07/25/2003 11:00PM

Vinemeister springs upset


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Alan Seewald was hunting for a fallback position when an allowance race he targeted for Vinemeister did not fill.

The Grade 3, $100,000 Salvator Mile was sitting there, so Seewald took a shot.

Realistically, Seewald was hoping to hit the board with the 4-year-old colt who had not won since last August.

Seewald got much more Saturday afternoon at Monmouth Park as Vinemeister ($30.20), the second longest shot in the field, dug in gamely to hold off Jersey Giant by three-quarters of a length for the biggest win of his career.

Vinemeister was timed in 1:36.74. It was his fourth win in 20 starts.

The win gave Jose Velez Jr. a sweep of both Monmouth stakes. He was also aboard Freedom's Honor in the $50,000 Colts Neck Stakes.

Velez gave Vinemeister a perfect stalking trip behind Dhaffir. They tracked that rival in second and moved to the front approaching the quarter pole.

Vinemeister opened up a two-length lead in the lane but Jersey Giant made a determined late run to narrow the gap.

"I had a lot of horse left at the top of the stretch and it paid off," Velez said.

It was a gratifying win for Seewald who stuck by the horse through a string of disappointments.

"He's thrown in some good races but he hasn't been consistent," Seewald said. "He's always worked super. That's why I protected him all these years."

Sea of Tranquility, the sentimental favorite in the race, finished last in the field of six. Sea of Tranquility, bidding for a record third-straight Salvator Mile at age 7, trailed throughout the race.

Bowman's Band, the even-money pari-mutuel favorite, ran fifth after a stumble coming out of the gate.

* Freedom's Honor ($8.80) romped to a 4 1/4-length win in the first running of the Colts Neck Stakes, for New Jersey-bred 3-year-olds going one mile on the turf. He stopped the clock in 1:36.74 in winning his grass debut for trainer Jamie Woodington.

Sultry Cat finished second with Monster Jack third.