08/23/2001 11:00PM

Saint Verre tries turf again in Choice Stakes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The $75,000 Choice Stakes, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, offers the most competitive field of the Iselin Handicap undercard stakes Sunday. The field includes the third- and fourth-place runners from the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 6.

Saint Verre, trained by McGaughey, made his first turf start in the Hall of Fame, setting the early fractions and holding on for third. Saint Verre has not fulfilled his connections' high expectations on the main track, and may prove better on turf.

The Todd Pletcher-trained First Spear was a leading 3-year-old on the turf here before shipping up to Saratoga for the Hall of Fame, in which he ran fourth. He ran second to graded stakes winner Navesink early in the meet, and then won an allowance and the Lamplighter Handicap here.

Choice entrant Spruce Run has won two stakes this meet, the Spend a Buck and Restoration. He ran second to First Spear in the Lamplighter.

Completing the field are One Eyed Joker, Szep, Moomtazz, Davy Jones, and Punkin Head.

Crash Course will be flying

In three stakes this meet, Crash Course has come flying in the stretch and finished third. In Sunday's $75,000 Bob Harding Stakes at one-mile on the turf, Crash Course has a good opportunity to break through for a win.

Crash Course, trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Croll, has run third in the Battlefield, Bet Twice, and Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap this meet. In the Oceanport, he finished a length back of Key Lory. Crash Course has three wins in six starts going a mile. Rick Wilson rides.

Sardaukar is the likely favorite in the Bob Harding. In his first race for trainer Alan Goldberg and first at Monmouth, he won the Bet Twice Stakes. Previously, he had been trained by Julio Canani in California, where he placed in graded stakes behind such top horses such as Irish Prize and Dark Moondancer.

Completing the Bob Harding field are Mercaldo, Magical Madness, Rudirudy, Scagnelli, Lead Em Home, and Cat Scan.

Cousin Gigi on a roll

Cousin Gigi couldn't be entering Sunday's Omnibus Stakes in any better form. She comes off a victory at 25-1 in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap on Aug. 5, her first try in a graded stakes. She has two consecutive victories over the Monmouth course for trainer Tim Hills.

Others entered in the Omnibus, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, are Song for Annie, Remediate, Ladies Night In, Zeiting, On the Horizon, Quidnaskra, Laurica, and Lady Brook.