09/02/2006 12:00AM

Things have to go better for Air Lord


OCEANPORT, N.J. - If adversity builds character, Air Lord should be very tough Monday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The six-furlong Sapling is the top 2-year-old stakes of the Monmouth season.

Air Lord, trained by Todd Pletcher, debuted at Belmont Park on July 13 and battled for the lead between rivals before pulling clear to a 1 3/4-length win.

Things didn't go very smoothly in the colt's second start, the Mountaineer Juvenile at Mountaineer Racetrack on Aug. 6. Air Lord stumbled badly at the break and almost dumped jockey Chris DeCarlo.

"As soon as the doors opened, he fell right to his head," DeCarlo said. "It took him about 40 yards to get his feet under him and get moving. The field had maybe 12 lengths on him at that point."

DeCarlo let Air Lord, a son of Stormin Fever, settle from the mishap before putting him into the race.

"He starting picking them up about the five-sixteenths pole," DeCarlo said. "He put in a really good run. He was definitely much the best that day, and he should be undefeated."

Air Lord finished third, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite. That effort should be beneficial as the colt makes his graded stakes debut.

"It did give him the experience of taking dirt and coming from off the pace," DeCarlo said. "He showed he's versatile, that he doesn't have to be in front."

Buffalo Man is clearly comfortable at Monmouth, where he is unbeaten in two starts.

"Now it's time for him to move up to another level," trainer Cam Gambolati said. "He'll meet better horses in the stakes and we'll see how he does.

"I think he'll be better when he stretches out. The farther we go, the better he'll like it."

Datrick, trained by Scott Blasi, will command respect as the only graded stakes winner in the field. He captured the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs in his second start.

Datrick has hit the board in all six starts with a record of 3-2-1. He was second last time out in the Mountaineer Juvenile.

Completing the field are Actin Good, fourth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special; First Calvary, winner of the Winnipeg Futurity at Assiniboia Downs; King Barney; and Xchanger.

Joey P. out for turnaround

Joey P. will try to avoid the first three-race losing streak of his career Monday in the $125,000 Icecapade Stakes at six furlongs.

A popular New Jersey-bred, Joey P. is 8 for 11 at Monmouth and opened his season with wins here in the John J. Reilly Handicap against statebreds and the Longfellow Stakes.

Then things turned sour.

He set the pace before fading to sixth in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder before returning to Monmouth to run fourth in the Teddy Drone Stakes on the Haskell Day undercard. It was his first sprint loss at Monmouth.

"The rail was so dead that day, and he was in trouble from the start, breaking from post 1," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "The race was not a true indication of what he can do. He came out of the race in great shape, and he's ready to roll again."