08/19/2003 11:00PM

Saarland to try softer in Iselin Handicap


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Saarland, a consistent contender in Grade 1 races this year, heads the eight runners who are likely for the Grade 3, $200,000 Philip H. Iselin Handicap Saturday afternoon at Monmouth Park.

Saarland, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled, most recently finished sixth in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. He was beaten less than four lengths in a race where he wound up trapped on the inside.

"He's a horse that cannot run on the inside because of his size," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "Because he's so big, he needs to run on the outside where he has clear running. He was caught on the rail and had nowhere to go in the Whitney."

The Whitney marked the first time in five starts this season that Saarland finished out of the money.

Saarland lost by only a neck in his other Grade 1 start this season, the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on Memorial Day weekend.

Saarland was assigned 117 pounds.

Other likely Iselin runners include: Tenpins, the probable starting highweight at 119 pounds following a victory in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows; Vinemeister (114), winner of Monmouth's Grade 3 Salvator Mile; Jersey Giant (115), the Salvator runner-up; Runspastum (114) who won Monmouth's Oceanport Handicap on June 14; Private Lap (115) who has won two of his last three at Delaware Park, including the Carpenter Handicap; Aeneas (114); and Sherpa Guide (114).

La Tizona can bounce back

Michael Gill, Monmouth's leading owner, aimed too high with La Tizona in her first start wearing his colors.

Fresh from a claim for $40,000, La Tizona faced Grade 3 competition in the Eatontown Handicap. She finished last, beaten 20 lengths.

Gill wheels La Tizona right back for a $40,000 claiming tag Friday in the featured $41,000, optional claiming race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf. La Tizona faces eight rivals.

New Jersey-breds to have their day

Taking a cue from successful series like the Maryland Million and New York Showcase Day, New Jersey-breds will have a day of their own Sept. 20 at Monmouth.

For the first time, the entire 10-race card, including three $45,000 handicap races - the Friendly Lover, the Slady Castle, and the William A. Purdy - will be restricted to New Jersey-bred runners.

"It's important for the owners and breeders to have their day," said Mike Campbell, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey. "We're looking forward to making this an annual event that grows in the future."

The "Jersey Jubilee" will also feature a new owners seminar by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, display booths from New Jersey businesses, family entertainment, and a jockey autograph session.

The program will be a joint effort by Monmouth, the New Jersey breeders association, and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Grand Hombre preps at Philadelphia

Jockey Joe Bravo and trainer Dennis Manning traveled to Philadelphia Park Wednesday morning to work Grand Hombre for the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 1.

Grand Hombre went seven furlongs in 1:26.33.

"I was very happy with the work," Manning said. "Bravo was happy with the work."

Bravo will ride the undefeated Grand Hombre for the first time in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Backstretch applauds purse agreement

The news that September purses will average $250,000 per day got a favorable reception on the Monmouth backstretch.

An agreement struck between the local horsemen's association and the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority guaranteed purses at that level through Sept. 28.

The NJSEA had originally guaranteed $300,000 a day for the traditional Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day season. Worst-case projections had purse levels falling to $150,000 for the extended portion of the meet.

"One-hundred-fifty is horrible in this day and age when places like Mountaineer and Charles Town can give away more than here because of slots," said trainer Chuck Spina. "I think this is great."

Kelly Breen, like many Monmouth trainers, was relieved.

"If we can have September at $250,000, it will help Monmouth Park tremendously to keep quality racing here," Breen said. "It's going to keep my owners happy that we're running for a decent amount of money."