06/28/2004 11:00PM

U.N. provides stiff class test for In Hand

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - In Hand will be looking for a lively pace in the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

In Hand, trained by Phil Oliver, is a drop-back closer who does his best running in the lane. He has won two of his last three races and showed a big rally even in the defeat. In Hand rallied from 13 lengths off the pace to miss by only a neck in an allowance race at Keeneland.

He should love the U.N. distance - 1 3/8 miles on the turf - but he might not care for the competition.

In Hand, who has never won a graded stakes, will find himself against the likes of Meteor Storm and Mr O'Brien, two of the top older turf males in the country.

"It's a big jump up," said Oliver. "He's doing good. He's run three good races. He never wins off by far but he tends to run to the competition. I suppose it's the right time to try him in a big race."

Molly Pitcher weights

Seventeen fillies and mares were weighted for the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sunday.

Bare Necessities and Smok'n Frolic were among the high weights who could contest the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares.

Bare Necessities has finished in the money in her last four outings - all graded stakes. She was second, beaten only a head, in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita in February. She was assigned 119 pounds, one fewer than top-weighted Randaroo.

Smok'n Frolic comes next at 118. She captured the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct in March.

Misty Sixes is next at 117; Cat Fighter, Nonsuch Bay and Pocus Hocus at 116; Potra Fabulous at 115; Final Round, Pesci, Stellar Jayne and Yell at 114; Angela's Love and Queen's Triomphe at 113; Two Mile Hill at 112; and Fircroft and La Reason at 111.

Burning Roma headed to Poker

Burning Roma, the winner of the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap on opening day, will start next in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes on the turf at Belmont Park on July 10.

The 6-year-old Burning Roma, in his final season before heading off to stud, worked four furlongs in 47.60 seconds last Saturday at Monmouth, the second-fastest of the 45 drills at that distance.

"He's doing great," said Dominic Giglio, the husband of trainer Heather Giglio and Burning Roma's exercise rider. "He's very fit right now."

After the Poker, current plans call for Burning Roma to return to Monmouth for the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap on the grass on Aug. 8.

The long-range objective is the Breeders' Cup Mile. The Giglios are looking to accumulate as many graded stakes points as possible to insure Burning Roma qualifies for the race.

Burning Roma has won several graded stakes in his career, including the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup in 2002, where he beat eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi.

Newcomer tops turf feature

Prof. McGonagall is a solid choice in Thursday's feature, a $45,000 optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The race will offer a purse of $43,000.

While three runners in the race carry claiming tags, Prof. McGonagall is undoubtedly worth much more than that.

The 4-year-old Prof. McGonagall, a homebred for Alex G. Campbell Jr., is a daughter of Storm Cat and is on a serious winning streak.

She crushed allowance company in her last two races at Churchill Downs, posting Beyer figures of 86 and 85, for trainer Alison Register. Jose Velez Jr. has the mount.

Jockeys help out

Jockeys Across America Day is slated nationwide for Saturday, but Monmouth will will participate all weekend long with the riding colony selling and signing memorabilia outside the jockeys' room on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

One item sure to be popular: Smarty Jones photos signed by Stewart Elliott.

"It's a great opportunity to get out and be with the public and raise money for a good cause at the same time," said Chuck Lopez, the Jockeys' Guild representative at Monmouth.

All money raised throughout the weekend benefits the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund for injured and disabled riders.