Sunday's $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes is Monmouth Park's major prep for the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on Aug. 5, and this year's rendition should again springboard a few runners toward this year's race. The Long Branch, run at 1 1/16 miles, is for 3-year-olds.
Prepping for a potential run in the Haskell in the Long Branch is Stronach Stables' Thunder Blitz. Winner of the Flamingo Stakes earlier this year , fourth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Thunder Blitz is a son of Holy Bull.
"We're just trying to win the Long Branch for now," said Joe Orseno, who trains Thunder Blitz. "We'll wait and see how things go in the race and then make a decision on the Haskell."
Thunder Blitz will face six or seven rivals in the Long Branch. Likely starters include Game Effort, Junior Deputy, Just Whimsical, Saratoga Games, and This Fleet Is Due. Possibles are Beau's Surprise and Max Jones.
Over the past 10 years, the Long Branch has produced numerous Haskell starters. In 1994, Long Branch winner Meadow Flight finished second to Holy Bull in the Haskell; 1995 Long Branch winner, Pyramid Peak, ran second to Serena's Song in the Haskell; and in 1996, Dr. Caton won the Long Branch and finished second to Skip Away in the Haskell.