Sunday’s $100,000 Long Branch Stakes has come up a tough
scramble, which is appropriate for Monmouth’s final prep for the biggest event
of the summer, the $1 million William Hill Invitational (G1) on July 28.
and a sixteenth test for 3-year-olds has drawn a field of nine, including
Repole Stable’s Micromanage, who won an allowance race here two back, and
Michael Langford’s Carve, who flashed brilliance when third in the Grade 1
Arkansas Derby for trainer Steve Asmussen.
It has become traditional for the
winner of the Long Branch
to be extended a coveted invitation (the only way to go) to the Haskell. And
the Long Branch
always includes local hopefuls, whose connections dream of making Monmouth’s
dream race the last Sunday of the month. To that end, trainer Gregg Sacco will
saddle Red Oak Farm’s homebred Keep the Canoli in the Long Branch.
“To run in
the Haskell would be wonderful for all of us,” Sacco said. “Especially for Mr.
(John) Brunetti, who bred this horse. But you don’t just run in the Haskell
because you want to,” the trainer said. “First, you have to earn your place in
Canoli has flashed his talent throughout his eight-race career. The
Florida-bred son of Imperialism broke his maiden at first asking here in June
of 2012, and looked like the real deal when stretched out last year, winning a
one-mile allowance at Laurel Park, and then missing by a nose in the mile and
70-yard Dover Stakes at Delaware.
in the middle of the field in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct to finish
his 2-year-old season, and then encountered traffic trouble while finishing
fifth in his 3-year-old debut in the Frank Whiteley Stakes at Laurel in January.
brought the colt back in a Monmouth sprint on May 12, and he ran sixth of eight
in a race he needed after a five-month layoff.
Last out, while wearing blinkers for
the first time, Keep the Canoli pressed the pace in the two-turn Grover Delp
Memorial Stakes at Delaware on May 29, running fourth of four, but only a
length and a half from the winner, Rienzi.
worked well in the blinkers,” Sacco said, “but he was headstrong in that race,
pressing the pace. He needed that one, too, and that should set him up for the Long Branch.”
Canoli will have a new rider in Angel Serpa for Sunday’s start, the sixth
different jockey in nine starts.
knows him well because he worked the colt when we added blinkers in May,” Sacco
said. “He’s been training very well for this race. But if he’s going to get the
job done,” the trainer added, “he has to step up right now.”