Centaur Farms' Gotcha Gold, who "freaked" in the Coronado's Quest Stakes June 25, returns to action Saturday in the $150,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park. Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., the Florida-bred colt set fast fractions in the mile and 70-yard event, and seemed to increase his speed in the stretch as he stretched his margin to seven lengths and finished in the fast time of 1:39 3/5. Praying for Cash and Hesanoldsalt were panting in his wake.
Now he's back to try the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch, Monmouth's major local prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on Aug. 6. His five opponents are hoping that last race was just a fluke. Plesa hopes it was just the sign of an improving horse.
"Was it a surprise that he won so easy?" Plesa said. "Yes, it was. But it was no surprise to me that he ran so well.
"When I reflect on that race, I can see an improving horse, a horse going the right way," said the trainer. "And this is certainly the time you want to see them improve."
Gotcha Gold, a homebred son of Coronado's Quest (who won the 1998 Haskell), is now perfect in two starts at Monmouth. In his other start, he took his first allowance condition going a mile on June 2. He came from off the pace to win that race.
"He looks to me like he's coming into this race the same or even better than he came into the last," Plesa said. "He just keeps getting better."
Plesa says he's not worrying about the Haskell yet.
"I don't want to jinx him, so I'm not even thinking about it," the trainer said. "He'll just do what he does, and then we'll see what happens."
In the last two years, Long Branch winners Lion Heart (2004) and Park Avenue Ball (2005) have gone on to finish first and third, respectively, in the Haskell.
$150,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:52 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Praying for Cash (FL), 117, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
2. Latent Heat (KY), 117, Joel Cruz
3. Victory Lake (KY), 117, Alan Garcia
4. Throng (KY), 117, Jose A. Santos
5. Meadow Blue (NJ), 119, Julian Pimentel
6. Gottcha Gold (FL), 121, Charles C. Lopez