07/18/2004 11:00PM

Smarty Jones missing from Haskell invitees list

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Haskell invitations are on the way.

The Monmouth Park race office sent out 24 invitations for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell on Aug. 8 to the connections of leading 3-year-olds. The biggest name missing from the roster of invitees was Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones.

"The Smarty Jones camp was the first we contacted," said racing secretary Mike Dempsey. "Unfortunately, [trainer] John Servis indicated that the horse would not be ready in time for the Haskell."

Among the big names invited to the Haskell are Birdstone, Eddington, Lion Heart, Rock Hard Ten, and The Cliff's Edge.

Talented trio in Wednesday feature

The $39,000 Wednesday allowance feature at Monmouth Park contains a trio of interesting 3-year-olds: Golden Gator, Datsallme, and Notable Act.

All three are coming off solid efforts, and they face six strong older sprinters in the six-furlong contest. The nine-horse field should produce a highly competitive race that offers good betting value.

"It's tough to find an easy spot any more," said Tim Kelly, trainer of Golden Gator. "There are a lot of good horsemen and a lot of good horses here."

Kelly said he is very impressed with the progress of Golden Gator, who in five starts has never run a Beyer Figure lower than 83.

Golden Gator most recently went two turns for the first time. He overcame an awkward break to run second in the one-mile allowance at Monmouth, earning an 83 Beyer.

"He ran a super race," said Kelly. "He ran a big number in the race. He got off bad and had a little trouble going into the first turn, and he was still a good second."

Although he has never finished out of the money, Golden Gator has not won since winning his maiden at The Meadowlands last November.

Golden Gator will be ridden by Julian Pimentel on Wednesday.

"It's a solid spot," said Kelly. "If he's the horse we think he is, he is supposed to get the job done there and move forward."

Datsallme made his debut June 11 for a $40,000 tag and scored a 12 1/2-length win that earned him an 81 Beyer. Trainer Kelly Breen will run Datsallme only if the track is dry.

"He had some problems, and that's why it took so long to get him to the races," said Breen. "If the track is not fast, we will not run. I'm protecting the horse."

According to Breen, the harder the track, the more Datsallme likes it.

"He's a horse I can't wait to run at The Meadowlands," said Breen. "He likes a paved highway, and that's what we're hoping for."

Notable Act is another colt who prefers a dry strip. He made his debut for trainer Donald Reeder at Delaware Park in the mud and faded badly after dueling for the lead. Notable Act returned on a dry track and posted a front-running score to earn an 85 Beyer.

Leading contenders among the older horses include Belichick, who ran second in a Monmouth allowance last time out, and Wild Card Deck, who ran second in a Belmont Park allowance.

Hurley scores another winner

Former Duke basketball star Bobby Hurley sent out another debut winner Saturday at Monmouth, when Pop the Question won a 2-year-old maiden race.

Hurley has taken a major leap into Thoroughbred racing, with ownership stakes in about 40 horses, including stallions and broodmares.

Hurley was selling six yearlings from the first crop of his Grade 1 winner Songandaprayer this week at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Kentucky. Trainer John Dowd was on hand to assist.

"We're happy with the way he ran," said Dowd of Pop the Question. "He didn't have the best of trips. He broke outward and showed a lot of class and ability to overcome that."

Pop the Question will likely run in two of Monmouth's top juvenile stakes: the $60,000 Tyro on July 31 and the Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling on Aug. 28.

Promising finish for Matt Daddy

While Pop the Question was scoring his first win, Matt Daddy was making a huge late run in the same race to get third.

Matt Daddy, who was making his debut and is trained by Todd Pletcher, got squeezed between horses at the break and was away last. Ridden by Chris DeCarlo, Matt Daddy shot to the rail in the lane and finished strongly.

"He was back there," said Anthony Sciametta, who trains Pletcher's Monmouth division. "Chris liked him. He thought he would be an allright horse."