10/05/2005 12:00AM

Park Avenue Ball eased back into form in Garden State

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The virus that attacked many of the 2-year-olds in trainer Jim Ryerson's barn in August also claimed Park Avenue Ball. After running a slight temperature, Park Avenue Ball had to skip the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 5. Ryerson also felt the Pegasus Stakes on Sept. 30, another major fall objective, came too soon for a return.

"He had been sick and we needed another week," Ryerson said. "It was just too tight."

For Ryerson, the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes on Friday was too tough for a comeback effort. Instead, he settled on the $55,000 Garden State Handicap for New Jersey-breds, a mile and 70-yard race on the Meadowlands Cup undercard. The Garden State will be Park Avenue Ball's first start since he finished third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Aug. 7.

Park Avenue Ball faces a group of veteran statebred stakes performers Friday, including Trueamericanspirit, who looks to rebound from a rare poor performance in the Friendly Lover Handicap on New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day at Monmouth Park on Sept. 17. Trueamericanspirit suffered a displaced epiglottis in the race and required minor surgery.

"It was very unusual for him to run a bad one like he did last time," Hills said. "It was obvious something was wrong, and we found the problem."

The field also includes War's Prospect, a two-time stakes winner this summer at Monmouth; Carrots Only, the upset winner of the Jersey Breeders' Handicap; and Upturn, a game second to Carrots Only last time out.

Completing the field are Oh I Do, Toorizziforoy, and Findee's Keepee's.

Hills sends two in Phoenix

Hills will run an entry of Melody of Colors and Desirable Moment in the $50,000 Phoenix Stakes for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf.

Melody of Colors, a 6-year-old mare, was no factor last time out in a main-track sprint. The return to grass should be a welcome development for Melody of Colors, who had made her previous 14 starts on grass.

"It looks like she's back in form," Hills said. "She's breezed well lately."

Desirable Moment lost her edge during the heat wave that gripped Monmouth for much of the summer.

"She got into a funk in the hot weather," Hills said. "We backed off on her and her last work was very good. They are both sitting on their games."

The two mares have complementary styles. Desirable Moment loves the lead, and Melody of Colors races from off the pace.

With no turf racing at Monmouth in September, Chez Audra headed to Laurel for an allowance race last time and ran fourth.

"It was hard to find a spot for her," said trainer Mike Farro, who handles the New Jersey division for his wife, Patricia. "We think she's going to run a good race."

Before the Laurel effort, Chez Audra had scored wins at Pimlico and Saratoga.

* The $60,000 Long Look Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles completes the trio of Big M undercard stakes on Meadowlands Cup night.

Mark Hennig, who has Tap Day in the Meadowlands Cup, sends out an entry of Freeroll and After the Tone in this race.

Both were easy winners at Monmouth last time. Freeroll rallied four wide to win the Lighthouse Stakes, and After the Tone scored a 5 1/2-length allowance victory.