07/08/2004 11:00PM

Derby runner-up Lion Heart to Long Branch

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Lion Heart, the pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is expected to top the field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 17. The 1 1/16-mile Long Branch serves as the local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 8.

Trainer Patrick Biancone said Friday that Lion Heart will ship from Saratoga for the Long Branch the morning of the race. Lion Heart was scheduled to work Thursday at Saratoga, but the breeze was canceled when the track came up sloppy.

"He'll work on Sunday," Biancone said. "We couldn't work Thursday because the track was no good, but we decided to go ahead and decide on the Long Branch."

Looking down the road to the Haskell, Biancone said, "We'll see how he handles the track in the Long Branch and then make a decision on the race after that."

Lion Heart was a perfect 3 for 3 as a 2-year-old last year in California, culminating his season with a 3 1/2-length win in the Hollywood Futurity. He was nailed on the wire by Imperialism in the San Rafael in his 2004 debut before finishing second to The Cliff's Edge in the Blue Grass and second to Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby. The Long Branch will be his first start since finishing fourth, beaten 13 1/2 lengths by Smarty Jones, in the Preakness.

Hard Buck headed for England

Hard Buck, who finished fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations last weekend, had his final gallop around Monmouth Friday morning as he prepared to ship to England later that night for the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on July 24. The King George offers a purse of $1.38 million, and is at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

A Ken McPeek-trained Brazilian-bred, Hard Buck arrived at Monmouth from Kentucky five days before the United Nations and remained here under the care of assistant trainer Hanne Jorgensen. She will accompany the 5-year-old son of Spend a Buck to England.

Hard Buck was hemmed in for most of the way in the U.N. before finding room around the final turn. He was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Request for Parole.

"He didn't like the track at all that day," said Jorgensen. "It was much too hard for him. But he came out of the race fine and he's been doing well here since then."

Hard Buck won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in February.

Scattering Breezes continues climb

Scattering Breezes was available as an $8,000 claimer over the winter at Gulfstream Park.

Scattering Breezes went unclaimed and won easily for $8,000 to launch a run of four wins in six starts that the 5-year-old carries into his stakes debut, Sunday's $60,000 John McSorley at five furlongs on the turf.

The horse, plagued by throat and knee problems in his youth, makes only his 17th start in the McSorley.

"Being a homebred, he was allowed to get over the problems and he has really come into himself," said trainer Tim Hills.

The $8,000 gamble was a calculated risk. "Being an older horse and lightly raced, I didn't think anyone wanted him coming off a bad race where he was dead short," said Hills. "We were able to get away with it, but we were basically trying to get a win. The barn at that point was 1 for 40. We were in a slump. He started us on a roll. That's how you get out of a slump - you get aggressive."

Scattering Breezes has become more aggressive as well, especially in an allowance victory in his last race.

"That last race was a step forward," said Hills. "He found a seam and he went for it. I was impressed with the race."

Other McSorley contenders include Rudirudy, winner of the Wolf Hill Stakes earlier this meet; Manofglory, second in the Wolf Hill and fifth in this race last year; and a three-horse entry from meet-leading owner Michael Gill - Choctaw Ridge, Forty Milito, and Tricky Storm.