10/13/2004 11:00PM

Uphill Skier's foot feels fine now


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Uphill Skier, having recovered from a foot injury, swings back into action Saturday night in the $60,000 Queen Lib Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

The 4-year-old Uphill Skier, trained by Ben Perkins Jr., produced dominant victories in her last two statebred handicaps at Monmouth Park: the off-the-turf Spruce Fir and the Jersey Girl.

Those two wins make Uphill Skier the one to beat in the feature, at one mile and 70 yards. She is rested and healed as she makes her first start since Aug. 29.

Uphill Skier stumbled badly at the start of the Jersey Girl, injuring her right front hoof. It didn't prevent her from scoring a 2 1/4-length victory.

"She went down on her nose," said Perkins. "Stewart Elliott did a great job to stay on. There was a lot of blood when she came back and it cost us about 10 days."

Perkins plans to run Uphill Skier only one or two more times this year before laying her up until the 2005 Monmouth season.

The main competition Saturday looks to come from Cigno d'Oro, second in her last two outings, including the Jersey Girl; Totally Precious, who stretches out after a win and a second in a pair of New Jersey-bred sprint handicaps; and Picnic Theme, a recent claim by Richard Dutrow, Jr. who won an open allowance race last time out.

Which stakes for Wimplestiltskin?

Trainer Eddie Coletti Jr. ranged far and wide looking for a spot for Wimplestiltskin.

He entered Wimplestiltskin in Thursday's Perryville Stakes at Keeneland but scratched out of that spot.

Wimplestiltskin also wound up in two stakes Saturday: the Sonny Hine at Pimlico and the $55,000 Bergen County Stakes at The Meadowlands.

The Big M race, for 3-year-olds going five furlongs on the turf, might be a good spot for a horse who has struggled recently in distance races.

Wimplestiltskin shifted into Coletti's barn following a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell and next surfaced in the Pennsylvania Derby, where he again finished far up the track.

He might enjoy a return to turf sprints based on his California record. He got his lone victory on a disqualification in a maiden turf sprint at Santa Anita and was beaten only a head in the Harry Henson Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass at Hollywood Park.

Santagata approaching milestone

Nick Santagata, the track's all-time leading rider, is closing in on a significant milestone: 1,000 victories at The Meadowlands. The 47-year-old Santagata has not a missed a meet in the track's 27 seasons.

Santagata moved a step closer with a victory aboard Tight Spin last Saturday in the Incredible Revenge Stakes. The win left him eight shy of the milestone.

"I remember when I was a hot-walker looking at all the top horses, trainers, and jockeys," said the Brooklyn-born Santagata. "I was wondering if I could ever be a part of this. Getting a thousand wins at The Meadowlands will be something I am going to be proud of."