In a move that surprised even his trainer, Hop Skip and Away
took command early in Saturday’s $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap at Monmouth
Park and never looked back, cruising to a 2 ¾ length score.
“When I saw
him on the lead, I was screaming ‘what are you doing’,” said conditioner Joe
Pierce Jr., who owns Hop Skip and Away in partnership with H.C.B. Lindh. “I told Pedro (jockey Cotto) in the paddock
to use his judgment, but I didn’t expect that.
Pedro’s judgment sure worked out, though.
I’m surprised by the way he won, but not that he won. Pedro’s riding as good as he’s ever ridden
and when you have confidence like he does right now things just go your way.”
previous lifetime starts, the 8-year-old Hop Skip and Away had never been in
front through the first quarter of a mile.
The traditional closer, who prior to Saturday won all nine of his races
coming from the off pace, was first to the quarter in :22 1/5 and then the half
in :44 3/5. He reported home in 1:09 4/5
for six furlongs over a fast main track under 116 pounds.
want to be so far back,” said the winning jockey. “I didn’t expect to be on the lead,
though. Once we were in front I tried to
slow it down as much as possible. In the
stretch, he just pulled away.”
by Gold Fever from the Gulch mare Wingspread, Hop Skip and Away returned $21,
$9.80 and $5.60. Chief Carlson completed
the $215 exacta and paid $13.60 and $6.80.
It was another length and a half back to Bombast, who paid $3.80 to
Reilly was Hop Skip and Away’s fourth try in the sprint staple for New
Jersey-bred colts and geldings. He ran
third in 2010 and 2011 before a runner-up finish last year.
continues at Monmouth on Sunday, June 2 – gates open 11:30 a.m. with first post
set for 12:50 p.m.