09/25/2008 11:00PM

Coal Play back for an encore on closing day


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Coal Play, the colt who almost beat Big Brown in the richest race of the meet, headlines the closing day stakes Sunday at Monmouth Park.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred season shifts to the Meadowlands Racetrack Tuesday afternoon.

The $70,000 Majestic Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles tops the final card on the Jersey Shore and serves as a prep for the Grade 3, $200,000 Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands on Oct. 24.

Of all the races run at Monmouth this year, the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3 stands out as the most memorable.

Big Brown, making his first start since being pulled up in the Belmont Stakes, rebounded to win the Haskell but Coal Play forced the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to dig deep for the victory.

Taking charge early, Coal Play set the Haskell pace and threatened to pull off the upset at 20-1. Big Brown rallied for the win with Coal Play a very game second with Joe Bravo aboard.

"We gave him a scare," Bravo said.

Coal Play will be making a fourth straight start at Monmouth, where he thrived this year. The colt, trained by Nick Zito, got a win and a third in his other two Monmouth visits.

"I'm pretty excited about this horse," Bravo said. "I was working him down in Florida before the summer started and we always had high hopes for him. He's just starting to come around and show his potential. With Nick Zito showing him the way, he's really developing into a nice horse."

Coal Play and Bravo face four rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Proud Kentuckian looks to regroup in this spot for trainer Larry Jones. He got on a roll this summer at Delaware Park, reeling off three straight allowance wins. Facing stakes company for the first time, Proud Kentuckian made a mild move in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, rallying from 10th to get sixth.

Cave's Valley hits the comeback trail for trainer Michael Trombetta. Cave's Valley won his first three races at 2, including the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park last October. He hasn't won since, finishing seventh last time out in the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico in April.

Premium Gold returns to Monmouth, the scene of his maiden win in July. He has run twice since then, both times at Saratoga, including a four-length allowance win on closing day.