10/10/2006 11:00PM

Park Avenue Ball heads Meadowlands Cup field


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Park Avenue Ball, the durable and consistent New Jersey-bred, is the likely favorite for Friday night's Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes.

The signature event of the Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet, the 1 1/8-mile Meadowlands Cup drew a field of seven.

Park Avenue Ball has already enjoyed a solid season with a record of 3-1-1 in 5 starts for trainer Jim Ryerson and the Char-Mari Stable of Charles and Marianne Heese. The 4-year-old Park Avenue Ball has earned $302,00 this year and is coming off a win in his major target of the summer, the Grade 3 Iselin Breeders' Cup.

Ryerson has carefully planned Park Avenue Ball's races this year. He gave the colt an extended rest following a demanding 3-year-old season last year in which he made two Grade 1 appearances: a fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and a third in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Park Avenue Ball debuted in the Ponche Handicap at Calder in April where he set the pace under pressure in the six-furlong race before finishing third.

"It was a great race," Ryerson said. "He ran real well. It set him up perfectly for the year."

His next four starts came at Monmouth. He won two overnight stakes, finished second in the slop to last year's Travers winner Flower Alley in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile and closed out the summer with a victory in the Grade 3 Iselin BC Handicap on Aug. 19. The Iselin was significant in that it was Park Avenue Ball's first win at nine furlongs.

Park Avenue Ball has had almost two months off since the Iselin after racing on a four-week schedule

"Even coming up to the Iselin, I thought he might need a longer break if the Meadowlands Cup was our next goal," Ryerson said of Park Avenue Ball, who has won 7 of 17 career starts and $931,600.

If Park Avenue Ball runs well Friday night, his connections face an interesting Breeders' Cup decision. The $5 million Classic is a possibility, even though the horse has never run the distance.

"The mile and a quarter is the question," Ryerson said. "We'll see how the Meadowlands Cup goes. Right now, I'm focusing on this race."

Among the other contenders, Wild Desert looks to earn his first win for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. since the $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine in June 2005.

Three horses from the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 16 are in the field: runner-up Awesome Twist, third-place Reverberate, and We Can Seek, who was sixth.

Master Command makes his first start since the Iselin, where he made a strong inside move to finish third.

Jersey Peach completes the field.