07/19/2001 11:00PM

Showdown in Bernie Dowd 'Cap


OCEANPORT, N.J. - H.M.S. Jackson and Country Music have split two races this year, and the rubber match comes in Sunday's $50,000 Bernie Dowd Handicap for Jersey-breds at six furlongs.

The first match between the two came opening day in a Jersey-bred allowance, as H.M.S. Jackson took first and his rival had to settle for third. In the rematch on July 8, in an open-company allowance, Country Music raced wire to wire to end the two-race winning streak of H.M.S. Jackson, who lunged at the start and could not muster a late challenge to the winner. In the Bernie Dowd, it will be H.M.S. Jackson looking to end the two-race win streak of Country Music. Eibar Coa will ride H.M.S. Jackson, and Jorge Duarte Jr. will be on Country Music.

"We have been aiming for this race for a long time," said Tim Hills, trainer of H.M.S. Jackson. "We schooled him in the gate the other day, and he put in a nice workout Thursday."

The competition for the two will be tough in the Bernie Dowd, as Sea of Tranquility will likely be a solid favorite. Sea of Tranquility, a multiple stakes winner trained by Richard Paulus, defeated Thistyranthasclass in the Jersey Breeders' Handicap on June 16. He is vulnerable, though, as he will be cutting back to six furlongs in the race, a distance in which he is winless in eight starts. Also expected to receive much support at the betting windows is Loaded Gun, who has battled top sprinters in the past, and drops into the state-bred ranks for an easier challenge.

Quick Blue to try Monmouth BC Oaks

Quick Blue, entered in the Delaware Oaks on Saturday, was scratched Friday by her trainer Linda Rice, and will make her next start in the Grade 2 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks on Saturday.

According to Rice, Quick Blue will breeze over the Belmont track Saturday, then ship to Monmouth to begin preparing over the track in the days leading up to the race.

"She didn't get the greatest post [12], and she has traveled quite a bit," Rice said on why she scratched the filly. "We felt that she could benefit from an extra week before running."

Most recently, Quick Blue won the Bison City, restricted to Canadian-breds, at Fort Erie on July 1. Previously, she had run third in the half-million Woodbine Oaks June 9.

The Monmouth Oaks, s also likely to attract Kentucky Oaks winner Flute, who also scratched out of the Delaware Oaks, and Unbridled Elaine, fourth in the Grade 1 Acorn and winner of the Iowa Oaks.

Turf veterans face novices

Sunday's co-feature, the $50,000 Anderson Fowler for three-year-olds sprinting on the turf, offers both accomplished turf sprinters and others trying grass for the first time. Rock, Rideouts Patton and Sparkling Number should all vie for favoritism in the five-furlong race.

Sparkling Number won the Ocean Hotel Stakes at the same conditions on June 24. He is sent out by the hot Rice barn, and gets Jose Ferrer aboard. Rock is 3 for 3 sprinting on the turf, including a nose-victory over recent winner Manofglory on June 27. Manofglory came out of that race to end Rideouts Patton's two-race win streak by a head July 12. Rideouts Patton had been unbeaten on the grass, and returns on only 9 days rest.

Holiest Punch, a Jersey-bred, tries turf for the first time, and has won three in a row on the dirt. Dry Gulched, Forest Heir and Castle of Sand make their first turf start, having competed in dirt stakes in the past.

Point Given 124 in Haskell

Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, was assigned topweight of 124 pounds on Friday for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. The Haskell, run Aug. 5, carries a $1 million purse, but will be raised to $1.5 million if Point Given runs.

Congaree, winner of the Swaps, was assigned one less pound than his stablemate, Point Given. A P Valentine, second in both of Point Given's Triple Crown victories, drew

121 pounds. Burning Roma and Hero's Tribute, both aiming for the Haskell, drew 119 pounds. Local standout Songandaprayer was assigned 116 pounds. Dollar Bill and Balto Star were each assigned 117 pounds, while Invisible Ink, second in the Derby, received 115.