07/10/2009 11:00PM

Atomic Rain comes of age at right time


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The dream of making the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park seemingly left town for owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen with the sale of West Side Bernie to Godolphin in May.

The Haskell dream is still alive, thanks to Atomic Rain, who stepped up boldly to fill the void left by his departed stablemate.

Atomic Rain ($7) powered to a decisive win Saturday in the $175,000 Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds, Monmouth's traditional prep for the Haskell.

The sometimes immature baby has become a man, at just the right time.

Jockey Joe Bravo likened Atomic Rain to Terrell Owens, the talented but sometimes unfocused wide receiver.

"He was a T.O. kind of horse," Bravo said. "He had ability but he always played around and wanted to do the wrong thing. Kelly did a great job making the horse pay attention."

Atomic Rain has come a long way in a short period of time. Rushed into the Kentucky Derby when a last-minute spot opened, Atomic Rain finished 16th in the slop.

Back at Monmouth, the colt regrouped to win a first-level allowance race followed by a pair of bullet works leading up to the Long Branch.

"Joe hit it on the head," Breen said. "This horse is just not focused. We changed his training style around a little bit and you can see him maturing during the summer. He couldn't be better."

Laying sixth in the early stages while entrymate Rapid Redux set the pace, Atomic Rain took charge with a four-wide sweep turning for home. He beat Despite the Odds by 4 3/4 lengths with Papa Clem, the Arkansas Derby winner making his first start since the Preakness, third as the 6-5 favorite of the crowd of 10,954.

Papa Clem broke slowly and stumbled slightly just after the start.

"He came back with some cuts on the inside of one of his legs, but it doesn't look too bad," said trainer Gary Stute. "We'll have to talk it over, but I'm pretty sure we'll stick around for the Haskell."

The time was 1:43.79 for the 1 1/16 miles on the fast track.

* Get Serious ($6.20) led all the way to capture the $70,000 Battlefield Stakes on the turf.

The 5-year-old gelding ridden by Pablo Fragoso and trained by John Forbes ran one mile in 1:32.70 on the firm course, coming within hailing distance of Icy Atlantic's course record of 1:32.42 set in 2007.