07/11/2008 12:00AM

Small entry looms large in Serena's Song


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Richard Small looms large in Sunday's $70,000 Serena's Song Stakes at Monmouth Park, saddling a pair of runners coming into the race in top form.

Hartigan, a winner of two straight stakes at Pimlico, and Inventive, who beat older runners in an optional claimer at Monmouth in her last start, form a capable entry for the Maryland-based Small, who has 3 wins from only 10 starters at Monmouth this meet.

Hartigan won the Pearl Necklace Stakes over Maryland-breds in her most recent, coming from off the pace despite tepid early fractions, and she won the Hilltop Stakes in her prior start, her first off a short layoff. In both races she beat Inventive, who made her entrymate look good by coming to Monmouth and impressing in her local debut.

Hartigan, co-topweight in the Serena's Song field with Saki to Me at 122 pounds, will be ridden by Jozbin Santana. Carlos Marquez Jr. rides Inventive.

Charming, the likely favorite, hasn't been out since May and lacks two-turn experience. In her favor, though, are her connections - trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Joe Bravo.

Other notables in the Serena's Song, to be run at one mile and 70 yards, include New York invaders Break Point and Awesome I Am, recent Monmouth allowance winner Dance Hall Days, and Saki to Me, winner of the Little Silver Stakes here back in May.

The day's co-feature, the $60,000 John McSorley, drew a deep field of turf sprinters, including John's Pic, an easy winner in the 2007 edition of this race. In his last try on the turf, John's Pic settled for second behind Our Friend Harvey in the Wolf Hill Stakes, which, like the McSorley Stakes, is at 5o1/2 furlongs on the grass. The third-place finisher from that race, Hesa Big Star, is also in the McSorley, the day's sixth race.

"He's good to go," said Tim Hills, trainer of Our Friend Harvey. "I expect him to run well again."

Bravo, who rode Our Friend Harvey to victory in the Wolf Hill, is back aboard in the McSorley, which is run annually as part of the track's "St. Patrick's Day in July" promotion. The festivities include a drawing for a trip for two to Ireland.

First post is 12:50 p.m.