08/07/2006 12:00AM

Breen, Bravo gave best shot

Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
Joe Bravo is all smiles after the first of his five winners Saturday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Kelly Breen and jockey Joe Bravo, who both top the Monmouth Park meet standings, took a strong run Sunday at the Monmouth's biggest prize, the $1 million Haskell Invitational, with Praying for Cash.

Breen was confident Praying for Cash would run well, and he knew Bravo would get the most out of the colt. The end result: a pacesetting second behind the more experienced and Triple Crown-tested Bluegrass Cat.

"Going down the backside, I was so confident," Bravo said. "I had so much horse, I knew it would take a really good horse to pass us, and Bluegrass Cat is a really good horse. He could be one of the top 3 year-olds in the country, and we made him run."

Bravo rode an excellent tactical race. He hustled Praying for Cash right to the front to discourage rivals from contesting the pace. Bravo also picked the right path, keeping Praying for Cash in the third or fourth lane on a day when the rail was dead.

"We left a lot of the decisions up to Joe," Breen said. "We wanted to be on the pace. We didn't think the track was favorable to front-runners, but at the same time we didn't want to take our horse out of his game.

"That's one of the reasons we ride Joe. It's his track. We were in the three path, and it wasn't like we were trying to mess with Bluegrass Cat. We wanted the best advantage that we could get."

Bravo knows the racetrack and its tendencies like most of us know the shortest route to the supermarket.

"It has been a very inconsistent racetrack," Bravo said. "Each lane is different. A big part of the weekend was me knowing the racetrack and which paths were good and bad."

Breen was not sure where Praying for Cash would run next. He did not rule out the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 26.

Bravo and Breen had a Sunday to remember. Bravo won the first five races and had three seconds, including with Breen's Prop Me Up in the Grade 3 Matchmaker.

The two also teamed to win the $65,000 Lincroft Handicap with Meadow Blue.

Who's the Cowboy's presence felt

For over a year, Joey P. has been widely viewed as the leading New Jersey-bred sprinter at Monmouth Park. The 4-year-old Joey P. was unbeaten in eight sprints at Monmouth, including last year's Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes, heading into the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes on the Haskell undercard.

Joey P. now has competition for the title after Who's the Cowboy stormed to 1 1/4-length win. Joey P., racing on a very dead rail, ran fourth as the 2-1 favorite.

Who's the Cowboy, a homebred for the Sleeter family, has now won two consecutive Monmouth stakes.

The latest win has owner Gerald Sleeter thinking about a return try in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial at Laurel on Nov. 25.

Who's the Cowboy was seventh of 14 in last year's De Francis, his final start of the season.

Who's the Cowboy has now won nine of 20 starts, including wins over Grade 1 winners Valid Video in the Teddy Drone and Bishop Court Hill in an allowance race at the Meadowlands last fall.

Who's the Cowboy will probably next run against statebreds in Monmouth's $100,000 Friendly Lover Handicap on Sept. 16.

Rail post an iffy spot

Red Damask finds herself on the rail - so dead here Sunday - for Wednesday's $38,000 first-level allowance feature for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

If the inside is better at the start of the new week, Red Damask will be very tough. She turned in a strong pacesetting effort in her Monmouth debut on June 30, holding on for second.