05/09/2007 11:00PM

Pulling out all the stops in a Cup year

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Bill Denver/EquiPhotos
Work at Monmouth Park will continue throughout the summer and fall, right up to the Breeders' Cup.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Everything at Monmouth Park will be bigger, bolder, and brighter when the meet begins Saturday afternoon.

This is Monmouth's year to shine, as the track will be the site of the Breeders' Cup for the first time on Oct. 26 and 27. The eyes of the racing world will be on the Jersey Shore for the entire season, and $30 million has been invested in putting a fresh face on the queen of New Jersey racetracks.

The improvements touch every corner of the track, starting with the racing surfaces. A new turf course opened last season, and the main track has been refurbished this year with a new, livelier cushion.

Fans arriving on opening weekend will be greeted by a freshly painted grandstand and clubhouse, new sound and video systems, renovated restrooms, and overhauled elevators and escalators.

The job is not complete. Work will continue throughout the summer and fall, right up to the Breeders' Cup.

"Since the meet closed last year, we've worked continuously on projects throughout the track," said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the track. "The goal, of course, is to have everything perfect by Breeders' Cup week."

The rebuilding of the Clubhouse Pavilion terrace near the first turn is the biggest ongoing project during the meet.

Less visible, but equally important, has been a major overhaul of the backstretch. Barn doors and windows have been replaced and the grooms' quarters upgraded.

The Monmouth season has been shortened to accommodate the Breeders' Cup. Monmouth, which ran through September the last four years, will close on Sept.o2. The Thoroughbreds shift to the Meadowlands on Sept. 3, Labor Day.

In September and October, Monmouth will work on its biggest Breeders' Cup project, the installation of temporary seating. Monmouth will hold a four-day Breeders' Cup meet Oct. 24 through 27.

Bettors will find two new wagering options this meet: Ten-cent superfectas on three races daily and a 50-cent pick five that starts with the fifth race each day.

Purse money will be plentiful, even aside from the $23 million on the line in the Breeders' Cup.

Overnight purses will average a record $330,000 a day in the final year of a purse supplement agreement with the Atlantic City casinos. The highlights of the summer will be a pair of Grade 1 stakes: the $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds on Aug. 5 and the $750,000 United Nations Stakes on the turf on July 5.

Opening weekend also brings live television coverage. Television Games Network will be on the scene with updates direct from the track.

Monmouth will run on Saturdays and Sundays in May, as well as Memorial Day, May 28. Starting in June, the track shifts to the traditional Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule for the balance of the meet. First post is 12:50 p.m.

A note for drivers: Ongoing construction will reroute some traffic patterns around the track. The clubhouse and stable-gate entrances on Route 36 are closed. They will reopen during the summer. Until then, fans and horsemen can enter on Oceanport Avenue.

The opening-day feature, the $60,000 Decathlon Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, brings together three of the top sprinters on the grounds: Joey P., Slam Bammy, and Who's the Cowboy.

Joey P., a winner of 8 of 12 at Monmouth, will be making his second start of the season. Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., he ran fourth last time out in an allowance race at Aqueduct.

"I thought he ran a good race coming off the layoff," Perkins said. "He got off half a step slow that day. He made a nice run and looked like he was going to win, but his momentum didn't carry him to the wire."

Joey P. won his first two starts last year before tailing off. He underwent throat surgery in September to correct a breathing problem.

Slam Bammy, last year's Decathlon winner, is back for trainer Joe Orseno.

"I've been waiting for this race," Orseno said. "He likes this track. We took him to Florida and didn't have a lot of luck with him. He shipped up here great. He's doing fine. I think he's ready to go."

Who's the Cowboy won four consecutive stakes here last summer: the Icecapade and Teddy Drone against open company and the Colts Neck and Friendly Lover against New Jersey-breds.

Yes Yes Yes and Introspect are the other likely starters. Anew was cross-entered the same afternoon in the Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park.