06/19/2005 11:00PM

Morning Sky has found her groove

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Deja Puglisi/Equi-Photo
In her turf debut, Houseofroyalhearts (left) rallies from last to nose T.D. Vance in Sunday's Restoration Stakes.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - There is no easy explanation for the turnaround by Morning Sky, a 5-year-old mare who suddenly found herself this season. All five of her starts have been quality efforts, including a hard-fought allowance victory last time out.

Morning Sky tries for her second straight victory Wednesday in the $41,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Monmouth Park.

"She just turned around to where she's really trying," said trainer Joe Pierce. "I don't know what else to tell you. Miracles do happen."

Morning Sky is 1-3-1 in five starts in 2005. She was only 2-2-3 in her previous 17 races.

Morning Sky will switch surfaces after four straight dirt races. That diet of main-track efforts was not by design - two were races at Gulfstream Park that came off the turf.

"I'm an old-timer and I don't know much about numbers, but just on the face of everything, she is equal in both spots," Pierce said. "I don't think she favors one surface over the other. She's also an awful nice mare in the mud."

In her last race, Morning Sky fought for the lead right from the start. She was passed after battling her way to the front, but fought back to score a 1 1/2-length win with Stewart Elliott aboard.

"He rode her perfect," Pierce said. "There was no pace in the race. When another horse went by her, well, she likes to chase. You couldn't ask a rider to do anything else."

Elliott has the return call on Morning Sky, who equaled her career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 76 in the win.

Also running Wednesday is Cut Short, who in her two U.S. starts this season for trainer Christophe Clement has shown steady improvement in her Beyers. A 4-year-old filly, she won with an 82 Beyer on April 29 at Aqueduct. Most recently, she lost by a neck and earned a 91 Beyer on May 30 at Belmont Park.

Clement has been red-hot at Monmouth, with five wins from only eight starters. Leading rider Joe Bravo will ride.

The speedy Coherent should be the dominant pace factor in the race. A 5-year-old mare, she led through the first three calls in each of her last five races. In her season debut, she weakened to fourth after dueling for the lead at Monmouth on June 10. Jose Velez Jr. has the mount.

Taking dad to the races

Monmouth Park offers a number of promotions and special events throughout the summer, including live music, giveaways, and an antique car show. But nothing, aside from Haskell Day, works as well as Father's Day.

Sunday attracted a season-high crowd of 27,393, easily exceeding the 23,896 for Father's Day last year. It was the track's largest non-Haskell Day crowd in years.

Houseofroyalhearts shines on turf

Houseofroyalhearts really took to the turf in his grass debut, the $60,000 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth on Sunday.

Rallying from last in the seven-horse field, Houseofroyalhearts engaged T.D. Vance in a fierce stretch battle, eventually inching his way to a nose win.

A son of Chester House, Houseofroyalhearts came out of the race "perfect," according to trainer Robert Sise. It was the colt's third win in four starts.

"He's still improving," Sise said. "The jock said he was still green, that he didn't know when to start running. He's going to be a nice horse on the grass."

Sise said he has not scheduled Houseofroyalhearts's next race yet.

"We're going to take our time," Sise said. "He can run on the dirt, but he looks like a better horse on the grass."

Wildcat Heir starts comeback

Off since winning the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial in November, Wildcat Heir took his first step back with an easy three-furlong breeze in 38.80 seconds Saturday at Monmouth.

"It was an easy breeze, more like an open gallop," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "He tends to want to breeze fast. We've already put a lot of galloping in him."

It has been a frustrating winter and spring getting Wildcat Heir back to the races. He suffered a bruised foot in Florida and popped a curb in New Jersey earlier this year.

Perkins said he figures Wildcat Heir is about 30 days away from a race. The first major target is the $100,000 Teddy Drone on the Haskell Day undercard on Aug. 7. Wildcat Heir was second in the race last year. Beyond that, the longer-range mission is the Breeders' Cup Sprint, said Perkins.

"We got a little bit behind," he said, "so we'll have to do a lot between now and then."