07/25/2006 11:00PM

Turf too soft in new chutes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The brand new $6 million turf course that Monmouth Park unveiled last month continues to veer to extremes.

Some trainers have complained that the main turf course is too firm, but the opposite has been the case with the course's two chutes. Management has yet to run a race from the brand-new 5 1/2-furlong turf chute, because the footing has been too soft. The chute's maiden voyage could come in Friday's fourth race.

The chute issues were magnified Sunday, when three grass races were scheduled on the card. The two route races remained on the turf, which was listed as good. The start of the 1 1/16-mile race, which was to have been from the traditional 1 1/8-mile chute, was shifted to the straightaway. The other race, at one mile, started as scheduled on the main course. The sprint, the Crank It Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, was taken off the grass and switched to the main track.

"The chutes were still wet," said race secretary Mike Dempsey. "The chutes did not drain sufficiently to be consistent with the rest of the track. Our new turf course drains so well while the chutes drain like a normal turf course."

Ten Frankel horses arrive from Churchill

Bobby Frankel shipped in 10 horses Wednesday from Churchill Downs. Frankel had a very productive summer here last year, when he also arrived late in the meet, posting a record of 5-3-1 in 13 starts.

Among the horses who arrived was Ay Caramba, winner of last season's Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap. This year's renewal is set for Aug. 6.

Ay Caramba, 6, has made one start this year, finishing third in a turf allowance race at Churchill Downs.

His stablemates include Witch Woman, a 3-year-old filly who captured a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on July 7.

Vonage to sponsor Haskell

Vonage has signed on as the title sponsor for Monmouth's premier event, the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds on Aug. 6.

Vonage, a leading provider of broadband telephone services, is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Vonage is headquartered in nearby Holmdel, N.J., and has more than 1,500 employees.

Under the terms of the 3-year deal, the race will be known as the Haskell Invitational presented by Vonage.

Bluegrass Cat leads Haskell probables

The Haskell looks like a seven- to nine-horse field topped by Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Cat.

Dempsey also listed the following as likely Haskell runners: Awfully Smart, winner of the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park; Deputy Glitters, who dug in gamely to win the Ohio Derby by a neck; Point Determined, who is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won three of the last five Haskells; Praying for Cash, who is trained by Kelly Breen, Monmouth's leading trainer; Strong Contender, the impressive winner of the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park; Seaside Retreat who ran second on the turf in the Virginia Derby; Electrify, who captured the Unbridled Stakes at Calder; and Flashy Bull, who has hit the board in three Grade 2 stakes - the Remsen at Aqueduct, the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, and the Ohio Derby.

Lezcano stays hot with four-win day

The only thing hotter than the sultry weather at Monmouth on Wednesday was jockey Jose Lezcano, who won four more races.

Lezcano has been on a roll here with 12 wins over the last five cards. Joe Bravo leads the pack with 66 wins. Lezcano is now solidly in second with 54.

Blinkers could give Frozen Treat boost

Frozen Treat adds blinkers and could show improved speed in Friday's first-level allowance feature for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Frozen Treat dropped far behind in her last two races, at Belmont and Delaware Park.

Frozen Treat has been working like clockwork here, breezing four furlongs on each of the last four Sundays.