Lion Heart, left, leads My Snookie's Boy, center, en route to winning the  Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Lion Heart, left, leads My Snookie's Boy, center, en route to winning the Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

Lion Heart Claws to Long Branch Triumph

Lion Heart seemed ideally placed for his first win of 2004 in Saturday's $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup (gr. III), but the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up needed everything he had to prevail as the 3-10 choice by a head over stubborn My Snookie's Boy at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Patrick Biancone said Lion Heart lost a shoe in the race.

``He lost a shoe when he stumbled at the start,'' he said. ``The only other time he lost a shoe was in his first start, and he won the two after that.''

Royal Assault, the 7-2 second choice in the field of seven, never threatened and finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Lion Heart.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) was 1:43 2/5 on a fast track. The Haskell is Aug. 8.

Lion Heart, ridden for the first time by Joe Bravo, had lost four in a row, his last defeat coming in a fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 15. He last won in December in the Hollywood Futurity. Lion Heart finished second in three of four starts since then.

None of his rivals Saturday had won a graded stakes.

The chestnut son of Tale of the Cat, trained by Patrick Biancone for owners Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, was taken out of his usual pacesetter role. Lion Heart stalked in third as Choose carved out the early fractions – :23, :46 2/5 and 1:10 – while prompted by My Snookie's Cat.

My Snookie's Cat, ridden by Stewart Ellott, took over briefly at the top of the stretch after completing a mile in 1:36 2/5. Lion Heart, third on the outside on the far turn, seemed poised to sweep by the leaders. After edging in front with three furlongs left, he came under a hard ride for what proved to be a long stretch battle with My Snookie's Cat.

Royal Assault, who finished third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last month, saved ground while showing no speed and lacked much response in the stretch for C.C. Lopez.

Ecclesiastic, Zakocity, Gadace's Khamseh and Choose completed the order.

Lion Heart paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. My Snookie's Boy returned $3.80 and $2.10, completing a $14.20 exacta. Royal Assault was $2.10 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)