high expectations. Trained by Ronny Werner, who has sent out the most juvenile winners this meet, Advancing Storm was sent off a 6-5 favorite in her Keeneland debut April 18. Beaten a nose in her debut, she returns off an extended freshening following some minor foot problems.

Werner said the Sorority has been the goal for Advancing Storm, a daughter of Storm Cat, for months, and her workouts over this track have been aimed to getting her ready for a start there. In her last workout July 30, a five-furlong breeze in 1:03.40, Werner said he tried to teach her to relax and establish a stalking style. Tommy Turner gets the call.

"She has that Storm Cat mentality; she's a hard fighter," Werner said. "She's had a few problems here and there, but she's back on track now. We've had aspirations of running her in the Sorority all along, and she needs this race as a prep for it."

Six other fillies, only one of whom has raced, are scheduled to go to the gate. Angel's Dowry, trained by Terri Pompay, ran third in her debut July 17 behind Skipper's Mate, third in the Colleen Stakes, and J's Crafty Cat, who starts in the second heat Wednesday.

Sparkling Blue, a $70,000 yearling purchase at Ocala last August, will be saddled by Mary Hartmann, who has been excellent this meet with horses making their first starts. Sparkling Blue has trained well up to the race, and as a daughter of speed sire Smoke Glacken, she should be gunning right out of the gate.

The second heat is the stronger division, carded as the fifth race, and the likely favorite is Wild Snitch. Trained by Ben Perkins Jr. and owned by New Farm, Wild Snitch hails from the same connections that sent out 2-year-old colt Wildcat Heir to a convincing maiden win and then a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga. Wild Snitch has fired three consecutive bullet workouts leading into the race, including a 47-second half-mile workout from the gate July 30. Eibar Coa will be aboard Wild Snitch from the outside post in a field of eight.

The Dennis Manning-trained Away to Go, a $67,000 purchase at the Timonium sale last month, and J's Crafty Cat are also heralded fillies who should contest Wild Snitch.

Puck injured in Haskell

Puck, who finished fourth in Sunday's $1 million Haskell but was eased after the finish, came back to the barn with inflammation in his right front ankle, trainer Bill White said Monday morning.

White added, though, that Puck was doing better Monday and would remain at Monmouth while tests are performed to gauge the severity of the injury. White said initial X-rays were negative.

"He's walking a little sounder this morning," White said. "We need to do some additional X-rays but he may have simply twisted an ankle."

Jockey Cornelio Velasquez told White the injury may have occurred at the half-mile pole during the Haskell, with Puck pressing one length behind War Emblem.

"He was staying within striking distance on the backstretch, and Cornelio said he was very willing and had a lot of horse," White said. "He bobbled slightly at the half-mile pole and at that point he wasn't into the bit. Cornelio sensed he had hurt himself, but he still persevered and tried."

Puck, winner of the Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes on July 13, will remain here while being evaluated. Whether it is a major or minor injury, White said, he will be given time off before considering his next start.

Like a Hero will go on to Travers

Like a Hero, third in the Haskell, came out of the race in great condition, trainer Beau Greely said Monday.

"He looked super this morning," Greely said. "Actually, that's one of things that impressed me the most, was how great he came out of the race."

Greely said Like a Hero, a late-running colt, suffered a bit from the small field reduced to five because of four scratches and the lack of a frontrunner to press War Emblem. Greely said Like a Hero should benefit from extra distance down the road.

Like a Hero will van to Saratoga from Monmouth Tuesday morning and stable there in preparation for the Grade 1 Travers on Aug. 24. The Travers is run at 10 furlongs, one more than the Haskell.

* Carlos Cruz suffered a lower back injury from his spill aboard Ana's Rainbow in Sunday's eighth race, but precautionary X-rays taken at Monmouth Medical Center were negative.

* Haskell winner War Emblem came out of the race in good shape, groom Roberto Luna said Monday. He was scheduled to fly back to California on Tuesday morning.