07/20/2006 11:00PM

Skip Away prep race for Iselin


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Park Avenue Ball heads a strong field in the $70,000 Skip Away Stakes on Sunday at Monmouth Park. A 1 1/16-mile race, the Skip Away is the prep for the meet's main event for older runners on the main track, the Grade 3, $250,000 Philip Iselin Handicap Aug. 19.

The Iselin has long been on the radar screen for Park Avenue Ball, a New Jersey-bred 4-year-old who has won 1 of 3 starts this year.

"Our hopes are to run here, run well, come back good, and think about the Iselin," said trainer Jim Ryerson.

was one of the stars here last summer, running third in the $1 million Haskell Invitational, the track's premier race. He has won 4 of 7 races at Monmouth, including the Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes last season.

In his last start, Park Avenue Ball rallied to finish second in the June 24 Salvator Mile behind Travers winner Flower Alley, a Grade 1 winner who was making his season debut.

Another Skip Away contender aiming for the Iselin is Smokescreen, a 4-year-old trained by Ben Perkins Jr.

"The Iselin was one of the things we were thinking about early in the year," said Perkins. "We were hoping he would fit. If he runs good, we will think about."

started the season with a pair of seconds to horses who went on to win their subsequent start. That would make Smokescreen a strong play, expect for the fact that the last race was mid-May at Delaware Park.

has been sidelined with sore stifles since running fifth in the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 29.

"Fortunately, he fought through it," said trainer Joe Orseno. "He's put on weight and he looks great. He's come around. He's doing well. I'm excited to run him again. He's been a big horse in my barn."

With Belmont Park closed Sunday for the transition to Saratoga, Richard Migliore will head to the Jersey Shore to ride Freedom Isnt Free in the Skip Away.

Indy Wind, a winner here of 3 of 4 career starts, makes his stakes debut for owner-trainer Amy Tarrant.