10/14/2011 1:57PM

Belmont: Hockley back on turf, in with tag


ELMONT, N.Y. – After a dirt experiment provided mixed results, Hockley returns to the turf Sunday at Belmont Park in what is essentially a $60,000 claiming race that serves as the nominal feature on the 10-race program.

Carded as a second-level allowance/optional claiming race, eight of the nine horses entered for the 1 1/16-mile turf affair are in for the $60,000 claiming tag. Only Break Up the Game is running under the allowance condition.

This will be the first time Hockley has run for a tag. A son of A.P. Indy out of the Storm Cat mare Penny’s Fortune, Hockley has a record of 3-2-1 from 7 starts on turf. That included a second-level allowance win at Aqueduct in April, his first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Noting his pedigree, McLaughlin wanted to try Hockley on the dirt. The opportunity arose when the Elkwood Stakes in May at Monmouth Park scheduled for the turf was rained off to the dirt. Hockley finished second, beaten 7 1/4 lengths, while finishing 7 1/2 lengths clear of the field. Hockley tried the dirt again in a third-level allowance, but he finished last behind Pleasant Prince.

“We wanted to try the dirt because he’s an A.P. Indy,” McLaughlin said. “He ran real well the first dirt race, the second one wasn’t so good. We freshened him up a little bit, we’re running where he’s won – the two-other than – though we put him in for the optional claiming. He should fit well.”

Monument Hill is as consistent as they come, having yet to finish worse than third in 10 career starts. He was beaten a half-length for this claiming tag in July and was beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Close Ally in a similar spot as this multi-conditioned race on Sept. 21.

“That was a tough edition of a two-other-than,” Weaver said. “We’re happy with the horse, he ran well enough last time to give it a shot. I’m not sure he’d be crazy about soft ground.”

Pocket Patch comes off a front-running score in the Maryland Million Turf – his second win in that race – and is being offered for $60,000. He looms the horse to catch under David Cohen.

Bad Debt has four wins and four seconds from eight starts this year in the starter handicap ranks. He figures to be stalking the pace under Jose Lezcano.

Break Up the Game, the lone horse not being offered for $60,000, is coming off a fifth-place finish in this condition at Saratoga. His lone win from three turf starts came going seven furlongs here, but he took advantage of a hot pace that doesn’t appear likely to materialize in this spot.