05/31/2006 11:00PM

Ambitious plans for Jersey-bred Joey P.

Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
The 4-year-old Joey P. may travel to Calder for next month's $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - The challenges will get tougher for Joey P. after a victory over New Jersey-breds in his season debut.

Joey P. came out of his John J. Reilly Handicap victory on May 27 in good shape, according to trainer Ben Perkins, Jr. Joey P. carried a career-high 123 pounds to a hard-fought half-length victory over Quiet Desperation.

It wasn't the most impressive win of the 4-year-old's career. Joey P. earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure, well below the standard established last year when he posted four wins with Beyers ranging from 108 to 100.

"We're happy with the way he ran," said Perkins. "He showed a lot of heart, racing between horses down the backside while carrying a lot of weight. You could tell it wasn't going to be easy."

While the Reilly eased Joey P. back into the win column, Perkins has mapped an ambitious trio of open stakes for him: Monmouth's $60,000 Longfellow Stakes on June 18, the Grade 2, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 15, and the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes here on Aug. 6.

"Eventually, if we think he can be competitive, we'd love to take him to the big race at Calder," Perkins said. "His numbers last year were very strong for a 3-year-old. If he could improve a little bit with age, it puts him right in the mix with a lot of good horses."

Extra Bend will go back to turf

Scott Volk generally keeps a low profile at Monmouth, grinding out winners with his 12-horse stable. This could be a summer where Volk finds himself in the spotlight thanks to a horse he calls "probably my best claim ever."

Volk claimed Extra Bend, a 3-year-old gelding, for $50,000 at Aqueduct in March.

"I knew I had claimed a good horse." Volk said.

Good enough to be a stakes winner.

Extra Bend has made two starts for Volk, both stakes. He was second, beaten only three-quarters of a length, on the turf in Pimlico's Woodlawn Stakes. Extra Bend hit pay dirt next out, winning Monmouth's Spend a Buck Stakes on the main track by a neck on Memorial Day.

Even with the dirt win, Volk believes Extra Bend's best races will come on grass.

"I just expect him to keep getting better on the turf," Volk said.

The next two starts will likely come in Monmouth's 3-year-old turf stakes: the $60,000 Lamplighter on July 9 and the $100,000 Jersey Derby on July 30.

Volk, 55. has been a racetracker for most of his life. Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., he got hooked on the sport at Finger Lakes.

"My uncle used to go to the races," Volk said. "He had some horses and I said, 'That's for me.' "

Volk trained for almost 30 years at Finger Lakes before spending several seasons working for Sarah and Ken Ramsey. When that association came to an end, Volk settled at Monmouth 10 years ago.

Volk has saddled 2,142 runners and has 284 wins. He has had three stakes starts in the last six years, including the two with Extra Bend.

Pickin Laurel back where she runs best

The $65,000 Lighthouse Stakes for fillies and mares on Saturday did not fill when Smokey Glacken, winner of three straight graded stakes, scared away the competition.

As a result, the Saturday feature will be a $40,000 second-level allowance race for fillies and mares at six furlongs with a strong New Jersey-bred flavor.

Four of the seven runners are statebreds, including Pickin Laurel, who makes her first start since running ninth in the Anne Arundel Stakes at Laurel in November.

"I ran her in that one mile in Maryland and she didn't want any part of that," said owner Gerry Sleeter. "I don't think shipping agrees with her."

Pickin Laurel, now 4, should be right at home at Monmouth where she is 3 for 8 lifetime. She worked a half-mile May 29 in 48 seconds, the fastest of 29 works at the distance.

"She's doing good," Sleeter said. "She raced well fresh last year."

Pickin Laurel posted decisive wins in her first two starts of 2005.

Yachats, a 3-year-old filly trained by Todd Pletcher, takes the biggest class drop. She ran sixth, beaten 12 lengths, most recently in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland.

Trainer Lynne Scace sends out the only other 3-year-old in the field, She Too, who won 2 of 4 starts at Tampa Bay Downs.