06/25/2008 11:00PM

Pierce returns for shot at $150K stakes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Malcolm Pierce hopes for a happy homecoming when he returns to Monmouth Park on Saturday with Much Obliged in the Grade 3, $150,000 Boiling Spring Stakes.

A winner of 3 of 4 races this season, Much Obliged is a key contender in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3 year-old fillies on the turf.

In her latest outing, she got up in the final strides to capture the American 1000 Guineas at Arlington Park on May 24.

"She came out of the race in good order, and she's been training well here at Woodbine ever since," Pierce said. "She's been progressing nicely. This will be a tougher test, but she is moving forward."

Pierce, one of top turf trainers at Woodbine, worked as an assistant for two of Canada's leading horsemen - Jim Day and Mark Frostad - before heading out on his own in 1997. One of his stops was Monmouth before settling in at Woodbine.

Pierce was a very solid 8 for 25 here in the summer of 1998. This will be his first Monmouth starter since then.

"I really enjoyed my stay that summer, but the way the money got here at Woodbine, it sure made sense to make it our home base," Pierce said.

Much Obliged developed nicely over the winter, scoring consecutive wins at the Fair Grounds before running sixth in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland. She resumed her winning form in the American 1000 Guineas.

Chris Emigh, aboard for the first time at Arlington, has the return call.

Nicksappealinglady caught sloppy or muddy tracks in her last four races, two of them off-the-turf spots. Trainer Greg Sacco is eager to try her on grass for the first time.

Her last race, the off-the-turf Little Silver Stakes in the mud here on May 31, was the worst of her career. After vying for the lead, Nicksappealinglady faded to eighth.

Sacco hopes a simple equipment addition - a tongue tie - will solve the problem.

"Jockey Herb McCauley said she made some breathing noises, and when she pulled up, her tongue was over the bit," Sacco said. "She scoped clean and cooled out in about 15 minutes. She threw in a clunker. We trained her with a tongue tie and we're going to run her with a tongue tie. Sometimes, it's a simple as that."

Elvis Trujillo will ride.

In contrast to Nicksappealinglady, Yippety Yip has run her last four on the grass, including a first-level allowance win here on June 6 for trainer and co-owner Phil Oliver.

"This is worth taking a shot," Oliver said. "She's really done nothing wrong. She should be a live longshot."

Carlos Marquez Jr. has the return call.

Completing the field are Dagger, Encanto Park, Forest Trail, My Princess Jess, Namaste's Wish, and Saki to Me.

Talkin About Love heads Spruce Fir

There were only nine fillies and mares nominated to the $60,000 Spruce Fir Handicap for New Jersey breds at one mile and 70 yards. When the entries closed, eight were in the race, an unusually high turnout.

Talkin About Love is the highweight at 125 pounds. The winner of the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks last summer, she was third in her season debut, the Open Mind Stakes here on May 26.

The field also includes Jenny Bean Girl, last year's Spruce Fir winner.