06/19/2006 11:00PM

Smile Sprint next for Joey P.

Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
Monmouth's new turf course, renovated for the 2007 Breeders' Cup, made its debut on Sunday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Joey P. earned a trip to Florida with his convincing win Sunday in the Longfellow Stakes at Monmouth Park.

It won't exactly be a vacation. Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. has targeted the Grade 2, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 15 as the next start for the New Jersey-bred gelding.

It would be the first time Joey P., now 4, ventures beyond the New York-New Jersey region.

Ten of his 12 starts have come at Monmouth, where he has a record of 8-0-1. He ran once at Belmont Park, finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap last October on the Breeders' Cup undercard. The only other start away from Monmouth was a victory in the Rutgers Stakes at the Meadowlands Racetrack in November.

Owner John Petrini transferred Joey P. from Frank Costa to Perkins after last season, with the intention of showcasing the horse to a wider audience. The Smile would be the first step in that plan.

Joey P., unbeaten in two stakes at Monmouth this year, heads south on the upswing. He won the first start of the season largely on class in the John J. Reilly Handicap against Jersey-breds. Joey P. was much sharper against open company in the $70,800 Longfellow, winning by 2 1/4 lengths while elevating his Beyer Speed Figure from an 84 in the Reilly to 104.

"Hopefully this is going to be a long year, and we just wanted to get a good race out of the Reilly," Perkins said. "We left him a little room to go forward. You can see that's he's changed. He's picked up his training on his own. He's gotten himself more on the muscle."

For the Smile, Perkins is looking forward to running a horse who has had a light campaign.

"You always like to have a nice, fresh, sound horse going into the big race," Perkins said. "We'll look to put one more good work into him and he should be at his best, hopefully."

Perkins hasn't confirmed Joey P.'s travel plans but said he prefers to arrive as close to the race as possible.

Thumbs-up for $6 million turf course

The brand-new Monmouth turf course debuted Sunday to positive reviews.

One race was run over the $6 million course, the centerpiece of the renovations needed to bring the track up to speed as host of the 2007 Breeders' Cup.

"The footing is great," said Chuck Lopez, who rode Navesink to victory in the $25,000 claimer. "I don't believe the turns are any tighter than they were in the past. I was fortunate enough to ride a horse that is very good on turf. The course is very good and he handled it beautifully."

Eddie Broome, the trainer of runner-up Adjust, was also impressed by the course.

"It was beautiful," he said. "There was a little dirt flying up, but that might just be the top dressing. There was no turf flying, no clods."

The race office will card a steady stream of grass races starting Saturday. The biggest turf event of the meet is the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on July 8.

Flower Alley may return in Salvator Mile

The $150,000 Salvator Mile on Saturday will be the first graded stakes of the meet.

Todd Pletcher has said that Flower Alley, last year's Travers winner who has not raced since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, could stage his comeback in the Grade 3 race.

Park Avenue Ball and Network, the respective one-two finishers in Monmouth's Frisk Me Now Stakes on May 27, are on target for the Salvator.

Park Avenue Ball, winner of Monmouth's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes last summer, worked four furlongs in 49 seconds Tuesday at Monmouth.

"It was nice, it was good," said trainer Jim Ryerson. "We were just looking to do a little something with him."

Call the Thunder on the improve

Call the Thunder ran a much stronger race in her second start of the season than her first. Rob Rader, the assistant who trains Mark Hennig's New Jersey division, hopes the third race in the form cycle is the charm.

Call the Thunder is well spotted in Thursday's $38,000 first-level allowance feature for fillies and mares at Monmouth. The 4-year-old faces five rivals in the one-mile race following an encouraging third in a similar spot last out.

Call the Thunder made a premature move to pull within a neck of the leaders on the second turn in an 11-horse field. She pressed on to get third and now returns against a smaller group.

"I'm looking forward to running her back," Rader said. "She looks like she's going the right way. I think she'll improve off that last race."

The main competition could come from Storm a Brewing, who finished second last time out, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Call the Thunder.