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Eight Go in Long Branch on Opening Day at Monmouth Park

Monmouth Park
The Monmouth Park meeting kicks off on Saturday. (Photo credit: © Andrew Kazmierski | Dreamstime.com).

Eight 3-year-olds – two trained by Butch Reid – were entered for Saturday’s $100,000 Long Branch Stakes, the feature race on the opening day program for Monmouth Park’s 78th season of Thoroughbred racing.

A total of 90 horses (not counting five alternates) were entered for the 10 races following Tuesday’s draw.

The 87th running of the Long Branch Stakes, contested at a mile and 70 yards, will go as race eight. First race post time is 12:40 for Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Monday cards. When Friday racing gets underway in June first race post time for those days will be 2 p.m.

Didinger, a Kentucky-bred son of Bolt d’Oro, heads the Reid-trained duo, coming in off a victory in an allowance optional claimer at Parx on March 27 in his seasonal debut. Reid has also entered Ninetyprcentmaddie, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Weigelia who has four wins and two seconds from eight career starts.

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The Long Branch Stakes field from the rail out consists of Slip Mahoney, No Confession, Coffeewithchris, Howgreatisnate, Didinger, Offaly Cool, Ninetyprcentmaddie and Hayes Strike.

Slip Mahoney, trained by Brad Cox, was a trouble-filled sixth in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in his most recent start. Hayes Strike, trained by Ken McPeek, is just 2-for-10 lifetime but was third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and second in the Grade 3 Street Sense, both last year. He was seventh in his most recent start – the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Monmouth Park’s 51-day meet will feature 48 stakes races worth more than $7.7 million. Ten are graded stakes. The Grade 1, $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes again serves as the headliner for the summer on July 22. The Grade 1 United Nations will also be contested that day.

McPeek Sends Out Hayes Strike

Hayes Strike has a specific measuring stick for the rest of his career as the 3-year-old colt looks to add to his credentials in Saturday’s $100,000 Long Branch Stakes, the opening day feature at Monmouth Park.

The Dixiana Farms homebred has a successful half-brother – Senior Investment – to try to live up to.

“He’s a good, solid horse who is good to be around. I’m mostly pleased with him,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who also trained Senior Investment. “I’d like to think he can still improve.”

After finishing second to Two Phil’s in the Grade 3 Street Sense at 2, and then closing to get third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his next start that year, Hayes Strike is still looking for his first graded stakes win. His half-brother Senior Investment won the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes and then was third in the Preakness Stakes and fifth in the Belmont Stakes in 2017, earning $838,762 for his career.

So Hayes Strike has a way to go to add to the family’s success, with the Kentucky-bred son of Connect out of the Deputy Commander mare Plaid 2-for-10 in his career with earnings of $207,007.

He comes into the 87th edition of the Long Branch Stakes, a mile and 70 race for 3-year-olds, off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 8. Prior to that he won the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel on March 18.

McPeek won the Long Branch Stakes a year ago with Dash Attack.

“I think this is a nice spot for him,” said McPeek, who planned to ship Hayes Strike from Louisville on Thursday. “We knocked down the race in Maryland and then we tried the Blue Grass and it was a little deeper water than he wanted.

“The Long Branch Stakes ought to be a good spot for him.”

A field of eight is entered for the feature on the 10-race card, which launches Monmouth Park’s 51-day meet.

McPeek still believes Hayes Strike has a graded stakes win in his future. This is a step toward getting him there, he said.

“We’re trying to find the right spot for him now,” said McPeek. “I think a nice listed stakes is ideal for him right now and if he were to win the Long Branch Stakes we’ll probably try him again in a Grade 3 race.”

Samuel Marin is listed to ride Hayes Strike on Saturday.

First race post time is 12:40 p.m.