06/26/2005 11:00PM

Serey getting ready to reclaim his spot


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Juan Serey is starting over again at Monmouth Park.

Serey, 56, lost his training license two years ago. He received another license last week from the New Jersey Racing Commission and has already set up shop at Monmouth.

"This is home for me," Serey said.

Monmouth is where Serey soared to prominence.

A native of Chile, Serey arrived in the United States 25 years ago and worked as an exercise rider for Oscar Barrera, Laz Barrera, John Tammaro, and Frank Martin. He often supplemented his summer income at Monmouth by galloping horses in the morning and selling Daily Racing Forms in the afternoon.

He took out a trainer's license in 1991 and quickly developed a reputation for taking claimers and turning them into allowance and stakes winners. He became a leading trainer everywhere he set up shop, including New York.

Serey, who swept five straight training titles at Monmouth from 1995 to 1999, hopes to rise again after a stunning fall.

Serey lost his license in 2003, when the New York State Racing and Wagering Board found him in violation of "financial obligations," and New Jersey honored the ban.

It stemmed from an ugly battle Serey had with his brother Mario, who charged that Juan improperly siphoned money from his purse account and transferred horses into his name.

Serey lost his license and eventually filed for bankruptcy. He drifted, finding work on a farm for owner Ernie Paragallo.

Serey credits the support of his wife, Maria Elena, and daughter, Caterina, with helping him through the hard times.

The tide finally started turning Serey's way earlier this year when New York restored his license. The decision by New Jersey was the latest bit of good news.

"I got down, and I got disappointed," Serey said. "Everybody tried to do the right thing. The racing commissions did what they had to do. I appreciate getting this break."

He has started to reassemble a stable and has resumed galloping horses in the morning. Old clients have sent Serey 12 horses.

He expects that number to grow.

"I am hoping to get more stalls," Serey said. "I've got a lot of people calling me already."

If Serey has his way, action will heat up at the Monmouth claim box.

"I want to claim a lot of horses,"Serey said. "That's my game. I love to claim all day and all night."

Serey has already started closely watching the Monmouth races, looking for potential claims.

He seems genuinely happy to be back in the game.

"You have to take the opportunities you get in life," Serey said. "This is my second chance. I want to try very hard this time, harder than ever."

Motion seeking honest pace in U.N.

Trainer Graham Motion won't leave Better Talk Now to the mercy of the pace in the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes Saturday at Monmouth Park. Not after the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico.

Better Talk Now, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner, tried to rally following a 51.99-second opening half-mile and ran fourth.

Better Talk Now will have help in the U.N.

Motion will also enter Shake the Bank as a rabbit to ensure honest fractions in the 1 3/8-mile race on the grass.

"That last race was a throwout," Motion said. "I've never seen a mile-and-an-eighth race of that caliber run in 52. My horse is a horse that needs an honest pace to run at and he certainly didn't get it that day."

Enter stablemate Shake the Bank, a modestly successful 5-year-old who has excellent early speed.

"This time we're going to run another horse in there to make sure there is an honest pace." Motion said.

The field for the United Nations, the premier grass race of the Monmouth meet, is starting to come into focus.

In addition to the two horses from Motion, the race office expects Request for Parole, last year's winner; Cool Conductor, winner of the Dixie; Navesink River, winner of the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap; Revved Up, winner of Monmouth's Battlefield Stakes; Silverfoot, who won the last two editions of the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap; and locally based Spruce Run, who set the pace and almost pulled off the upset in the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap.

Bobby Frankel nominated four, with the race office projecting Epicentre and Exterior as his most likely entrants.