07/27/2004 11:00PM

Pegasus to be used as Smarty bait


OCEANPORT, N.J. - When Smarty Jones is ready to run, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority will do everything within its power to lure the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to Monmouth Park or The Meadowlands Racetrack.

Trainer John Servis announced this week that Smarty Jones will not make the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 6 because of a bruised left front foot.

The NJSEA, which owns Monmouth and The Meadowlands, has the Pegasus Handicap for 3-year-olds available as the fallback position for Smarty Jones's first race since finishing second in the Belmont Stakes.

The Pegasus, once a Meadowlands fixture, is returning after a one-year absence. For Smarty Jones, the Pegasus venue, date, distance, and purse are all negotiable.

The Pegasus could wind up at Monmouth in late September.

"I said all along that I am really flexible with the race," said Bob Kulina, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the NJSEA. "We're not locked into anything right now."

The NJSEA has delayed release of the entire post-Labor Day stakes schedule while awaiting developments in Smarty Jones's itinerary. Monmouth runs through Sept. 26, and The Meadowlands opens on Oct. 1.

"We're going to try to utilize the Pegasus to the best of our ability to attract Smarty Jones," Kulina said.

At a minimum, at least one Meadowlands stakes will be run at Monmouth this September. The Grade 3 Boiling Springs Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on the turf will likely be shifted.

Six solid fillies and mares in feature

The $41,000 allowance feature Friday brings together a solid group of six fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles.

Twist and Pop owns the most consistent recent Beyer numbers, with a 78 and 79 in her last two outings, both second-place finishes.

The 5-year-old mare has also been a source of bettor frustration. She has gone down to defeat as the favorite in her last three races, including a 1 1/2-length loss as the 2-5 choice last out.

Ringaring a Rosie, the lone 3-year-old in the field, beat winners for the first time in her last outing and earned a career-best 75 Beyer in the process. She scored on the turf-to-dirt angle and makes a second consecutive start on the main track, where she scored both career wins.

"I like her," said jockey Chuckie Lopez, who has the return call for trainer J. Willard Thompson. "She tries so hard. She tries to win even if she can't win. She's that kind of horse."

Remaining on the main track can only help.

"She got one decent race on the turf," said Lopez of the filly's three grass efforts. "She prefers the dirt."

Trainers hope for dry weekend

Severe storms triggered flood warnings in parts of central New Jersey on Tuesday night and washed Wednesday's turf races onto the main track.

Trainers with horses prepping for the weekend stakes kept close tabs on the shifting forecasts, as two of the three events were slated for the turf.

Trainer Tim Hills will run Melody of Colors in the $60,000 Klassy Briefcase at five furlongs for fillies and mares on Saturday only if it remains on grass. On Tuesday, she turned in a three-furlong bullet work on the dirt in 36 seconds.

"She's training like she's on a mission," Hills said. "She's really happy and feeling good, and breezed well Tuesday. When she's in form, which she is, it doesn't matter if it's hard or soft. It has to be on the turf."

Melody of Colors beat a similar field in her last start, Monmouth's Betsy Ross Stakes on July 4.

The $55,000 Trenton Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday is also slated for five furlongs on the turf. Saturday's $60,000 Tyro for 2-year-olds is the only stakes on the main track.