07/18/2001 12:00AM

Putting a price on Point Given


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Monmouth Park will raise the purse of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational $500,000 - from $1 million to $1.5 million - if Point Given starts, said Robert Kulina, Monmouth general manager, on Wednesday.

Kulina said the track would raise the purse $500,000 if a winner of one of the Triple Crown races runs. With Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos sidelined by injury, Point Given, who won the Preakness and Belmont, is the only 3-year-old who meets the conditions of the purse raise.

Point Given has been pointed to the Haskell by trainer Bob Baffert, although another Baffert-trained horse, Congaree, who won the Swaps on Sunday, also was invited to run. Baffert on Wednesday said he hadn't made a final decision on who he will run in the race.

A total of 21 horses have been invited to the Haskell, to be run on Aug. 5. Also invited were A P Valentine, second in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes; Invisible Ink, second in the Derby; Burning Roma, winner of the Long Branch here last weekend; and Songandaprayer, the lone locally based 3-year-old invited to the race.

Thompson surprise leader

Of the top five trainers through Wednesday, four were expected to be near the top of the standings. Only J. Willard Thompson is a surprise.

When Groom's Dance won the seventh race Wednesday, Thompson took a 15-14 lead over Ben Perkins Jr., last year's leading trainer. They are closely followed by Todd Pletcher (13), Tim Hills (12), and Ed Broome (12).

Thompson, 66, has not won a training title since 1977.

"This is really unexpected," he said. "All the credit goes to the help. We've got a great team this year - from a great assistant to the grooms and hotwalkers and the exercise boys. They are our formula for success."

Thompson won three consecutive training titles, from 1975-77. In 1975, he tied the meet record of 55 wins, set one year earlier by John Tammaro III.

"It was many years ago," said Thompson of his last training title.

Thompson's success this meet has been directly linked to the emergence of apprentices Jorge Duarte Jr. and Victor Carrero. Of the 15 Thompson winners, Duarte has been on seven and Carrero on seven, including Groom's Dance on Wednesday. Duarte has won 13 times this meet, while Carrero has 23 wins.

Meadowlands stakes schedule

The Meadowlands on Wednesday released its 2001 stakes schedule, which includes $1.7 million in purses for nine races. Six of the nine stakes are graded. The 49-day meet begins on Sept. 3 and runs through Nov. 10.

The highlight of the meet is the $500,000 Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 28. The other graded stakes are the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Handicap, Grade 3 Boiling Springs Breeders' Cup Handicap, Grade 3 Violet Handicap, Grade 2 Pegasus Handicap, and the Grade 3 Honey Bee Handicap. Among the non-graded stakes are the Bergen County Stakes, Paterson Handicap, and the New Jersey Futurity.

Another juvenile allowance

Wooden Stone and Prime Time Billy, who finished second and third, respectively, behind Blue Burner in the meet's first 2-year-old allowance on July 3, clash in the meet's second juvenile allowance on Friday. Other contenders include Harry's Deelite and Capture the Silver.

Harry's Deelite, trained by Bud Delp and to be ridden by Joe Bravo, comes off a maiden win at Pimlico. John Mazza will saddle the New Jersey-bred Capture the Silver, who won his debut June 23 here.