06/20/2001 11:00PM

Max's Pal is controlling speed


OCEANPORT, N.J. - In Saturday's $75,000 Longfellow Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, a small field will have to catch Max's Pal.

The running style of Max's Pal is no mystery. He will use his speed to control the six-furlong sprint. A 4-year-old son of Marquetry, Max's Pal is a dominant 10-1-0 in 13 starts at the distance and comes off a runaway victory in the James B. Moseley Handicap on June 2 at Suffolk Downs.

Max's Pal won five of six races last year, with two wins and a place at Monmouth. He is owned by Raymond Dweck, trained by Ben Perkins Jr., and reunites with jockey Rick Wilson after a 3-race absence. The likely favorite, Max's Pal is primed for the start: he worked four furlongs in 47.80, the fastest of 54 workouts, last Saturday. He will carry 122 pounds.

Looking to collar Max's Pal is I'm Sentimental and Iron Punch. Both have shown enough versatility to be on the front end. I'm Sentimental has been the model of consistency this year: he has five wins in six starts, with his only poor effort a sixth-place finish in an Aqueduct allowance. He took an optional claiming allowance here May 31 and has been preparing for this race since. I'm Sentimental will carry 122 pounds with Eibar Coa in the saddle. Coa rode the horse in three consecutive wins at Gulfstream Park earlier in the year.

"He rarely has a bad day," trainer Tim Hills said. "He has been on the lead before, and he has come off the pace. Eibar Coa knows the horse, and he's a smart rider. The most instructions I will give him are 'good luck.' "

Iron Punch, who will be ridden by Joe Bravo, has the back class in the Longfellow. He defeated a top-notch group of sprinters in the Grade 3 Philadelphia Breeders' Cup Handicap last year and started in the Grade 2 Forego and Grade 1 Vosburgh. He hasn't started since Dec. 18 and hasn't won since the Grade 3 score on July 29. Guadalupe Preciado trains the 7-year-old Iron Punch for owner Ronald Perozzi.

The other starters are: Loaded Gun, Personal First, and Markus.

Loaded Gun, a 6-year-old trained by Janis Gerace, will be ridden by Roberto Alvarado. He was second to cross the wire in last year's Longfellow to runaway winner Delaware Township, but was disqualified and placed fourth.

Jesus Castanon gets the call for Personal First, the winner of last year's Grade 3 Amsterdam for trainer David Paulus.

Markus, third in the James B. Moseley at Suffolk, will carry 117 pounds and jockey Ryan Barber. He is trained by Michael Aro.