07/03/2003 11:00PM

Monmouth: Gators N Bears lasts

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Gators N Bears held off a determined stretch rally from Mt. Carson Friday afternoon at Monmouth Park to win the Grade 3, $97,250 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup.

The win capped a grand day for New Jersey-breds racing in open company. Earlier on the holiday card, Jersey Giant and Sea of Tranquility, the only New Jersey-breds in the race, finished one-two in the $60,000 Skip Away Stakes.

Gators N Bears, owned and trained by Leo Nechamkin II, scored his first stakes victory in the Jersey Shore, a six-furlong stakes race for 3-year-olds. Bred in New Jersey by the late Bob Camac, Gators N Bears closely tracked a very fast pace set by Only the Best. Jockey Chuck Lopez made a well timed move on the turn, letting Gators N Bears open up a wide lead on the pack.

Gators N Bears held a 4 1/2-length advantage at the top of the stretch. Only Mt. Carson, last in the field of six with a quarter-mile to go, took up the chase.

With each jump, Mt. Carson and jockey Ramon Dominguez ate into Gators N Bears's lead and the cushion quickly dwindled.

The wire arrived in the nick of time for Gators N Bears as he held on by a half-length. Mt. Carson simply ran out of racetrack. Don Six, who broke a step slowly, finished third.

Gators N Bears ($16.60) completed the distance in 1:09.80.

In the winner's circle, Nechamkin paid tribute to Camac.

"I'm just sorry Bobby Camac isn't here to see to see this," he said. "He bred this horse. We bought him from his estate and I'm just glad that I could bring his thoughts to fruition."

In the Skip Away, Jersey Giant ($7.80), ridden by Julian Pimentel and trained by Jim Ryerson, outdueled Sea of Tranquility by a half-length. It was almost 10 lengths back to Beware Avalanche in third.