08/09/2006 12:00AM

Ready or not, Oaks is Love Locket's target


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Although the timing may not be ideal, Love Locket tops the likely lineup for the Grade 3, $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday.

Love Locket won the Serena's Song Stakes on July 22, Monmouth's prep for the Oaks. The filly, trained by Todd Pletcher, improved her career mark to 4 for 7 with a rally in the mud to beat Zooming By by three-quarters of a length.

"Todd and I both would like a little more time in between races because she ran hard," said assistant Anthony Sciametta. "Todd said this is the spot, so we're going for it. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches."

Other expected runners include Amandatude, second most recently in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks; Gasia, third in the Delaware Oaks after winning the Susan's Girl BC Stakes at Delaware Park; Zooming By; and possibly Mo Cuishle, unbeaten in two starts for Pletcher.

Extra Bend crushed at start

Trainer Scott Volk had an explanation for the Extra Bend's horrendous start in the Jersey Derby on Sunday.

"The racing gods weren't good to us," Volk said.

Volk had high Jersey Derby expectations for Extra Bend, a gelding who developed into a solid stakes runner after being claimed for $50,000 in March.

Extra Bend got pinched back at the start and was seemingly out of the race. He refused to quit and kept gaining ground. Extra Bend was game in the lane, finishing third while missing by only a head.

"I know I ran the best horse but they wiped me out leaving the gate," Volk said. "It took me right out of the race. They really sandwiched him."

Volk said Extra Bend came back from the race fine. The trainer is now considering two 3-year-old turf stakes options: the Grade 3, $500,000 Kent BC Stakes at Delaware Park on Sept. 2 or the $60,000 Choice Stakes here on Aug. 27. Both are 1 1/8 miles.

"We'll nominate to the Kent and see who plans to run," Volk said. "Otherwise, we'll stay here for the next one here. It's always good to have the option to walk out your door and run."

Meadowlands graded stakes set

The Meadowlands Racetrack will offer four graded stakes this fall, starting with the Grade 3, $150,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes on the turf on opening night, Sept. 29.

The Grade 3, $250,000 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds takes place on Oct. 6 with the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Cup, the top event of the meet, set for Oct. 13.

The Grade 3, $150,000 Violet Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf closes out the graded lineup on Oct. 20.

The purse values for the four stakes are the same as last year. Monmouth's stakes coordinator, Mike Melendez, hopes to release a complete schedule, including overnight stakes, next week. The meet concludes Nov. 11.

Livermore Valley earns a rest

Trainer Jim Ryerson plans to give Livermore Valley a break following two tough trips in Grade 1 stakes in New York.

The winner of the Dearly Precious Stakes here in June, Livermore Valley gamely rallied to get third in the Prioress at Belmont Park on July 8 and had a brutal trip in the Test at Saratoga on Aug. 5.

Livermore Valley got bumped at the break and later steadied at the half-mile pole, forcing her to drop back to 11th. She still managed to make a strong inside run to get fifth place in the 13-horse field.

"We're going to give her a little rest," Ryerson said. "She's had some tough races."

Cointreau returns for a tag

Cointreau heads back to the turf carrying a $60,000 claiming price in the Friday's optional claiming feature.

The 6-year-old Cointreau has not run since finishing 35 lengths behind Park Avenue Ball on the dirt in the Frisk Me Now Stakes on May 27.

"He didn't come out of that race so great, so we gave him some time," said trainer Phil Oliver.

Cointreau faces seven rivals. He won his only other start this year, a turf allowance at Keeneland.

Lezcano falls from mount

Jose Lezcano, second in the Monmouth Park jockey standings, fell from his mount in the ninth race Wednesday and was taken to a local hospital for precautionary X-rays of the pelvis.

Lezcano was aboard Hermosillo, a 2-year-old New Jersey-bred making his debut. The colt ran very erratically in the lane, first lugging into eventual winner Bythebeautifulsea before ducking out.

Lezcano fell off right at the finish wire.

"He was complaining of pain in his lower back," said Dr. Angelo Chinnici, the track's medical director.

Lezcano was taken to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J.

Hermosillo, first under the wire, was disqualified to last for failing to carry weight for the full five furlongs.

* Jose Velez, Jr. rode Mambo Master to his 2,999th career victory in the fifth race Wednesday.