08/11/2004 11:00PM

Sir Oscar ready for first local start


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Sir Oscar takes an important step on the comeback trail in the $60,000 Rumson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

The track's leading jockey, Joe Bravo, will be aboard the colt trying to recapture the brilliance of his juvenile season.

"Right now, he looks fantastic, and he's 100 percent sound," said trainer Greg Sacco. "He still has potential to finish this year strong and go into his 4-year-old season as a handicap horse."

Nobody beat Sir Oscar last year, as he won all six starts at Calder. A Florida-bred son of Halo's Image, he won restricted and open stakes races at distances ranging from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

Based on that auspicious start, expectations were high coming into this year.

Sir Oscar jumped right into the fire this season with his first two starts, the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

He ran fifth in the Fountain of Youth and afterward was transferred from trainer Manuel Azpurua to trainer Marty Wolfson.

He finished eighth in the Florida Derby and came out of that race with a bruised hind foot that proved to be a deep abscess. He was sent to Sacco following that race.

Sacco sent Sir Oscar to his brother Rick for the rehabilitation.

Sir Oscar returned to action on July 10 in the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes at Calder. He ran sixth in a spot where he was "about 75 percent ready," according to Sacco.

Sir Oscar stumbled early and never got into contention.

"My brother said without the stumbling, he could have been third or fourth," said Sacco.

Sir Oscar shipped north to New Jersey about two weeks ago and settled in nicely at Monmouth. He turned in a sharp four-furlong drill on Aug. 7 of 47.40 seconds with Bravo aboard. It was the fastest of 88 works that morning at the distance.

"We were happy Joe got a feel for him" said Sacco. "We're very confident he is going to run a big race Saturday."

The six-furlong Rumson will not be an easy spot. Golden Gator and Knight of Darkness step up following solid allowance wins over the track, while Gotaghostofachance ran second to Pomeroy in his last outing, Monmouth's Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Hills well positioned for Decathlon

Rain or shine, it won't matter to trainer Tim Hills in Saturday's $60,000 Decathlon Stakes at five furlongs on the turf.

Hills entered a pair: Scattering Breezes for the grass and Wheaton's Aly in case the stakes moves off the turf.

Scattering Breezes finished third last time, losing by only a neck in a wild blanket finish in Monmouth's McSorley Stakes.

Wheaton's Aly scored an off-the-turf allowance win in his last outing.

Vous out of Monmouth Oaks

Hills withdrew Vous from Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks after the filly worked poorly on Thursday.

Vous went four furlongs in 50 seconds on the main track.

Hills was looking for a sign that Vous, who has made 9 of 11 career starts on the turf, was ready for the transition to dirt in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

"I wanted her to tout me today with the work," said Hills. When jockey Alfredo Clemente worked Vous, Hills said, "It just didn't grab me. I didn't say, 'Wow.'

"I really wanted to run her there. I'll eventually run her on the dirt but it will be when they take a race off the turf someday."

Vous, who was third in the Virginia Oaks in her last start, will be pointed toward the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake Placid Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 23 at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

* Hall of Fame jockey Sam Boulmetis returned to Monmouth to pinch-hit for state steward Steve Pagano for three days, starting Thursday. Boulmetis was leading rider at Monmouth in 1949, 1953, 1955, and 1956. Boulmetis became a steward in 1969 and served in that role until he retired at the end of last season to devote time to travel and fishing.