06/21/2004 11:00PM

There's plenty more to come for Smokescreen


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The 2-year-old program at Monmouth Park was fairly lean last season, but the juveniles are back on the Jersey Shore this year.

We have already seen several impressive 2-year-olds, topped by Smokescreen, a debut winner last weekend for trainer Benny Perkins Jr.

A large, gray son of Smoke Glacken, Smokescreen swung into contention with a powerful move on the turn before steadily edging away to win in 58.82 seconds for the five furlongs.

Smokescreen was a $120,000 yearling purchase selected by Perkins's father, Ben Sr., for Eb Novak's New Farm.

"He's a big, handsome, long-striding horse," Perkins said. "The only thing we were concerned about was the five-eighths [of a mile]. We thought we'd have some fast runners early, and he'd be ready when they start stretching out to three-quarters. Of course, it turns out he's the first one to go right on through. He was the one ready to run."

Looking down the road, Perkins has Monmouth's Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling Stakes on Aug. 28 on the calendar for Smokescreen.

Ryerson must rely on juveniles

The 2-year-olds will have to carry the day for Jim Ryerson while his more experienced runners mend.

Ryerson lost Jersey Giant and Hurricane Shockey to injuries.

"Those were two horses we had high hopes for this meet," said Ryerson.

It will be up to the juveniles to fill the gap.

Our Miss Jones and Doctor Voodoo have already risen to the challenge in their debut races. Our Miss Jones, ridden by Julian Pimentel, ran a bang-up second behind odds-on favorite Elke last week. One of the outsiders in the race at 17-1, Our Miss Jones made a strong late run in the five-furlong race after ducking and shying in the early stages.

"She ran well," Ryerson said. "She didn't like dirt in her face. She was running with her head up in the air. She didn't like it inside. When [Pimentel] finally got her out and clear, she finished up really well."

Our Miss Jones was Ryerson's first 2-year-old starter this season and should be the first of many.

Ryerson also sent out Doctor Voodoo to run third behind Smokescreen.

"We've got a bunch ready to run," Ryerson said. "We have some close to running. Hopefully we can offset the loss of those older horses. We're leaning on the 2-year-olds now."

Velez chooses Smart N Classy

Jose Velez Jr. was a popular man when entries were drawn for Thursday's featured $41,000 turf allowance for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park. He was named to ride three horses: Paint It Black, Smart N Classy, and Lentil.

After consulting with agent Kevin Lyons, Velez stuck with Smart N Classy, and it is easy to see why. Smart N Classy, a 4-year-old filly, owns two career wins and Velez was aboard for both. In eight starts at Monmouth, she is 2-3-0. Perhaps most importantly, she comes off a race May 30, when she missed by only three-quarters of a length.

Thursday's race was Smart N Classy's return to turf after three dirt races.

"I think she's a better grass horse," Velez said. "She was lugging in a little bit, but she ran a good race."

Velez said he believes Smart N Classy has matured as a racehorse.

"She's a better mare now," Velez said.

Although in demand for the race, Velez puts a high price on loyalty. He was sticking with Smart N Classy partly because of his long-running relationship with trainer John Tammaro III.

"I'm staying with this filly because down the road there will be a New Jersey-bred stakes," Velez said. "You are better off sticking with the people you ride for all year. Sometimes you take off a winner, but in the long run it pays off."

The course will be set for only nine runners for the 1 1/16 miles, bumping Paint it Black to the also-eligible list.

Krasnaya, Bitterroot River, Pour It On, Bombay Blues, Earthquake Ride, Honorable Cat, and Proven Form complete the field.