09/03/2005 12:00AM

Say bye to turf course


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Farewell, old sod.

The $60,000 Bob Harding Monday will be the final stakes race run over the existing Monmouth Park turf course.

Replacement of the course, one of the major renovation projects in advance of the 2007 Breeders' Cup, begins Tuesday.

Before the work crews attack, Monmouth will squeeze out a few final grass races, including the Harding at a mile.

Stormy Roman, 6, winner of last year's Bob Harding, will defend that title for trainer Tim Hills in a full field of 10. Stormy Roman is winless in four starts this year but has not been far off the mark.

Stormy Roman has three thirds, including one last time out in a 1 1/2-length loss in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes on the Haskell Day undercard.

"He's knocking on the door," Hills said. "Those were tougher horses he ran against last time."

Hills entered Stormy Roman in Saturday's $200,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park but scratched in favor of an easier spot in the Harding.

"I'm just trying to get him back in a winning mode," Hills said. "It will be nice to get him into a race he can win. I think he'll be pretty tough in here."

The Labor Day card also features a main-track stakes, the $75,000 Icecapade at six furlongs.

Abbondanza, third last time out in the Chesapeake Stakes at Colonial Downs, will try for his first stakes victory since capturing the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park last October.

Trainer Brad Wallace, the former assistant to Allen Iwinski, entered the pair of Dashboard Drummer and Sing Me Back Home. Dashboard Drummer won the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes, Monmouth's top juvenile event, in 2003.

Come Tuesday, work starts on the course. The sprinklers will be removed and the hedge will come down. By next week, the grass will be stripped away. Weather permitting, new sod and improved drainage will be in place by mid-November. One of the biggest changes will be the addition of a chute to accommodate 5 1/2-furlong grass sprints.

Labor Day marks the end of the traditional summer season at Monmouth. Racing continues through Sept. 25 on a Thursday through Sunday schedule.