So far, the plan is working, and Char-Mari Stable's Park Avenue Ball will go off as one of the top starters in Saturday's $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III). The 4-year-old son of Citidancer, bred by owners Charles and Marianne Hesse, will not only be among the betting favorites. He'll also be a sentimental favorite as a New Jersey-bred, and a Monmouth specialist.Trainer Jim Ryerson came into this season with the idea of running Park Avenue Ball every four or five weeks, with the Iselin the main goal for the summer."Everything has gone according to plan so far," Ryerson said. "The Iselin was the goal from the beginning, if all the other things fell into place. They have, and we're here."Park Avenue Ball, who broke his maiden and then won the Tyro Stakes here in his first two career starts, had a busy, hard-knocking campaign from his third race in August of 2004 until the final race of his 3-year-old season on Oct. 7, 2005. He ran in nine straight graded events, winning the Futurity (gr. II) at Belmont, and the Long Branch (gr. III) at Monmouth, and was second in the grade II Hutcheson and grade III Withers and third in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I).After that long streak, Ryerson let the colt down for the winter, and he did not come back to the track until April 29 this year at Calder Race Course, where he tuned up by running third in a sprint stakes. That set him up for the Frisk Me Now Stakes May 27, where he beat Network by a half-length.The first major goal for the summer was the Salvator Mile (gr. III) June 24, and Park Avenue Ball might have won it, except for the fact that grade I winner Flower Alley used the Salvator as his comeback race. Park Avenue Ball finished a game second, a head in front of Network.Most recently, on July 23, Park Avenue Ball ran his Monmouth record to 5-2-1 in 8 starts with a five-length score over Indy Wind in the Skip Away Stakes.And, now that it's a month later, here he is back in action."So far everything's good with him," the ever-cautious Ryerson said. "He's gotten to the Iselin, and he's doing well."
And after the Iselin?"I don't know yet," the trainer said. "My plan only went this far."Park Avenue Ball has earned $766,600 so far in his career with a record of 6-5-2 in 16 starts. In the Iselin, he'll be racing for the winner's share of $150,000, plus the 30 percent award for a New Jersey-bred in an open race.Park Avenue Ball will likely face six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Iselin, including the Ed Broome-trained Network, who's finished behind him twice. The other locally based runners expected to go are Sinners N Saints, from the Richard Dutrow stable; Tap Day, trained by Mark Hennig, and Zoffinger, from John Forbes' barn.Expected shippers are the Todd Pletcher-trained Master Command, who is based at Saratoga, and Survivalist, also stabled at the Spa with Shug McGaughey's string.Trainer Amy Tarrant said Indy Wind, who had been considered a possible starter, suffered a small setback and will not go in the Iselin.