Park Avenue Ball Reaches Fork in Long Branch

(from Monmouth Park notes)
Park Avenue Ball, who captured last year's Futurity (gr. II) at Belmont Park but has yet to find the winner's circle as a 3-year-old, gets another test around two turns in the Long Branch Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

How the Jim Ryerson-trained son of Citidancer performs in the 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) will go a long way toward determining his future path.

"We'll see by his race in the Long Branch what direction we're going to take with him," said Ryerson. "He has yet to win going two turns and there is a question about how far he wants to go."

The $3.3 million colt Chekhov, sixth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), is among the seven sophomore rivals entered to face Park Avenue Ball Saturday.

Ryerson knows he has a nice colt in the New Jersey homebred Park Avenue Ball, who runs in the colors of Charles and Marianne Hesse's Char-Mari Stable. But Ryerson is also a realist not given to daydreams where his horses are concerned.

Park Avenue Ball won three of five last year at 2, but has yet to win in four starts as a 3-year-old. He ran second in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream in February at seven and a half furlongs, but then threw in a clunker when he stretched out to 1 1/8 miles Fountain of Youth (gr. II). In the Florida Derby (gr. I), also at nine furlongs, he ran well, but could only manage to finish fourth.

"He was too far out of it in the Florida Derby," Ryerson said. "You can't be that far back and expect to finish well at Gulfstream."

Park Avenue Ball was taken off the Triple Crown trail after the Florida Derby and came north in April with the rest of Ryerson's horses. Back in a one-turn mile in Aqueduct's Withers (gr. III), the colt returned to his top form, finishing a sharp second, just a length behind Scrappy T.

"After the way he ran in Florida, it wasn't a surprise that he ran so well in the Withers," Ryerson said. "Now it's time to try him at two turns again. He likes this track, and he's been training well. Chris DeCarlo will ride Saturday. This will be a good test for him."

Park Avenue Ball, who has two wins and a second in three starts at Monmouth, worked a bullet five furlongs in :59 4/5 on July 10.

$150,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III), 3-Year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Park Avenue Ball (NJ), 116, Christopher P. DeCarlo
2. Secret Woods (KY), 112, Charles C. Lopez
3. Tani Maru (FL), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
4. First Word (KY), 112, Elvis Trujillo
5. Smokescreen (KY), 114, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
6. Shark (KY), 112, Edwin L. King, Jr.
7. Golden Man (FL), 112, Alan Garcia
8. Chekhov (KY), 112, Joe Bravo