11/11/2004 12:00AM

Online bets start strong

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Twist and Pop goes for her fourth straight win, in the College of New Jersey Stakes on closing night.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Online wagering, introduced in New Jersey with little fanfare last month, has gotten off to an encouraging start.

"Business is good," said Dennis Dowd, vice president of account and offtrack wagering for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

The NJSEA sent out more than 10,000 brochures in mid-October and has already signed up approximately 1,500 accounts. The NJSEA is spearheading the

drive for its two tracks, The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, as well as Freehold Raceway and Atlantic City Race Course.

The system, which opened officially on Oct. 29, is running well ahead of early projections at $60,000 per day. Of that total, 80 percent comes from account holders using computers to bet. The balance is bets made ontrack using funds on deposit.

Accounts are restricted to New Jersey residents. Applications can be obtained at any of the state's racetracks or at www.4njbets.com.

Dowd hopes to expand the system to include touch tone and voice-activated phone wagers by the opening of Gulfstream Park's meet in January.

Betting through live phone operators will debut later next year.

"Phone betting should be a good growth point for us," said Dowd.

So should a state-wide cable racing channel, a project Dowd also hopes to launch in 2005.

The first OTB parlors could also arrive next year. The state has been divided in half with Pennwood Racing, which owns Freehold and ACRC, holding rights for the southern half with the NJSEA controlling the northern half. There will be no parlors in Monmouth County, home to both Monmouth and Freehold.

"The first OTB parlors will be done by Pennwood, a partnership of Penn Gaming and Greenwood Racing, because they are not the government and it is private industry," said Dowd. "They can move forward quicker than we can."

Three stakes on closing night

The Meadowlands meet concludes Saturday night with a 12-race card that features three $60,000 stakes for fillies and mares.

Format finds an easier spot in the Seton Hall for 3-year-olds going six furlongs.

She raced in graded stakes the last two times out and had excuses in both. The Grade 3 Boiling Springs Handicap was her first start on turf and she did not handle the surface well.

Next stop was the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland, where she caught a muddy track.

"She didn't quite get the ride we were hoping for in that race," said trainer Kelly Breen. "It was about a length separating third from fifth and it would have been great to be graded stakes-placed."

Breen added Format to his barn following her victory in the Snurb Stakes at Calder in early August. Format, who had been trained by Julian Canet, was purchased privately by the Silly Goose Racing Stable.

Feline Story has the most extensive stakes experience in the field. She was second in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park and third in the Raven Run.

Twist and Pop, a very successful claim by Richard Dutrow Jr. for $22,500 on the Aqueduct inner track in March, bids for a fourth straight win in the College of New Jersey Stakes. She has won 6 of 9 starts this year, including Monmouth's Lighthouse Stakes last time out.

Twist and Pop tops a very formidable entry with Picnic Theme, a New Jersey-bred mare who has won her last two starts.

Paisley Park and Chrusciki, the second- and third-place finishers in the Lighthouse, are back for another try in the one-mile and 70-yard College of New Jersey.

Tight Spin, highly effective in turf sprint stakes, comes off the grass for the Montclair State at six furlongs.