Jockey Joe Bravo kicked off his comeback in style, winning three races on the opening day card at Monmouth Park, including the $100,000 Red Bank Handicap on Just Le Facts and the $50,000 Gilded Time Stakes on Buzzy's Gold.Bravo, who has missed nearly all of the past two Monmouth meetings with a broken leg and broken wrist, last won the jockey crown in 2000, but is off to a fast start."The old Joe Bravo is back," the rider said after winning the season opener. "I'm fit, I'm healthy and I'm ready to roll."Bravo went on to prove that later in the day, when he scored front-running victories on Buzzy's Gold in the Gilded Time and Just Le Facts in the Red Bank.Mac Fehsenfeld's Just Le Facts, coming off a 10-month layoff, outgamed the odds-on favorite Saint Verre to take the Red Bank by a neck. Runspastum was third and Seattle Glory last in the field that was reduced to four when the race came off the grass.This was the second straight Red Bank score for trainer Dennis Manning, who won the race last year on turf with Key Lory.(In accord with American Graded Stakes Committee policy, the Red Bank was automatically downgraded from grade III to ungraded status and was conducted as an ungraded stakes race. The American Graded Stakes Committee has reviewed the off-the-turf renewal and has determined that the original grade III status will not be reinstated for this renewal.)Just Le Facts paid $18.40, $4 and $2.10 across the board and topped a $49 exacta with Saint Verre.
In the Gilded Time, Bravo guided Martin Schwartz's Buzzy's Gold to a rail-skimming score. The Linda Rice-trained colt took the track from the start and beat odds-on favorite Valid Video to the wire. Buzzy's Gold paid $9.20 to win.In the $50,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds, Joel Kligman's Jersey Giant sprang a minor upset when he splashed from off the pace to beat Beknown to Me and the favored Our Wildcat.It was the first start of the year for Jersey Giant, a 4-year-old gelding by Evening Kris trained by Jim Ryerson. Julian Pimentel was the winning rider. It was the third win in nine starts at Monmouth for Jersey Giant, who paid $15.40 to win. (Chart, Equibase)