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Keep the Canoli Tries to Earn Haskell Berth

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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.

The mile 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 the field.”

Keep the 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.

He finished 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.

Sacco 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.

“He had 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.”

Keep the Canoli will have a new rider in Angel Serpa for Sunday’s start, the sixth different jockey in nine starts.

“Serpa 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.”

 

MONMOUTH’S HOLIDAY WEEKEND ENDS WITH FAMILY FUN DAY

 

Monmouth Park’s star-spangled Independence Day weekend concludes Sunday with Family Fun Day activities -- live music by Cats On A Smooth Surface, free pony rides, face painting, bounce houses and more. The jockey autograph and memorabilia sale, which went on throughout the four-day weekend, concludes on Sunday.

Sunday also features a $200 Monmouth/Woodbine Handicapping Contest, in which the top two finishers will earn an all expense-paid trip to Las Vegas as well as a seat in the 2014 National Handicapping Championship.

Gates open at 11:30 a.m. with post time at 12:50 p.m. on Sunday.   

 

 

 

 

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