08/31/2007 11:00PM

A two-part meet sandwiched around Cup


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Meadowlands Racetrack starts a 41-day Thoroughbred meet on Monday, opening on the Labor Day weekend for the first time since 2002.

First post will be 1:10 p.m. for the 10-race card, headlined by a pair of stakes: the $60,000 Ready Jet Go for fillies and mares at six furlongs and the $55,000 King Bold Reality for turf sprinters.

For the last four years, the Monmouth Park season extended into late September with the Meadowlands closing out the New Jersey Thoroughbred schedule with a brief 25- to 33-day meet. This is not an ordinary year, with Monmouth hosting the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 26 and 27.

"It's obviously going to be a different meet at the Meadowlands, and in many ways a throwback," said Dennis Dowd, the senior executive vice president of racing for both tracks. "It has been necessitated by a need to get Monmouth ready for the Breeders' Cup. Moving, changing, and extending the Meadowlands meet was an effort to permit Monmouth Park to get fully dressed and ready to go to the ball."

Monmouth closed Sunday to allow the final phase of Breeders' Cup renovations. Temporary seating will be installed throughout the grandstand and clubhouse while several backstretch barns will be overhauled to provide quarantine areas for foreign horses and ship-in space for other Breeders' Cup arrivals.

The backstretch work will displace upwards of 200 horses who will head to the Meadowlands to stable there for the first time since 2002.

In recent seasons, the New Jersey-based horses racing at the Meadowlands stabled at Monmouth.

Gerry Sleeter, an owner of New Jersey-breds, has one of the stables returning to the Meadowlands. Sleeter will ship 20 horses from Monmouth on Wednesday and is looking forward to returning there.

"We've wanted to go back up there ever since they quit stabling there," Sleeter said. "I really don't like the night racing, but I'd rather just put a bridle on them and walk over rather than put them on a van at 1 in the afternoon at Monmouth and not come back until 2 in the morning. That's tough on the horses and the help."

The reopening of the Meadowlands barn area means operational headaches, such as having clockers, gate crews and maintenance staffs at two facilities.

"There are obviously challenges," Dowd said. "It is much simpler, in terms of the operation, when all of the horses were at one location."

The race office will remain open at Monmouth to accommodate horsemen making entries.

The Breeders' Cup will fracture the Meadowlands schedule. After opening day, the next card will be Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The track will then run Wednesday through Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. with matinees at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesdays. The Meadowlands will close from Oct. 21 to 30 while Monmouth hosts its special Breeders' Cup meet from Oct. 24 to 27.

The Meadowlands will reopen from Oct. 31 to Nov. 10, racing on Wednesday night through Saturday night.

"We will certainly put our fans to the test," Dowd said. "Will they respond to this kind of meet?"

* John's Pic, the commanding five-length winner of Monmouth's John McSorley Stakes on the turf on July 15, returns on short rest Monday to face nine rivals in the King Bold Reality. He set the pace before tiring to finish sixth on Aug. 26 in Monmouth's Friendly Lover Handicap for New Jersey-breds on the main track.

* Send Me an Angel, winner of Monmouth's Incredible Revenge Stakes, comes off the turf and the lands the rail in the six-horse Ready Jet Go.