09/01/2001 11:00PM

Strolling Belle takes Personal Ensign


Oceanport, N.J. - A record-setting summer meet at Monmouth Park came to a fitting end Sunday with three big stakes performances in front of one of the largest closing-day crowds in more than a decade.

The Jersey Shore-oval posted attendance and handle gains, thanks in large part to a record 47,127 that watched Point Given win the Haskell Invitational on August 5. The inclusion of Monmouth as a simulcast signal at Saratoga Race Course also helped balloon average daily simulcast handle to a 40.9% gain over last year.

The 24,357 fans on hand for the finale saw Strolling Belle rally to win the $75,000 Personal Ensign Stakes under Eibar Coa - the meet's leading jockey. The Red Oak Stable-runner, trained by John Kimmel was the 3-5 favorite, and took the 1 1/16th miles race by 1 3/4 lengths over Southern Fiction in 1:46.15.

A furious late charge by Gaelic Bay locked down the first Monmouth training title since 1977 for J. Willard Thompson in the $50,000 Spruce Fir Stakes. Julian Pimental guided the daughter of Halo to her second straight win over her fellow New Jersey-breds in 1:36.95 over a firm mile turf course.

Trainer Ben Perkins came one win short of the title to Thompson, but he did win two stakes on the weekend including the $50,000 Miss Woodford with Stormy Pick. The three-year-old filly won for the fifth time in six tries at Monmouth and gave Eibar Coa three wins on the day. Raymond Dweck's daughter of Storm Cat topped Irish Fantasy by 1 3/4-lengths as the 3-2 favorite in 1:10.84.