09/14/2006 12:00AM

Only New Jersey-breds need apply

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The fourth annual New Jersey Festival returns to Monmouth Park on Saturday with 10 races, including four stakes, exclusively for New Jersey-breds.

The showcase day for the local breeding industry celebrates a year in which statebreds Park Avenue Ball and Wild Gams won graded stakes.

"Our horses have done very well in open company," said Mike Campbell, executive director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey. "This day puts us on a par with other states like New York, Maryland and California. It brings our program national attention."

Park Avenue Ball and Joey P., the best-known New Jersey breds, will not see action at the Festival. Park Avenue Ball, winner of Monmouth's Grade 3 Iselin Stakes last time out, is being pointed by trainer Jim Ryerson to the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes on Oct. 13.

Joey P. underwent throat surgery Thursday to correct a breathing problem and will miss the rest of the year.

The day still has star power, starting with Who's the Cowboy in the $100,000 Friendly Lover Handicap at six furlongs.

Who's the Cowboy, a 4-year-old gelding, is part of a 10-horse festival contingent, including nine homebreds, from the father-and-son team of owner Gerry Sleeter and trainer Kevin Sleeter.

Who's the Cowboy, coupled with Flirtatious Smile, was assigned high weight of 127 pounds as the reward for a three-stakes winning streak at Monmouth. He started the run with a win over Jersey-breds in the Colts Neck Handicap and followed with open victories in the Teddy Drone and the Icecapade.

The hefty weight assignment (Trueamericanspirit is next on the scale at 119) has Gerry Sleeter considering the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Oct. 7 as an alternative.

"He'd have to carry 124 in that race and meet some heavy heads," he said. "It's something to think about."

The longer-range goal is the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial at Laurel on Nov. 25. Who's the Cowboy finished seventh in that stakes last year.

Trueamericanspirit won two stakes here last year and makes only his second start this season. A 6-year-old gelding trained by Tim Hills, Trueamericanspirit was fifth to Who's the Cowboy in the Colts Neck and underwent throat surgery to correct a breathing problem after that race.

"We're wheeling back a little quick, but the race is here," Hills said.

Jersey Breeders: Carrots Only defends

Carrots Only is back to defend his win last year in the $100,000 Jersey Breeders Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

A 5-year-old gelding trained by John Mazza, Carrots Only will be making his first start of the meet after suffering a foot injury when he kicked a stall wall.

"Carrots Only is in great shape," Mazza said. "He's ready for this race."

Carrots Only, who last raced in March at Gulfstream Park, had a sharp workout here on Wednesday: three furlongs in 35.60 seconds.

Other top contenders include Meadow Blue, a 3-year-old who beat older runners here in the Lincroft Handicap on Haskell Day, and Upturn, a winner for a $75,000 claiming price at Belmont Park on Sept. 8.

Eleven North: Wild Gams meets older

The classy Wild Gams faces older rivals for the first time in the $100,000 Eleven North for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Wild Gams won the Grade 3 Cicada at Aqueduct in March and missed by only a neck in the Grade 1 Prioress Breeders' Cup Stakes at Belmont.

The Sleeters will try to beat her with a trio of Summer Sting, Pickin Laurel, and Whoop's Ah Daisy.

In the $100,000 Jersey Girl Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, I'mtoogoodtobetrue, an easy winner of the Girl Powder Handicap, goes for a second straight statebred stakes win.

Lopez to miss three weeks

Chuck Lopez suffered a fractured finger in a spill Sunday and will be sidelined about three weeks.

Lopez, third in the Monmouth jockey standings with 85 wins, should return early in the Meadowlands meet that begins Sept. 29.

Industry symposium set

The first New Jersey Horse Industry Symposium will takes place at Monmouth on Sept. 20.

Hosts include the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Assoc-iation and Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, and scheduled topics will cover the economic benefits of racing in the state and how the legislative process impacts the sport.

Speakers include Joseph Roberts, the speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, and representatives from the Breeders' Cup, which will be held at Monmouth in 2007.

Admission is free. Reservations can be booked by calling Barbara DeMarco at 609-306-7555.