06/24/2003 11:00PM

Officials race to fill out field for Molly Pitcher


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Monmouth Park racing office scrambled Wednesday morning to round up runners for Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Stakes coordinator Mike Melendez had only three firm commitments for the 1 1/8-mile contest for fillies and mares: Summer Colony, Enjoy, and Alchemilla.

Summer Colony will carry top weight in the field at 120 pounds. The assignment is one pound more than she had in last year's Molly Pitcher, when she ran second to Atelier.

Summer Colony, a multiple stakes winner, holds the distinction of pinning the lone career loss on Azeri, the reigning Horse of the Year, in last year's La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita.

Enjoy, weighted at 114 pounds, comes east from California for trainer-owner Beau Greely. She ran second to Azeri in her most recent outing, the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 24.

Alchemilla, trained by Shug McGaughey, captured the Affirmed Stakes in the slop on the Belmont Stakes undercard. She will carry 113 pounds.

Among the horses being considered for the Molly Pitcher, which closes Thursday, include Wild Spirit, Forest Secrets, Winning Chance, and She's Got the Beat.

The Molly Pitcher will be part of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Summer Pick 3 series, which covers three stakes at three different tracks. The Molly Pitcher, with a post time of 5:44 p.m. Eastern, will conclude the wager following the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park and the Arlington Classic at Arlington Park.

The three races can be seen on CBS-TV starting at 5 p.m. It will mark the first television coverage, local or national, of a Monmouth race this season.

Sun lets grass racing resume

Turf racing returned to Monmouth on Wednesday for only the third day in this rain-soaked meet.

Two days of sunshine and warming temperatures put the course, rated good, back into play for the first time since June 12.

Heritiere ($4.40) rallied under leading rider Joe Bravo to take the fourth grass race of the season.

"I walked the course this morning with Bobby Juliano [director of facilities] and Bobby Kulina [vice president], and my comment was that the turf course was excellent," Bravo said. "Now having a 1,200-pound horse on it, it's a little softer than I expected. I thought with all sun and heat, it would have dried better than it did."

Trainers' choice: Turf or dirt?

With the turf course back in use, the racing office gave trainers the option of grass or dirt for Friday's featured $39,000 allowance race for fillies and mares at one mile.

The first split, the seventh race on the main track, drew seven competitive runners. Tazotee, She Is Raging, and Mythical Brownie all won their last starts.

In the other division, the eighth race, Linda Rice sends out Clever Prospector in search of the filly's first turf win. Clever Prospector has been in the money in six of her eight grass starts and returns to the turf for the first time since missing by a head in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs in early April.

Rice's Monmouth division has been a major force so far, with five wins from only 15 starts.

Pitch made for Breeders' Cup

Officials of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority came away feeling positive about their presentation to the Breeders' Cup on June 20.

An NJSEA contingent, headed by President George Zoffinger and Chairman Carl Goldberg, traveled to Lexington, Ky., to make a pitch to bring the Breeders' Cup to New Jersey.

In the presentation, the officials offered the Breeders' Cup the option of running the championships at either of their tracks: Monmouth Park or the Meadowlands.

"We thought it went really well," said Kulina. "The Breeders' Cup made it perfectly clear from the start that a decision probably won't be made until later next year."

The 2003 Breeders' Cup takes place at Santa Anita, with Lone Star Park (2004) and Belmont Park (2005) next in line. Churchill Downs is widely viewed as the front-runner for 2006. That leaves 2007 as the first available slot.

While the Breeders' Cup officials were noncommittal, Kulina felt that the NJSEA demonstrated the ability and desire to host the event at some point in the future.

"They were in no rush to decide," Kulina said. "It wasn't a question of 2007, 2008, or 2009. It was a question of their determining which sites, beyond those who have already hosted a Breeders' Cup, will qualify. The key question was: Can you accommodate this event?"

Another question posed by the Breeders' Cup officials involved the future ownership of the NJSEA tracks. Zoffinger has expressed an interest in selling or leasing the facilities.

"George answered that by saying if anything happened, it would be a lease," Kulina said. "The Breeders' Cup would be part of any lease agreement."

* Monmouth celebrates "Miller Lite Month of July" this Sunday by giving away grandstand passes. Each paid admission receives a pass good for free grandstand admission for the entire month of July.

* Ben Perkins Jr. earned Chili's "Horseman of the Week" honors for saddling two winners, including It's a Monster in the $60,000 Longfellow Stakes on Sunday.