06/13/2004 11:00PM

Pointer aiming high with Megantic


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Norman Pointer will swing for the fences with Megantic.

Flush with victory in Saturday's $60,000 Battlefield Stakes at Monmouth Park, the trainer will aim the former claimer toward the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Handicap, Monmouth's premier turf stakes, on July 3.

"I'm going," Pointer said. "When you've got a loaded gun, you've got to shoot it. When a horse is good, anything can happen."

Megantic impressively turned the corner this season. Running Horse Farms claimed Megantic from Bill Mott in March 2003 for $62,500 at Gulfstream Park.

The claim was Les Steiner's idea. Steiner and Peter Lombardi are the principals in the Fort Lauderdale-based Running Horse partnership. Pointer trains their New Jersey division.

A combination of factors contributed to Megantic's emergence as a stakes winner this year. Maturity might be the most critical one for the 6-year-old son of Theatrical.

"Theatricals have a little tendency to be stupid or crazy or high-strung," Pointer said. "They tend to come around later in life. I had that experience with Rize and a few others."

Rize was a late developer who posted a wire-to-wire victory in the 2000 edition of the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth.

Megantic was given time to recuperate following an injury last summer. Part of the rehabilitation was swimming, which Megantic initially resisted.

"He was a real bull-headed horse about that," Pointer said. "He didn't want to do it, but he eventually started. It was a combination of things, but the horse eventually came around."

Megantic won his first start this season, a $50,000 claimer at Gulfstream. From there he took a major leap into Gulfstream's Grade 2 Pan American Handicap, where he finished third.

That was followed by a late-running effort to finish fourth in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

"The horse probably should have won the Dixie," Pointer said. "He hopped at the start and got bothered. I don't know if he'd beat the winner [Mr O'Brien], but he definitely should have been second. He was running fastest at the end."

Then came the Battlefield, in which Megantic uncorked a powerful stretch run to get the win, beating multiple graded-stakes winner Del Mar Show in the process.

And now, on to the U.N.

"We'll be laying low," Pointer said. "They don't just give you $750,000."

Lithian's Legacy on comeback trail

Lithian's Legacy was one of the top New Jersey-bred 3-year-old fillies in 2002. She earned more than $70,000 that season, to the delight of her owner-breeder-trainer, Charlie Harvatt.

Unfortunately, 2003 was a washout as Lithian's Legacy made only one start due to a tendon injury.

She is on the comeback trail this year and will make her second start of the season in Wednesday's featured $51,000 allowance for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares going six furlongs.

"If she's right, she'll be competitive," Harvatt said. "If this was two years ago, she'd be right there with them."

She should get betting support from backers of the turf-to-dirt angle.

Lithian's Legacy made her return on May 12, facing opening company at Atlantic City Race Course in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint in her grass debut. She lost by only 4 3/4 lengths.

"She ran a good race at Atlantic City," Harvatt said. "I was impressed. She just ran out of ground. She needed more distance.

"I thought she would be a short horse," Harvatt added. "She trained all winter down at Gulfstream and did well. I never had her on grass. She's doing well, and I've got to give her a chance now."

Harvatt, like many supporters of New Jersey breeding, is encouraged by the recent $86 million supplement from the state's casinos that has lifted Monmouth's purses to record levels. The $51,000 purse for this statebred race makes it the equivalent of a stakes race.

"Hopefully it will get more people involved in New Jersey breeding if they keep the purses up like that," said Harvatt.

Lithian's Legacy, ridden by Rafael Mojica Jr., will need a strong effort to catch some of the younger runners in the field.

Irish Sovereign, a 4-year-old Polish Numbers filly, has won two of her three starts. She set the pace in her Monmouth debut, cruising to a 1 1/2-length win.

The 3-year-old Passaic should be ready for a peak effort in her third start of the year following even efforts at Delaware Park and Monmouth.

Special American, Secret Glow, Minor's Gold, Frankie's Star, Portobello Belle, and Donna's Link complete the field.