08/07/2002 11:00PM

Sapling lacks obvious choice


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Without a true standout in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling at Monmouth on Saturday, the field is wide open for any of the eight 2-year-olds to jump up and stamp himself as a juvenile to watch in the late summer and fall. For bettors, the key angle will be figuring out how important experience is, because while several starters are already seasoned racehorses, two are still maidens and four more only hold one career win.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has dominated the Sapling, run at six furlongs, unlike any other trainer in the race's history, having won the race eight times since 1987. On Saturday, he sends out Boston Park, who fits the mold of the early-developing 2-year-old he usually ships in for the race.

After running fourth in his debut May 18, Boston Park returned to pair together a maiden and allowance victory, earning his way into the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. After pressing the early pace, he faded to fifth in a field tougher than the one he faces Saturday.

Farno and Hear No Evil both have the experience edge in their favor. Farno ran second in both his maiden starts here before winning the $50,000 Tyro Stakes, the Sapling prep run July 20, for his first victory. Hear No Evil won the Criterium Stakes at Calder on July 6, but ran seventh in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga on July 25 in his last start.

Valid Video has been freshened since his debut victory June 14, as trainer Dennis Manning has been pointing to this race. Valid Video earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 in the win, the highest of any starter in the Sapling.

"I lost some time with him because he got sick shortly after the race," Manning said, "but I'm very happy with his condition, and he's coming into the race in good order."

The third race at Saratoga opening day, July 24, has amounted to somewhat of Sapling prep, with runner-up Le Notre and third-place finisher Forest Landing coming to Saturday's race as maidens. Yet while they lack experience, both hail from top-notch juvenile barns.

Patrick Biancone, trainer of Le Notre, has an outstanding arsenal of 2-year-olds, such as stakes winners Zavata and Whywhywhy, and Le Notre is another he regards highly.

Forest Landing was beaten three-quarters of a length by Le Notre when he ran third in his debut but was steadied on the backstretch and stopped once again while trying to make a run on the rail turning for home. Trainer Ronny Werner has sent out the most 2-year-old winners this meet and is known for his successful handling of juveniles.

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