06/14/2006 11:00PM

Monmouth cards turf race

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Monmouth Park will hold the first race over its new turf course on Sunday, almost a full week ahead of schedule.

The racing office will put up an "extra" race for Sunday for $25,000 claimers going 1 1/16 miles. Monmouth's racing secretary, Mike Dempsey, expects strong interest when entries are taken Friday.

"There are a lot of grass horses waiting to run," Dempsey said. "This is one of our most popular categories."

After the Sunday race, Monmouth will wait until

June 24, the original course debut date, to fully resume grass racing.

The new $6 million course is the centerpiece of renovations at Monmouth as it prepares to be the site of the 2007 Breeders' Cup.

Monmouth offset some of the turf void by scheduling three all-turf cards on consecutive Mondays at The Meadowlands. The first, scheduled for June 5, was rained out, but an eight-race card on June 12 went as planned. The third is to be June 19.