07/13/2005 11:00PM

'Park' has most class in field


Seven of the eight 3-year-olds in the field for Saturday's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park have never won an open stakes. They will face a tall task defeating the race's lone stakes winner, Park Avenue Ball.

A son of Citidancer, Park Avenue Ball won the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes last year at Belmont Park, but he has been winless since then while racing exclusively in graded stakes company. Though anything over a mile seems a bit far for Park Avenue Ball, he should be able to handle his Saturday opponents at the 1 1/16 miles of the Long Branch, the field for which includes several horses long on promise but short on accomplishments.

"He hasn't run around two turns in his life, but he has run against a lot of good horses," said trainer James Ryerson.

Leading the pack of contenders is , a son of A.P. Indy who brought a sale-topping $3.3 million at Keeneland's April 2-year-olds in training sale last year. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Chekhov won his maiden impressively at Belmont Park on May 8 in his fourth start, but in his two subsequent starts - the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes - Chekhov failed to show anything.

Another notable horse on pedigree alone is , a son of Danzig out of Surfside, who was voted champion 3-year-old filly in 2000. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Shark won his maiden in his fifth start June 18 at Churchill Downs. He will race beyond six furlongs for the first time Saturday.

Trainer Ben Perkins is bringing Smokescreen, who comes into the Long Branch with 2 wins and 2 seconds in his last 4 starts. Although the Long Branch is a step up in class, a good pace battle up front could set him up in the stretch.

Larry Walters, deputizing for the suspended Richard Dutrow Jr., will saddle , who has posted two 90-plus Beyer Speed Figures since being claimed for $60,000 on Jan. 23 out of a race at Gulfstream. Golden Man won his first start for Dutrow in a $33,000 allowance, then finished third in the Peter Pan Stakes after an eight-week layoff. Golden Man comes into the Long Branch off a seven-week layoff.

Filling out the field are First Word, Tani Maru, and Secret Woods.

- additional reporting by Mike Farrell