10/26/2007 12:00AM

Miserable weather leaves track waterlogged

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - The Breeders' Cup arrived at Monmouth Park on Friday. The rain, regretfully, did not leave.

It was a raw, miserable day for the first day of the inaugural two-day Breeders' Cup, with persistent rain that soaked a main track and a turf course already waterlogged from rain in previous days.

The ongoing wet weather here, coupled with a grim forecast for Saturday morning, led Monmouth Park to announce to trainers on Friday afternoon that the main track would be closed for training on Saturday morning, the second day of the Breeders' Cup.

Preventing training in the morning is designed to put less wear and tear on the track in advance of the day's racing.

"We want to keep the track sealed," said Bob Juliano, Monmouth Park's superintendent and director of facilities, who left the track sealed for racing on Friday. "We're probably going to get a good inch of rain [Saturday] morning, but it's supposed to clear out by 1 p.m. or 2."

The main track was listed as muddy for racing on Friday, then was changed to sloppy midway through the day. It yielded times near normal going two turns, and slightly faster than par in sprints. The day's first race, for 2-year-old maiden fillies going six furlongs, was run in 1:09.62, while the second race, for maiden 2-year-old males, went in 1:09.12 for six furlongs.

Jockeys who returned from races on the main track looked as though they were competing in the Mud Bowl. And while some horses did not appear to care for the mud, the surface was holding up well.

"The footing's fine," jockey Robby Albarado said after the seventh race.

Juliano said the track is sealed overnight every night. "And then if there's no rain, we open it up at 4 a.m.," he said. "If there's rain, we leave it sealed."

At 2 p.m. Friday, Juliano said he thought the turf would be listed as good for the first turf race Friday, the Epitome Breeders' Cup, whose post time was 3:15. "But it'll probably be downgraded to yielding after that," Juliano said.

However, by the time the Epitome was run, the turf already was downgraded to yielding.

The Epitome winner, Sea Chanter, ran one mile in 1:39.21.

"The footing's good," jockey Garrett Gomez said midway through the card. "There's a lot of water on it. They're going into it, but the footing's good."

As opposed to the main track, which can be sealed, Juliano was helpless to do anything with the turf.

"There's nothing we can do for the turf but let nature take its toll," Juliano said.

Nature took its toll on the crowd. Fans understandably huddled under the grandstand. Those who had seats in covered areas were cold yet dry. The thousands of outdoor, temporary seats set up for this event were largely abandoned.

On the apron in front of the grandstand, there were large sections of folding chairs - eight to a row, 12 rows to a section, a total of 96 seats per section. When the fifth race, the Inside Information Breeders' Cup, was being run, just five patrons occupied the four sections, or 384 seats, closest to the finish line.

The temporary bleachers on the clubhouse turn did not have one single soul sitting in them, braving the elements.

Windows offering shelter in enclosed areas fogged up, forcing patrons there to watch races on closed-circuit television.