Tim Hills, Monmouth's leading trainer in 2004, hopes a short van ride from Belmont Park to the New Jersey track helps his grass contender Lojo get untracked.
Hills himself will be at Colonial Downs in Virginia to saddle the 3-year-old filly Vous in the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. Meanwhile, Lojo, the 5-year-old mare Hills will start in Saturday's $100,000 Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth, will get on a van at Belmont for the ride to Monmouth.
She figures to be among the favorites in the 1 1/16-mile Eatontown, which drew a field of six.
Lojo is part of a 12-horse string Hills maintains in New York under the care of assistant trainer Bruce Brown.
"It's an easy ride on Saturday morning," Hills said. "Not much traffic."
Lojo, owned by Lawrence Durocher Jr. and Hampshire Farm, was born to turf. She proved that the first time she saw the green at Monmouth as a 3-year-old in 2002 when she broke her maiden, which she followed with an allowance win on the grass. Both were at 1 1/16 miles, the Eatontown distance.
Last year, the mare by Rubiano – Mari's Key, by Mari's Book, raced exclusively in New York, where she worked her way through conditions and capped the season by winning the England's Legend Stakes and running second – beaten a lip – in the Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Lojo started this season in New York, but was ineffective in the Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct and in an allowance race at Belmont in May. Hills brought her to Monmouth for the Politely Stakes on June 20, and the mare ran third.
"She didn't switch leads in the stretch," Hills said. "We've been working on her since then, and I think we've straightened it out. She's been breezing well since that race and I expect her to run well Saturday."
Lojo carries 116 pounds, getting four from high weight Ocean Drive, and will have Alfredo Clemente back in the boot for the Eatontown.
Ocean Drive won the Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) as the 11-10 favorite by three-quarters of a length over Film Maker May 15 at Pimlico, ending a seven-race losing streak. She followed that with a game second-place showing while victimized by a slow pace as the odds-on choice in the Nassau Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine June 5. Eibar Coa rides Ocean Drive.$100,000 Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ocean Drive (KY), 120, Eibar Coa
2. Honorable Cat (KY), 111, Edwin L. King, Jr.
3. Aztec Pearl (KY), 113, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
4. Fast Cookie (KY), 118, Julian Pimentel
5. Lojo (KY), 116, Alfredo V. Clemente
6. High Court (BRZ), 118, Christopher P. DeCarlo