Kelly Breen, who sends out West Side Bernie, and Derek Ryan, who trains Musket Man, have been Monmouth regulars for many years, and will be participating in their first Derby.
The colt made his first career start at Monmouth Park last August 28, winning a maiden race by a length and a half. He went on to take the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes at Turfway Park, and then ran a respectable race in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, when he started from the far outside post and was beaten just three lengths in finishing sixth.
This year, West Side Bernie has started three times, most recently finishing second to I Want Revenge in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct.
Derek Ryan, a native of Ireland, makes his home in Long Branch, and is a consistent winner on the New Jersey racing circuit. Musket Man, a colt by Yonaguska – Fortuesque, by Fortunate Prospect, trained at Monmouth last year, but was not ready to make his first start until late October, a month after the Monmouth meeting ended.
Owned by Vic Carlson and Eric Fein, the colt has lost just once in six career starts. He won his first three races, including the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January, before running third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. After that setback, however, Musket Man bounced right back to win the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and the Illinois Derby (G2).
New Jersey racing fans can look forward to seeing West Side Bernie and Musket Man in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1), Monmouth’s signature event for 3-year-olds that will be renewed here on Sunday, August 2.
Breen had 20 2-year-olds in training at Monmouth last year, and expects to have the same number of juveniles at the track this season. West Side Bernie and the filly Bold Union have proven the best of that group. The colt has earned more than $400,000, and the filly has two stakes wins and earnings of $140,000.
“I’m really happy to have a horse in the Kentucky Derby,” Breen said from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., where he is training West Side Bernie. “But I’m also looking forward to getting back to Monmouth. That’s home.
“Just like every year, I can’t wait for opening day at Monmouth,” Breen said.