07/27/2001 12:00AM

Touch Tone to race in Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Ronny Werner is hoping Touch Tone can make the big jump up to Grade 1 races. He has chosen the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational as the race to do so.

Touch Tone became a definite starter for the Aug. 5 Haskell on Friday, as Werner decided to send his lightly-raced colt to Monmouth instead of keeping him at Saratoga for the Jim Dandy one day earlier. The decision to start him in the Haskell was based upon, among other things, how the Monmouth strip usually favors horses with the running style of Touch Tone.

"My colt is a front-running kind of horse," said Werner, who will start his first horse at Monmouth. "I think he can more run his race here than in the Jim Dandy. I heard that Monmouth was a more speed-bias type of track, and that benefits me a little better."

Werner has brought Touch Tone along slowly for owner Tom Durant. Touch Tone, a son of Pick up the Phone, missed the races as a 2-year-old but has displayed an enormous amount of ability in his first year of racing. He won his maiden and then captured the Alysheba Breeders' Cup at Lone Star. He ran third in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge at Belmont on June 9, but rebounded to win the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows by 7 1/4 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion. The Iowa Derby was his first race around two turns, and he should have no trouble with the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Haskell.

Touch Tone will carry 115 pounds, compared to the 124 pounds that Point Given has to carry. Robby Albarado, aboard in all but one of Touch Tone's races, will ship in to ride. Touch Tone will likely workout at Saratoga on Monday, and ship in Thursday morning with Werner.

"He might not be in the same league as these other horses," Werner said. "This time we're making the big jump. He's doing well mentally and physically, and I think he's ready to take the plunge."

With the addition of Touch Tone, the list of definites includes Point Given, Hero's Tribute and Burning Roma. Horses on the fence for the Haskell are First Spear, Indygo Shiner and Jamaican Rum. The Haskell will carry a purse of $1.5 million if Point Given starts.

Lost Expectations impresses in defeat

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. and owner Raymond Dweck thought highly of Lost Expectations to send her to the Grade 2 Schuylerville at Saratoga Wednesday off a maiden win here June 22. With her third-place finish as the longest price (13-1) on the board, Lost Expectations showed that she belongs in 2-year-old fillies graded stakes.

It is arguable that Lost Expectations should have finished second, because of the enormous amount of trouble she encountered. The trip notes for her in the chart reads: "Lost Expectations was rated inside, was steadied inside on the turn, raced on the rail while under wraps, was steadied in upper stretch, slowly altered course to the far outside in upper stretch then finished with good interest once asked."

As it can be seen, Lost Expectations never had a real opportunity to run. "With 2-year-olds, you don't know how they will react," Perkins said. "Sometimes they hesitate a little bit and can't get through an opening."

Perkins, who has had four 2-year-old fillies win their maiden races first time out this meet, holds the best hand here for juvenile stakes. Along with Lost Expectations, he trains Al Max Diner, the most impressive filly maiden winner here. Al Max Diner, also owned by Dweck, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 Wednesday. According to Perkins, she could make her next start at Delaware, here in the Colleen, or in the Adirondack at Saratoga.