08/03/2004 11:00PM

Tap Day takes shot at Haskell

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Tap Day joined the Haskell Invitational lineup Wednesday, increasing the likely field to seven for Monmouth Park's Grade 1, $1 million stakes for 3-year-olds on Sunday.

Tap Day, who will be ridden by Jose Velez Jr., will face Lion Heart, Rock Hard Ten, Wimplestiltskin, My Snookie's Boy, and the Nick Zito-trained duo of Royal Assault and Pie's Prospect in the 1 1/8-mile centerpiece event of the Monmouth meet.

Tap Day, trained by Mark Hennig, joins My Snookie's Boy as the only Monmouth-based horses in the race.

Tap Day, who has spent the summer with Hennig's Monmouth division, has won twice in three outings at Monmouth.

Tap Day has also won two straight, launching the streak for a $60,000 claiming tag at Belmont Park by 9 1/2 lengths on May 26.

Back here, Tap Day pulled away to a 5 1/4-length allowance win in his last start on July 2.

His current good form, the small field, the $1 million purse, and the fact that he is already here all combined to land Tap Day in the Haskell field.

"I don't know what kind of chance he'll have but he's doing very well," said assistant trainer Robby Rader. "He won the last two easily."

Tap Day, a son of Pleasant Tap, has become a boom-or-bust colt.

"He either wins or he doesn't do anything," said Rader. "We're taking a big step. He's never done anything like this."

Tap Day will be running in his second graded stakes, having finished 11th in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct last November.

He did win a stakes over the winter, the off-the-turf Dave Feldman at Gulfstream Park.

Tap Day adds another speed element to the race that already has Lion Heart, My Snookie's Boy, Rock Hard Ten, and Wimplestiltskin as strong pace factors.

"There is going to be a lot of speed in it, that's for sure," said Rader. "The pace is going to be legitimate. Will that hurt us? We won't know until we find out."

Two out-of-town Haskell runners were scheduled to arrive Wednesday evening, as Rock Hard Ten and Wimplestiltskin flew from California to Newburgh, N.Y. They landed around 1:30 p.m. Eastern and were loaded onto a van for the final leg to Monmouth.