06/07/2004 11:00PM

Smarty Jones a priority on track's wish list


OCEANPORT, N.J. - New Jersey wants to host a Smarty party.

The Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 8 would be the ideal spot.

If that date doesn't fit comfortably into Smarty Jones's schedule, there are a couple of fall options at The Meadowlands.

The Smarty Jones camp is on record as wanting to bring the hometown hero to Philadelphia Park for the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 6. They also want to get Smarty ready for the Breeders' Cup. The question, from the New Jersey perspective, centers on when and where Smarty runs before or between those two events.

If trainer John Servis decides to run before the Pennsylvania Derby, the Haskell comes into play.

"Hopefully the horse is doing so good by the end of June that they want to run him before Labor Day," said Bob Kulina, vice president of Monmouth Park.

Stewart Elliott is riding at Monmouth this summer, and Jason Servis, John's brother, has a stable on the grounds - factors that contribute a comfort level to bringing Smarty to Monmouth.

"Every year we're sitting here hoping we can get the winners of the Triple Crown races to come race with us in the Haskell," said Kulina.

There is an added sweetener. Since Smarty Jones has won two Triple Crown races, Servis and the owners, Patricia and Roy Chapman, would each get a $50,000 bonus if Smarty Jones runs in the Haskell.

The quest for Haskell horses extends beyond Smarty Jones. Kulina said he plans on contacting trainer Nick Zito about possibly running Belmont winner Birdstone or The Cliff's Edge.

The more intriguing scenario revolves around trying to lure Smarty Jones to The Meadowlands in the fall. Two Grade 2 options exist: the Meadowlands Cup and the Pegasus Handicap for 3-year-olds. The Pegasus will return after a one-year absence.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth and The Meadowlands, has not released a stakes schedule for Monmouth in September or for The Meadowlands meet, which runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 13. Presumably, either of The Meadowlands Cup or the Pegasus could be altered to help attract Smarty.

The authority has changed the dates, distances, and purses of both the Meadowlands Cup and the Pegasus to lure top runners in the past.

And racing has no bigger star than Smarty Jones.

"I feel we have a few shots to get this horse in New Jersey," said Kulina. "Hopefully he bounces right back off this really grueling campaign.

"There are a lot of good 3-year-olds out there. The potential for a great Haskell is always there. We're going to do our darnedest to get the best horses we can to run in New Jersey."

Lone turf event on card

The only grass race on the Thursday card is the feature - a $38,000 allowance for nonwinners of two races going 1 1/16 miles.

This could be a good spot for the Linda Rice barn to get rolling.

Rice, who won 19 races from only 80 starters here in 2003, has not hit the board with her first nine runners this year.

She sends out Matzoh Toga, a drawing-away winner last time for a $40,000 claiming price at Gulfstream Park.

It was the second start on turf for Matzoh Toga, a gray colt who picked up his game on the surface shift following three poor runs on the main track.

Completing the field Sting Lear, Iceberg Wayne, Ranger Chance, Wesman, Wicklow Bound, Don Amin, and Sea Preacher.