07/23/2003 11:00PM

Sea of Tranquility out for Salvator three-peat


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Sea of Tranquility and Jersey Giant, two New Jersey breds who have proven their mettle in open company, renew a budding rivalry Saturday afternoon in the Grade 3, $100,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.

Sea of Tranquility, the 7-year-old lion of summer, will bid for a record third straight win in the stakes.

At 4, Jersey Giant is the young cub starting to flex his muscles. He is unbeaten in three starts this season, including his most recent race, a victory over Sea of Tranquility in Monmouth's Skip Away Stakes on July 4.

"He's trained very well the last couple of months and everything has been on schedule," said trainer Jim Ryerson. "We breezed him a couple of times since the last race and it seems like he's relaxing more and more."

Jersey Giant started the campaign with a win over New Jersey-breds on opening day in the John J. Reilly Handicap at six furlongs. He stepped up to open-company routes for the next two outings, an allowance race and the Skip Away.

The transition from the friendly confines of the statebreds to open stakes company has gone smoothly.

"We were hoping with a year's maturity that he would be a better horse," Ryerson said. "I think we saw the room for improvement. Hopefully, he hasn't leveled off and we've got even bigger things ahead."

If all progresses well, Jersey Giant will have a career as productive as Sea of Tranquility's. That veteran has won 19 of 59 career starts and a Salvatore three-peat would lift his lifetime earnings over $700,000.

"Trying for the third is a little tough," said his trainer, Richard Paulus. "They're not going to give you anything. We'll have to be a little tougher."

His last race, the half-length loss to Jersey Giant in the Skip Away, could have been a turning point for Sea of Tranquility. He had not been sharp in three prior starts this season.

"That last race had to help him," Paulus said. "We couldn't get a good race into him in the two races before that. Last time, he got a little bit tired at the end. That might have tightened him up."

Also entered are Bowman's Band, second last time out in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows; Dhaffir, winner of the Topsider Stakes at Suffolk Downs; Pinky Pizwaanski, who ran fifth most recently in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap on the turf at Belmont Park; Highway Prospector, beaten only a neck in the Grade 2 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont; and Vinemeister.