Char-Mari Stable's homebred Park Avenue Ball will have a home track advantage in the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (actually a mile and 70 yards). His trainer, James Ryerson, is based at Monmouth Park, where Park Avenue Ball has captured five added-money events, including the 2005 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) and the 2006 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III).
"We have a lot of experience running a two-turn mile, and we do it pretty well, so I would think that being at Monmouth Park would help us in that regard," Ryerson said. "The horses from Belmont Park are more experienced around a one-turn mile, and it's a little bit different type of a race than a two-turn mile."
Park Avenue Ball hasn't won any of his five races this year. But the 5-year-old son of Citidancer did finish second in both the Richter Scale Sprint Championship Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in February and the Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth in September.
An earner of more than $1 million, the colt underwent throat surgery between his sixth-place effort in the May 26 Elkwood Stakes on grass at Monmouth and the six-furlong Icecapade. Park Avenue Ball is coming into the Breeders' Cup off a sixth in the six-furlong Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) on Sept. 30 at Belmont Park.
"After he had performed poorly on the turf, we felt we needed to help him a little bit, so he had a tie-back operation at the (University of Pennsylvania's) New Bolton Center," Ryerson said. "That's why he lacks some races this year. In the mornings, we've felt there has been a difference (following the surgery). The Dirt Mile will be the test because he hasn't run two turns on dirt this year, and he was always a pretty good horse doing two-turn mile before. This will really tell us how much the surgery helped."
Ryerson saw a reason to be optimistic about the future in Park Avenue Ball's Vosburgh effort.
"It was a speed-favoring day," Ryerson said. "Not many horses were able to close, and not many horses changed position in the race. Yet, he closed on everybody but the winner (Fabulous Strike)."
Ryerson was happy when trainer Rick Dutrow opted to run recent Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II) winner Diamond Stripes in the Breeders' Cup Classic -- Powered by Dodge (gr. I) instead of the Dirt Mile.
"I'm glad Rick went the other way because Diamond Stripes a nice horse," Ryerson said. "It's one less horse we'll have to contend with. It’s a wide-open race and there's a lot of speed. Jimmy Jerkens' horse (Corinthian) is such a nice horse. If he runs his race, he's going to be real tough. And of course, Discreet Cat is a real good horse. He beat us about a length in the Vosburgh, but I think we’re more in the ballpark with that horse than people think. We'll see how much the Vosburgh helped Discreet Cat and how much the two-turn race here helps us."
Marianne Hesse, a New Jersey resident, has operated Chari-Mar since the death of her husband, Charles Hesse III, last year. Charles Hesse, a paving contractor, and his father were involved in various renovation and construction projects at Monmouth over the years, so Park Avenue Ball probably will be a sentimental favorite for many New Jersey racing fans.
"Charlie really loved Park Avenue Ball, and he would have loved this," Ryerson said. "He never pushed me to run him. Charlie really wanted to win the Haskell (gr. I) with him. The horse ran well (finishing third), but didn't win, and Charlie was a little disappointed. But he (Park Avenue Ball) came back last year and won the Iselin. That was his day to shine. It was a shame because Charlie couldn't even make it to the winner's circle because he was on oxygen, and he stayed up in the box. But he was here, and it was a great day for us and for him to accomplish that with the horse."
Park Avenue Ball's most prestigious win came in the Futurity Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont in 2004. During four racing seasons, the horse has seven victories in 23 races, along with seven seconds and two thirds.