Racing begins at Monmouth Park on Friday, and Kelly Breen is not sure what to expect.
With New Jersey's new rule that mostly bans the use of the riding crop in Thoroughbred racing, some jockeys are refusing to ride at the track.
Asked Monday whether he knew of any jockeys that have declined to ride, Breen told Horse Racing Nation, “I don't know anybody that is going to ride, that's the problem.”
Breen was the leading trainer at the track for the last two meets. “I gear up for a meet like Monmouth Park – it's my bread and butter, it's my home. And when some people are leery of what's going to happen to their horse, because they're either not going to be ridden properly or right now, we don't even know who's going to be here to ride. It's just not what's good for New Jersey racing.”
The situation is causing problems beyond uncertainty, he said.
“It's breaking up the team. With some of my horses and races that we run in, between the hot walkers, the riders, the grooms, everything, assistants – it includes the jockeys. We consider ourselves enough of a family or a team. And when we lose a big portion, somebody that has a big outcome in the performance of a horse, it hurts. And we're losing part of our team.”
Still, Breen is making plans for the top horses in his stable, and he updated HRN on their status for this Barn Tour.
Firenze Fire. Now 6, he is coming off a win in the Runhappy Stakes (G3) on May 8. He closed out 2020 by winning the Vosburgh (G2), finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and losing by half a length to Sleepy Eyes Todd in the Mr. Prospector (G3). Breen said his next start likely will be at Belmont Park in the True North (G2) on June 4 or the Met Mile (G1) on June 5.
“Knicks Go is supposed to go in the Met Mile, and Whitmore's supposed to go in the sprint. So there’s some real horses in both races. We're not sure, we'll wait till we see the nominations and go from there.”
Firenze Fire won the True North last year. His last Grade 1 win was in the 2017 Champagne. Since, his record in Grade 1 races is 13: 0-2-2.
Pickin’ Time. Last year’s winner of the Nashua Stakes (G3) is aiming at the listed Pegasus, where Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun also is pointed. “Then the Long Branch and then the Haskell, that would be his kind of schedule for Monmouth for the summer.”
It’s a Gamble. This 3-year-old could look for his first win of the year in the listed Jersey Derby on May 28. But, Breen said, “We're just trying to figure out if that's where we're going to go and who is going to ride because right now, most riders say that they're not riding in Monmouth Park.”