Two veterans of the Triple Crown trail whose paths have yet to cross will finally meet as the favorites in Saturday's $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor's Lion Heart, trained by Patrick Biancone, finished second to Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby and then was fourth behind that rival in the Preakness (both gr. I). Monmouth's leading rider Joe Bravo gets the call on the son of Tale of the Cat.
Tracy Farmer's Royal Assault, one of trainer Nick Zito's talented 3-year-olds, won the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day, and then ran third behind stablemate Birdstone and Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
The Long Branch is Monmouth's final prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I), which will be run Aug. 8. A field of eight colts and geldings was entered Thursday.
Lion Heart has been training at Saratoga and had his final Long Branch drill Sunday, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. The colt is to ship from the Spa early Saturday morning.
Royal Assault had his main tune-up for the Long Branch on Saturday at Belmont, breezing five furlongs in a zippy :59 4/5. Chuck Lopez, who had a triple at Monmouth on Wednesday, gets the mount for the first time on the Kris S. colt, who carries 122 under the conditions of the race.$100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Cherokee Spook (KY), 112, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
2. Zakocity (FL), 112, Eibar Coa
3. Choose (KY), 112, Tom G. Turner
4. My Snookie's Boy (KY), 114, Stewart Elliott
5. Lion Heart (KY), 116, Joe Bravo
6. Gadace's Khamseh (FL), 114, Jose C. Ferrer
7. Ecclesiastic (KY), 114, Christopher P. DeCarlo
8. Royal Assault (KY), 122, Charles C. Lopez