07/04/2005 12:00AM

Turner's cry at quarter pole: 'Stop the race!'

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Tap Day (right) finishes second to Offlee Wild in the Suburban at Belmont.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Tommy Turner had an interesting weekend aboard pacesetters in Monmouth Park's graded grass stakes.

He rode Shake the Bank, the designated rabbit, in the Grade 1 .

Trainer H. Graham Motion entered Shake the Bank to ensure a lively pace for eventual winner Better Talk Now.

Shake the Bank did his job. The horse shot right to front and opened up a huge lead. It was a bizarre race with the leader 15 to 20 lengths in front.

Turner was instructed to go right to the front but never anticipated opening up by such a big margin.

"If I could have rated him, I would never have been that far in front," Turner said. "Graham called me earlier in the day and told me to make the lead so the stablemate could relax back there and chill out."

Turner had such a huge lead that the possibility of an upset crossed his mind. A 106-1 shocker seemed plausible.

"I thought I had a chance at the five-eighths pole because he was still tugging on me," Turner said. "At the three-eighths pole, he quit on me. I was out of horse, but I tried to milk it as long as I could."

Shake the Bank eventually faded to eighth.

"I was thrilled that it really worked out," Motion said Saturday after the race. "I got a little nervous at the quarter pole when it looked like the rabbit would keep going, but our plan couldn't have worked out any better."

In contrast to the U.N., Turner had a legitimate shot in the Eatontown for fillies and mares.

Lentil set the pace on the soft turf and lost by a nose in the final jumps to the New Jersey-bred Smart N Classy.

"A lot of the speed horses scratched out and I thought I could get an easy lead," Turner said. "On this turf course, the way it is right now, the front end is not where you want to be. We were sinking into it four or five inches and closers are kings on it right now."

Tap Day's next start uncertain

The trip to Belmont Park was not a one-way journey for Tap Day following his second-place finish in the Grade 1 on Saturday.

No one would have been surprised if trainer Mark Hennig had kept the horse with him there following that solid effort. Tap Day, however, was back in his usual stall at Monmouth Park late Saturday night.

"He was a little tired," said Rob Rader who trains Hennig's Monmouth division. "He wasn't hanging his head, but it was a long day and he ran hard."

Tap Day wound up in the Suburban when Eddington, also trained by Hennig, suffered a career-ending injury. Tap Day was the pinch hitter off the Monmouth bench.

Hennig is a little superstitious and rarely tinkers with anything that works. He wasn't about to disrupt Tap Day's routine.

So it was back on the van to Monmouth.

"Mark won't change anything until the horse goes out and runs a bad race," said Rader.

That includes walking, rather than galloping, Tap Day the two days before a race.

Rader said no decision has been made on a next start, although he called Monmouth's Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 24, "a little too quick."

"He seems to love to have five or six weeks between races," Rader said. "There's also no reason to shorten up to a mile."

Tap Day had originally been targeted for Monmouth's Skip Away Stakes on Saturday as the follow-up to his 9 1/4-length win in the track's Frisk Me Now Stakes.

Hennig did send out Cherokee Spook in the Skip Away, and he finished third.

Calling all terriers

Danny Perlsweig desperately needs Jack Russell terriers for Monmouth's 13th annual Backstretch Appreciation Day Picnic starting at noon on July 11.

The dog races have become a tradition at the free event, open to all backstretch workers and their families. Perlsweig's past supplier can't furnish dogs this year, putting that event in jeopardy.

More than 2,000 attended last year for the lunch, raffles, and amusements that take place rain or shine in the track's grandstand picnic area.

Anyone who has terriers, or other items to donate, can contact Perlsweig at (732) 222-3737.

* Gary Stevens will replace Aaron Gryder on Spring House for the Grade 3, $750,000 Virginia Derby on July 16 at Colonial Downs, said trainer John Hennig. Spring House was disqualified from second to third in his last race, the $500,000 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park on June 25.