08/04/2005 11:00PM

Much better spot for Spruce Run

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Spruce Run should find the distance and the company more to his liking in the Grade 3, $150,000 Oceanport Stakes after running in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, Monmouth's premier grass stakes.

took a big leap in class in the United Nations, and the 1 3/8 miles of the race was a reach, since he seems most comfortable at a mile to 1 1/16 miles, which is the distance of the Oceanport.

"We wanted to try him one time at a long distance, and there aren't many opportunities to run that long here," said Sam Randazzo, who trains Linda Rice's Monmouth division. "This is obviously a distance more to this liking."

Spruce Run was a game second in the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap, his other race this season at Monmouth. He set the pace in the Red Bank over a soft course and figures to be on or very close to the pace in the Oceanport, as well.

"His style is more of a stalker if the pace is quick," Randazzo said. "If the pace is slow, he can have the lead."

That is what happened in the United Nations, in an odd sort of way. Shake the Bank, who was entered as a rabbit to assure pace for his stablemate, Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now, opened up a lead of 15 to 20 lengths - so far in front that he seemed to be in another race. Spruce Run was the leader of the rest of the pack, a role he played until fading to sixth in the lane.

"He was the false speed," Randazzo said of Shake the Bank. "We were the true speed. That was a very aggressive spot against a horse that won a Breeders' Cup."

didn't have much luck in stakes races last year. He steadied in traffic in the Grade 2 Fourstarsdave at Saratoga and in the Grade 3 Cliffhanger Handicap at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

Hotstufanthensome was most recently an easy front-running winner in Monmouth's ungraded Elkwood Stakes over a yielding course.

"He's a horse that loves Monmouth," said trainer Norman Pointer. "He loves a soft turf, too."

gets another crack at Hotstufanthensome after finishing second to him the last two times out.

The field also includes Ay Caramba, an allowance winner at Churchill Downs who gained a place in history as Pat Day's last winning mount.

Also in from Churchill is G P Fleet, who missed by a neck last out in the Opening Verse Handicap, and Everything to Gain, who rallied to score by four lengths in an allowance July 10.