07/25/2004 11:00PM

Reduit takes first step toward return

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Reduit hits the comeback trail again for trainer Tom Skiffington in the $43,000 optional claiming feature Wednesday at Monmouth Park.

A 6-year-old, Reduit last raced in the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park in March 2003. He rallied for third, but was vanned off the track with a suspensory injury.

"He was a good horse and I was counting on having a real good year with him," said Skiffington. "When you lose one of your star players, it's not the best scenario. There are only so many good ones that are going to come through your hands, and when one of the good ones gets hurt, it's heartbreaking.

"He's come a long way, but he's still got a long way to go. He's going to need this one. It always takes a couple of races before he fires."

This latest comeback spot is 1 1/16 miles on the turf, a distance probably too short for Reduit, who won a 1 1/2-mile allowance in the race before the Pan American.

"This is just the start for him," said Skiffington. "He needs to get a race into him and see if he comes back sound."

Reduit, who also missed over a year with a navicular fracture he suffered when he kicked a wall, will be making only the 17th start of his career.

"It's been very frustrating with all the injuries," said Skiffington.

While Reduit takes the first step back, several horses in the race looked primed for peak efforts.

Hotstufanthensome ran a career-best 96 Beyer last time out in a Monmouth allowance, and Symbolic Cat has run a pair of solid races at Monmouth following a victory at Belmont Park in mid-May.

Symbolic Cat, trained by Terri Pompay, made a strong inside move to get third in his most recent race.

"In these races, you have to get a good trip," said Pompay. "They all finish about a length apart."

Pompay said a tactical decision proved costly last time.

"We took the horse back and he likes to be a little closer," said Pompay. "They went slower than we anticipated and we were too far back. He's a tough horse. He'll run a good race."

Meet will be affected by Saratoga

Saratoga gets underway Wednesday and the impact, both positive and negative, will be felt at Monmouth.

On the plus side, Saratoga provides a very popular simulcast signal for Monmouth bettors. The negative - the Saratoga meet makes it harder to attract stakes horses.

"The prime impact has been on races like the Sapling and the Sorority," said Monmouth Park vice president Bob Kulina of Monmouth's top 2-year-old stakes. "They went from Grade 1 events and premier 2-year-old races to where they are just stakes because all the breeders, owners, and horsepeople want to run a horse in Saratoga.

"Saratoga is the mecca of racing. Everybody with a decent horse who can possibly run in a stakes race would like to run at Saratoga, regardless of where it finishes."

There is one silver lining in terms of available horses: Some of the New York-based claimers who won't find spots at Saratoga will turn up in the Monmouth entries.

"We will see more off a sprinkling of New York trainers on the cards during August," said Kulina. "They spice up the cards and offer some interesting twists for the players."

Price was right for Perry

Bill Perry had mixed emotions over the weekend after he sold Miss Matched, a 2-year-old daughter of his former star Formal Gold.

On one hand, Perry was sorry to lose Miss Matched, who dazzled with a 12 1/2-length win in her lone start July 15. On the other hand, the sales price for her was too good to refuse.

"I would have loved to keep her," said Perry. "The fact that she was by Formal Gold was icing on the cake, but they offered me a lot of money. It was more than a fair price. I'm just not in a position to hang on to the horse."

Perry, who trained and co-owned Miss Matched, sold the filly to trainer John Ward, who purchased Miss Matched for owners Debby and John Oxley.

"I liked her win, of course," Oxley said. "She did it easy. I liked her breeding. I think she'll get the two turns down the road. She's a very attractive filly, very classy. I'm quite enthused about it."

Miss Matched was transferred to Ward's stable at Saratoga. Neither side would disclose the purchase price, but Perry said it was "high six figures."

- additional reporting by David Grening