07/25/2007 12:00AM

Xchanger likely to join strong Haskell field


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Mark Shuman is giving strong consideration to running Xchanger in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 5.

"We'll see what the next week brings," Shuman said Wednesday morning. "We'll give him a workout on the weekend and see if everything falls into place. We're better than 50-50. I'd say we're 75 percent there."

The addition of Xchanger, winner of the Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park on July 15, brings the field of likely Haskell runners to six.

Curlin, the Preakness winner, tops a lineup that includes Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun, Cable Boy, and Imawildandcrazyguy.

Shuman wants to give Xchanger another shot against some of the top colts in the division. In his biggest test, Xchanger set a suicidal pace in the Preakness before fading from view.

"He didn't run his race there," Shuman said. "The fractions he ran were insane. We never gave ourselves a shot. The way we ran, you wouldn't win as a nickel claimer."

After the Preakness, Shuman gave Xchanger some time to regroup for the Barbaro. He credits jockey Edgar Prado with helping the colt relax in the Barbaro, closely stalking the pace before making his move a quarter-mile from the finish.

Shuman said Prado is committed to the return call, if Xchanger runs in the Haskell.

That is one of several factors pushing Shuman toward the Haskell instead of the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 4 at Mountaineer Park.

The shipping from his base at the Fair Hills training center in Maryland is easier, and the field will likely be smaller in the Haskell.

And then there is the Monmouth factor, where Xchanger is unbeaten in two starts. He won here at first asking last August and posted a game victory second time out in the track's top juvenile stakes, the Grade 3 Sapling.

"That's a very strong consideration," Shuman said.

Dubai Gold back for turf race

Weather permitting, Dubai Gold will return to the turf Friday at Monmouth in the featured third-level optional claiming race.

Dubai Gold, trained by Bobby Frankel, made his last start in a race that came off the turf. The field scratched down to only three runners in the mud on July 5.

After hitting the gate at the break, Dubai Gold, with Eddie Castro aboard, regrouped to get second, finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Kiss the Kid.

"The horse seemed fine," said assistant trainer Chad Brown. "Eddie was complaining about some pain in his hip and leg. Luckily, he was okay, and so was the horse."

Also entered is Avanti Avanti, who got up by a nose to win here on June 29 in a second-level allowance. Trainer Greg Sacco credits jockey Joe Bravo with keeping the horse covered up as much a possible.

"Joe was the key," Sacco said. "This horse is a little bit of a cheater if he gets clear. Joe rode him the way we wanted."

Avanti Avanti posted a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 89 in the victory that proved to be a key race. The second- and third-place finishers, Bestowed and French Vintage, came back to win their next starts.

Sacco is happy with the 5-year-old coming up to the race, having given him a one-mile conditioning work in 1:42.80 on July 16.

Some Haskell seats left

A limited number of reserved seats remain for Haskell Day. The clubhouse and grandstand preferred seats are all sold. Seats are still available for the Skyview Terrace and the second floor of the grandstand. Skyview seats are $14 and $10; second floor grandstand seats are $10.

Seats are available every racing day at the reserved seat booth on the second floor of the grandstand or by calling 732-571-5563.

There also are a few reserved picnic tables left that seat eight for $125. There will be 100 unreserved picnic tables available on Haskell Day. Reservations can be made at 732-571-5544.