08/18/2005 11:00PM

Top statebred mares face off at a mile


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Cigno d'Oro and Eastern Gale, two leading New Jersey-bred mares, square off Sunday in the $60,000 Girl Powder Handicap at Monmouth Park.

The statebred stakes drew seven for the one-mile race.

Cigno d'Oro will try to recapture her excellent form at the start to the meet in New Jersey-bred stakes. A 6-year-old trained by Bob Durso, she was second in the Open Mind Handicap at six furlongs and won the one mile, 70-yard Spruce Fir Handicap next time out.

Cigno d'Oro came out of the Spruce Fir with leg cuts that required stitches. The injury sidelined her for seven weeks and she returned with a fourth-place finish in an open allowance race.

"We ran her in the allowance race just to get a race into her," Durso said.

Cigno d'Oro tuned up for the Girl Powder with a five-furlong work in 1:01.40 on Aug. 13.

Cigno d'Oro will need to be sharp to handle Eastern Gale, who has posted wins in her last two New Jersey-bred stakes.

On paper, it would appear the two-turn Girl Powder favors Cigno d'Oro, as Eastern Gale has run in five straight sprints.

Robbie Freeman, who trains Kathy Demasi's Monmouth division, does not concede the distance issue. Freeman points to the Sept. 7, 2003 race at Monmouth from which Demasi claimed Eastern Gale for $20,000. Eastern Gale won by 19 1/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles.

The 5-year-old Eastern Gale has been competitive in two-turn statebred stakes races, including a third-place finish in last year's Spruce Fir.

This will be Eastern Gale's third start of the season. She debuted against open company in an allowance race and faded to sixth with an excuse.

"She lost her left front shoe," Freeman said. "I think that's why she stopped so bad."

Eastern Gale snapped back to win the Goldfinch Handicap at 13-1 for the initial victory in what could be her final season.

"We don't know what we're going to do," Freeman said. "Breed her or try one more year."

While Eastern Gale might be wrapping up her career, the future looks bright for the 3-year-old Avery Hall.

She missed by only a nose in the $250,000 New York Stallion Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 4. Trained by Cynthia Reese, she has a record of 2 wins and 2 seconds in 7 starts this season.

I'mtoogoodtobetrue, another 3-year-old, has not run a bad race at Monmouth this meet with 1 win and 3 seconds in 4 starts.

Final Assault, Lord Billy, Picnic Theme, and Risque Centerfold complete the field.

Junior Champion: Leesburg Express stretching out

Two-year-old fillies take to the grass in the co-feature, the $55,000 Junior Champion at one mile.

Leesburg Express has won her last two starts, highlighted by a victory in the Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs last time out.

Both wins came on the turf, but she has not ventured beyond 5 1/2 furlongs.

"The big question is whether she can go a mile," said Richard Trimmer, who trains Leesburg Express. "She is training as well as she did before the last race. A win here would open a lot of options for us."

Whiteface was a rallying second in the Tippett, and her trainer, Guadalupe Preciado, hopes that style serves her well, as she also is attempting two turns for the first time.

"We ran her back only 11 days apart," Preciado said. "She ran very well considering we shipped to Virginia from Delaware Park. It looks like she will go longer, and she's coming around very nicely."

Purge among Iselin nominees

Purge, winner of last year's Jim Dandy at Saratoga but winless in four starts afterward, bounced back with a confidence-restoring win on the Haskell Day undercard.

Running in an allowance race, Purge bounded to a 12-length win. Having taken to the track so well, Purge could be in line for another Monmouth appearance.

The 4-year-old Purge is on the list of nominees for the Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 28.

Purge remained at Monmouth following the win with Todd Pletcher's New Jersey division.

"It's not sure where he will run," said assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta. "He ran good that day, and he's training well here."

* Veterinarians were unable to save multiple stakes winner Choose, who suffered condylar fractures in both front legs in last week's Sneakbox Stakes.