John Petrini’s homebred Joey P. rolled to a track-record victory in the $60,000 Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth Park on Saturday as 13,066 fans gave a rousing welcome back to Thoroughbred racing at the Jersey Shore.
Joey P., with perennial leading jockey Joe Bravo in the irons, reaffirmed his love of Monmouth Park as he scored his ninth victory in 13 starts at the track. He raced the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:01 4/5, breaking the track record by a full second. The mark of 1:02 4/5 was set last year by Man of Danger.
Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., Joey P. stalked the fast early pace (a quarter in :21 3/5 and a half in :44 1/5) set by Introspect and Yes Yes Yes before asserting himself on the stretch turn. The 5-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding by Close Up opened a daylight lead mid-stretch and had more than enough left to hold off Slam Bammy, who closed to within two lengths at the wire. Who’s the Cowboy closed belatedly to be third, two lengths behind Slam Bammy.
The 7-5 favorite in the field of five, Joey P. paid $4.80, $3.60, and $2.40 across the board and topped the $27.80 exacta with Slam Bammy, who returned $6 and $3.20. Who's the Cowboy was $2.80 to show.
This was Joey P.’s first victory since he won the Longfellow Stakes at Monmouth last June 18. He improved his earnings to $458,599 with 10 victories in 17 starts.
“It was a great opening day,” said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure this will be the best season ever in the history of Monmouth Park.”
Saturday was the first of 79 cards at Monmouth this year. The summer meet runs through Sept. 2, and the final four days of racing will be presented Oct. 24-27, with the Breeders’ Cup Championship Days on Oct. 26-27.
“If today is any indication of how the meeting will go,” Dowd said, “we’re looking at a banner 2007 Monmouth meeting.”