07/25/2003 12:00AM

Willie's Luv tries home cooking

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OCEANPORT, N.J.- A fired-up Willie's Luv was a runaway train at Philadelphia Park in her last start, in the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap on July 5.

The filly rocketed to an eight-length lead before fading to third. Trainer Jamie Woodington hopes a return to home turf Sunday in the $50,000 Spruce Fir at Monmouth Park will have a calming effect on Willie's Luv.

"She doesn't handle shipping and running very well," Woodington said. "She doesn't relax as well when she has to ship.

"It wasn't anybody's fault. She's always been a very aggressive filly. When you have to ship her to run, she's on the muscle."

The combination of the walk from her stall to the racetrack and the return to New Jersey-bred stakes should make Willie's Luv a major Spruce Fir contender. She ran second last year in the one-mile stakes on the grass.

"This should suit her and she's doing well," Woodington said.

Willie's Luv has won both her Monmouth starts this season, including the Santo Lalomia Handicap for New Jersey-breds.

Monica Stout has the best turf credentials in the field. She has a win and a third in three turf races at Colonial Downs.

Completing the field are Flame Song, Miss Nickels, Whoop's Ah Daisy, Twilights Prayer, So Excited, Someones Coming, and Frankie's Star.

Rider Gomez survives close call

Pompeyo Gomez, an exercise rider for Woodington, suffered a broken nose in a training mishap Thursday morning when his horse flipped behind the starting gate.

"He's extremely fortunate," Woodington said. "He has a severely broken nose. Other than that, he's fine."

Initial reports indicated Gomez suffered hand and leg injuries. As it turned out, his nose took the brunt of the incident.

"It could have been a great deal worse," Woodington. "He looks like he wrestled with Mike Tyson and didn't win."

Track, horsemen battle over purses

A September purse crunch looms as negotiations between the horsemen and management of Monmouth and The Meadowlands Racetrack hit a stalemate with time running out.

The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, the owner of both tracks, guaranteed $300,000 in daily purse money for the traditional Monmouth season from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.

The issue centers on how low purses will fall for the balance of the Monmouth season, which runs to Sept. 28, and for The Meadowlands meet, from Oct. 1 to Nov. 8.

NJSEA projections peg daily purses in the $150,000 range, a 50 percent reduction from current levels.

Both sides offered purse-inflating proposals that the other rejected.

The NJSEA proposed a reduction in fall dates, trimming the five-day schedules to three at Monmouth and to four at The Meadowlands. Fewer programs would mean higher purses for the remaining dates, keeping Monmouth purses close to summer levels.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association rejected the idea of surrendering racing days at a board meeting on July 16.

"The offer made was unacceptable," said Dennis Drazin, the horsemen's attorney and lead negotiator. "We heard the voice of the majority and they were overwhelmingly opposed. The current offer fails to satisfy the membership at large."

The horsemen directed Drazin to return to the negotiating table in an effort to find ways to salvage purses without surrendering dates.

Drazin offered several proposals, including running The Meadowlands dates at Monmouth and reducing the schedule at Monmouth while picking up the lost days with all-turf cards at The Meadowlands. Both ideas would save track conversion costs at The Meadowlands from Standardbreds to Thoroughbreds, along with vanning expenses, and the savings would be designated to go for purses.

The NJSEA rejected both concepts.

Bruce Garland, senior vice president/racing for the NJSEA called the ideas "not acceptable".

Garland described the all-turf days at The Meadowlands as "an operational nightmare," and said it was too late to consider shifting Meadowlands dates to Monmouth.

"We have an agreement to run the dates at Monmouth and The Meadowlands and we will live up to that agreement," Garland said.