07/04/2001 11:00PM

For once, First Spear looks like the star in a stakes

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - First Spear has not been able to dodge the top 3-year-old turf horses in the nation in most of his starts. In Saturday's $75,000 Lamplighter Handicap, though, he has a great opportunity to capture a stakes race without the presence of the top turf runners of his generation.

First Spear, a 3-year-old son of Dare and Go trained by Todd Pletcher, has run well against such quality horses as Baptize, Strategic Partner, Proud Man, and Navesink. Since he has come to Monmouth, First Spear has recorded a win and a place in two allowances. He ran into the graded stakes-placed Navesink here June 1, but comes into the Lamplighter, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, in top form with a neck victory in a second-level allowance on June 23. Joe Bravo gets the call.

"He's coming around mentally," said George Weaver, Pletcher's assistant at Monmouth, "and getting better with age."

First Spear's off-the-pace running style should aid him in what figures to be a hotly contested Lamplighter pace. Spruce Run, the Spend a Buck winner here June 10, should be on the lead with River Rush, Fox Drive, and Davy Jones.

Spruce Run, trained by Linda Rice, enters the Lamplighter on a three-race winning streak. With Rice winning with better than 50 percent of her starters in here (her runners are 5 for 9), Spruce Run and jockey Jose Ferrer will be tough. River Rush comes into the race with two straight wins on the turf for trainer Lisa Lewis, and Fox Drive and River Rush both finished behind Spruce Run in the Spend a Buck.

Bill Mott sends out Tremmor, as he attempts to win his fourth Lamplighter, and second in a row. Aaron Gryder comes in to ride and hook up with Mott once again, as the two combined for the 2000 Lamplighter victory with Lendell Ray.

'No excuses' for Songandaprayer

Songandaprayer, third as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup on July 4, came back to the barn sound after the race, according to trainer John Dowd.

Songandaprayer, making his first start since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby, held the lead in the six-furlong Jersey Shore turning for home, but was soon passed by the eventual winner, City Zip.

"We have no excuses," Dowd said. "It was his first time back; we just didn't get the trip or the outcome we wanted. He lost to a very nice horse that ran a huge race."

Dowd is not sure as to the next start for Songandaprayer, but he stated that the 3-year-old sprints at Saratoga - the Amsterdam and King's Bishop - are possibilities.

Majani's debut delayed

Majani, a $305,000 unraced juvenile by Holy Bull, was slated to make his first start on Wednesday, but trainer David Paulus scratched him before the race. Majani came down with a slight temperature and coughing, but nothing serious enough to prevent him from starting in a couple of weeks. Unlike Wednesday's five-furlong maiden race, Paulus will look to enter Majani in a route for his colt's first start.

"He has the classic-distance breeding," Paulus said. "He doesn't have exploding five-furlong speed, but his pole workouts have shown that he will be tough at longer distances."

Majani, owned by William Shively, has been consistently firing nice workouts in the morning since the beginning of the meet. He worked out five furlongs in a bullet 1:01.60 on June 29 in his most recent workout.