07/04/2001 12:00AM

Worms gone, course resting


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Because of an infestation of army worms that plagued the Monmouth turf course, turf races will be run sparingly in the next few weeks. The weekday cards will likely be drawn without turf races, but weekend turf stakes will go as planned. This weekend's turf races - the Grade 3 Reeve Schley Jr., the Lamplighter, and the John McSorley - will remain on the turf.

The worms were first spotted last weekend, causing the turf to turn slightly brown with a dried-out texture. The infestation has done no damage to the foundation of the course.

According to Robert Kulina, the general manager of Monmouth, the course has been treated and the army worms have been eliminated. The course now needs time to regain its previous healthy condition.

Kulina, after inspecting the course first-hand on Wednesday, said, "We've already started fertilizing and reseeding. I was amazed to see the turf is already greening up a little. I expected the worst, and I was relieved to see the worst is past."

Officials here are optimistic that the course will turn around soon. "I'm optimistic that by giving it two weeks of rest in the middle of the meeting, we'll have it back in great shape for the rest of the summer," Kulina said.

Backstretch picnic

On Monday, a Monmouth Park constant will be renewed: The Backstretch Appreciation Day Picnic was created 10 years ago and has only gained popularity since.

Dan Perlsweig, who started training here in 1954, first thought of the concept 10 years ago. "I started it for the guys on the backside that don't get a lot of credit and appreciation," said Perlsweig. "People I don't know stop me all the time to ask if they can help."

The event, which is also overseen by Kevin Weldon, has hundreds of sponsors every year. Last year's event had an attendance of more than 2,000 adults and children.

The event runs from noon to 4 p.m. The rain date is the following day.