08/01/2004 11:00PM

Two stars ready to roll in Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Rock Hard Ten and Lion Heart head the list of probable runners for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

The race lost a major contender over the weekend, when trainer Michael Dickinson withdrew Tapit from consideration after Tapit suffered an entrapped epiglottis during a workout at Delaware Park.

Tapit, the Wood Memorial winner, will undergo surgery to correct the problem, which will keep him out of the Haskell and the Travers at Saratoga.

Other likely Haskell starters include My Snookie's Boy, Wimplestiltskin, and Royal Assault.

Rock Hard Ten is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from California. He tuned up for the Haskell with a sharp work Saturday at Del Mar. Rock Hard Ten went five furlongs in 58.40 seconds, the fastest of the 63 works at that distance.

"Everything is going great with him," said trainer Jason Orman. "He's ready to go."

Corey Nakatani will ride in the Haskell.

Rock Hard Ten posted an impressive win in his last outing, the Grade 2 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hollywood Park. He scored a 3 3/4-length victory for his first win since an allowance score at Santa Anita on March 3.

A disqualification from second to third in the Santa Anita Derby cost him the graded stakes earnings needed to make the Kentucky Derby. He ran second in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont Stakes.

Rock Hard Ten will carry 120 pounds in the Haskell, one fewer than Lion Heart in his return to Monmouth.

Lion Heart got his first win of the year in Monmouth's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes on July 17. He gained national prominence with his pacesetting effort that produced a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He also finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading rider, has the return call in his bid for a first victory in the Haskell.

The home-field advantage for the Haskell belongs to My Snookie's Boy.

He is stabled here in Allen Iwinski's barn and earned a shot at the Haskell with a terrific second in the Long Branch. A former claimer, My Snookie's Boy battled Lion Heart the length of the stretch before Lion Heart poked a head in front at the wire.

"He's doing great," said Iwinski. "I'm just going to gallop him up to the Haskell. He doesn't need to breeze before the race because he's fit enough right now. He had a pretty tough race last time, so galloping him up to the race should be enough."

Stewart Elliott will ride.