Friday, July 11, 2008
ATONED LOOKING FOR HASKELL BERTH IN SATURDAY’S LONG BRANCH
OCEANPORT, N.J. * Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the last two runnings of the $1 million Haskell Invitational, will be looking for a 2008 starter when he runs Atoned in Saturday’s $150,000 Long Branch Stakes * Our Friend Harvey will try to stay unbeaten sprinting on the Monmouth turf in Sunday’s $60,000 John McSorley Stakes * Saturday’s 60-Minute Six will offer a $100,000 guaranteed pool.
Six 3-year-olds are slated to take a major step toward the $1 million Haskell Invitational when they go in Saturday’s $150,000 Long Branch Stakes.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the last two runnings of the Haskell with Bluegrass Cat (2006) and Any Given Saturday (2007), will saddle Dogwood Stable’s Atoned on Saturday.
Pletcher will be looking for his first Long Branch victory with Atoned, a son of Repent who finished second last out, beaten a neck by Cool Coal Man, in the Spend a Buck Stakes on June 14. It was his first start since a poor showing on April 19 in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. That effort brought Atoned’s record at Monmouth to 2-2-0 in 4 starts, indicating his fondness for this track.
“We thought he ran well first time back after the Lexington,” Pletcher said. “We were pleased with his effort. We hope to improve a notch on that Saturday. He’s always run well at Monmouth.”
Acknowledging the Long Branch’s status as a Haskell prep, Pletcher said, “If he performs well Saturday, Mr. Campbell (Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Farm) and I will talk about it (the Haskell). It would be great if he did perform well enough to deserve a try.”
Atoned, who will have Jose Lezcano aboard for the first time Saturday, was second in his first start here last June and broke his maiden here last August. Later that month, he won the Continental Mile Stakes which was switched to the main track.
The Florida-bred colt was on the Triple Crown trail early this year when he ran second, a neck behind Court Vision, in the Tampa Bay Derby. However, he was a distant fourth in the Illinois Derby and then eighth in the Lexington over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
“He breezed well on the Polytrack before the race,” Pletcher said. “The Lexington wasn’t part of our original plan, but after he breezed so well, we felt we should take a shot. But a lot of horses perform differently in the afternoon on the synthetic surface than in the morning.
“We freshened him up a bit and pointed for this series at Monmouth,” the trainer said.
He was given a break after that race, and the Spend a Buck was a sharp comeback race.
Atoned will have to be on his toes in the Long Branch. He’ll be meeting graded stakes winners like Hey Byrn and Z Humor, and they’ll all have to contend with the speed of Indy Joe, who is coming off a third in the six-furlong Jersey Shore Stakes (G3) here on July 4.
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