05/30/2003 12:00AM

'Skier' iffy proposition

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - New Jersey-bred mares will wind up in the spotlight Sunday at Monmouth Park as the $50,000 Dearly Precious Stakes did not fill.

That leaves the $50,000 Open Mind Handicap for statebreds at six furlongs as the featured race on the card.

Uphill Skier will be awfully tough in this spot, if she runs. Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. also entered Uphill Skier in Saturday's Revidere Stakes at one mile on the turf for 3-year-old fillies. Perkins planned to run her in the Revidere if the race was shifted to the main track.

Uphill Skier most recently ran last in the four-horse Nassau County Breeders' Cup Stakes at seven furlongs, a Grade 2 race at Belmont Park. She is 3 for 4 in races at six furlongs.

Trainer Kevin Sleeter, a potent force in Jersey-bred races, sends out an entry of Picnic Theme and Whoop's Ah Daisy. Neither has run since the Wistful Stakes at The Meadowlands last October.

Picnic Theme has shown a preference for more distance. She won three races last year, all at one mile or longer.

Whoop's Ah Daisy has the superior sprinting credentials. She has won 3 of 6 at six furlongs and has never been off the board at the distance.

Completing the field are Mary's Nickle, Fashion Idol, Arpeggio, Cigno D'Oro, Proud and Free, and Primary Colors.

Wild Snitch needs a spot

Perkins suffered another setback in his efforts to get Wild Snitch back to the races when the Dearly Precious Stakes fell apart.

A rough winter in New York curtailed Wild Snitch's training and left her behind schedule.

"We planned to start her back earlier but the weather just killed us," Perkins said. "We were hoping to have her running by March or April but we got set back by the weather every time."

Perkins finally had Wild Snitch ready to run and had zeroed in on a spot: the Dearly Precious. The race office could entice only four runners for the six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies and elected to scrap the stakes.

"Not really," was Perkins's reply when asked if he had a fallback position. "It's a shame. You get a horse ready and you have nowhere to run. We could have taken her to New York, but then we look like the bad guys."

Wild Snitch has not run since she finished second, beaten 12 3/4 lengths by Storm Flag Flying - the eventual Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award champion - in the Grade 1 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.

Wild Snitch won both starts at Monmouth last summer, a maiden special weight and the Grade 3 Sorority Stakes.

A new Baze joins jockey colony

Michael Baze has the desire, the pedigree, and an agent lined up in his quest to ride at Monmouth. The only thing holding him back was a paperwork problem.

The 16-year-old Baze was named to ride Halory's Secret in the ninth race Friday but was replaced by Jose Rivera II after failing to obtain a New Jersey work permit.

Agent Joe DiAngelo spent Friday afternoon scrambling to get the forms processed. The papers finally in hand, DiAngelo booked Baze on two horses Sunday: Jule Bandit in the third and Yarnell Hill in the fifth.

Baze is the nephew of Hall of Famer Russell Baze and cousin of rider Tyler Baze.

A 10-pound apprentice, Baze went 3 for 30 at Hollywood Park before heading east.

Santagata bounces back

Nick Santagata, the dean of New Jersey jockeys, survived a scare Friday morning. Unseated while galloping a horse, Santagata dusted himself off and rode the afternoon card.

Santagata, 45, is keyed up for another season on the Jersey shore.

"It was a bad winter but I'm really looking forward to the summer," Santagata said. "Hopefully, we'll get some good grass racing going."

Santagata, born in Brooklyn, is the all-time leading rider at The Meadowlands. He needs only 11 more wins to hit 1,000 at that track.

"I want to get the momentum going," Santagata said. "I really enjoy this game."

A long layoff

Guy Henry made a remarkable comeback Friday afternoon at Monmouth. A 10-pound bug, Henry had not had a mount since 1981.

Henry, once an aspiring jockey, left the racetrack to become a dentist. He established a successful practice in nearby Wall Township but never lost the urge to ride.

Now 48 with two wins to his credit, Henry returned to the saddle aboard Diplomatic Flight for trainer Derek Ryan in the ninth race and finished last in the field of nine at 40-1.