Updated on 09/16/2011 7:59AM

Include's road to Cup begins with Iselin

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - With a return trip to the Breeders' Cup Classic in the plans, Grade 1 winner Include will return to the races after a 2 1/2-month layoff next Sunday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth, trainer Bud Delp said Thursday.

Off since running third in the Grade 2 Mass Cap at Suffolk Downs on June 1, Include's start in the Iselin kicks off a three- or four-race campaign ending with a start in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 26, Delp said. Include ran seventh in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Delp said if all goes according to plan, the campaign will also include starts in the Sept. 7 Woodward and the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup, both at Belmont.

"The Iselin is a perfect spot to come back in," Delp said. "It was a good idea to freshen him up a bit."

Include started the year with a win in the Jennings Handicap at Pimlico on April 20, and then ran behind Macho Uno and Evening Attire in the Mass Cap, a race he won last year. Delp said the Mass Cap was a hard race on Include, but that he has trained well since and should appreciate the extended layoff.

"It was a real hard race up there," Delp said. "The track was not very forgiving. We opened up daylight at the eighth pole but he got tired from the effort. It rained the night before, and after they scraped the track, there was not a whole lot of cushion. Horses were running fast early but walking home. With the track being the way it was, it probably was stinging the horses."

Delp said Include, winner of the Grade 1 Pimlico Special last year, will likely ship to Monmouth next Thursday, after recording his final pre-race workout at Laurel the previous day. Include breezed six furlongs in 1:14 Wednesday at Laurel, and Delp said Include is "sitting on ready." Jerry Bailey will be aboard in the Iselin.

Evening Attire and Bowman's Band also are expected for the Iselin. Bowman's Band was second in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap earlier this year and recently won the Carpenter Memorial at Delaware. Evening Attire, who finished second in the Mass Cap, ran fourth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July 6.

Gaelic Bay attempts to repeat

Gaelic Bay has only been on the turf once this year, but the third-place finish in a money allowance July 5 was the prep he needed to get ready for a repeat attempt in Saturday's $50,000 Spruce Fir Handicap, a one-mile turf race for Jersey-breds.

The Spruce Fir, run as the eighth race, is the highlight of the Saturday undercard. A full field of 11 fillies and mares plus four also-eligibles entered the only statebred race of the meet scheduled for turf.

Gaelic Bay, a 6-year-old mare trained by Willard Thompson, closed from last, 18 lengths back at one point, to win the Spruce Fir last year by nearly two lengths. Since then, she also has a stakes win on the dirt. In the money allowance July 5, Gaelic Bay closed from 15 lengths out of it to get up for third, behind stakes runners Presumed Innocent and Quick Blue. A repeat effort of that will make her very tough to beat.

Few of the starters are established grass runners, but 3-year-old Willie's Luv should be able to transfer her strong dirt form to the turf. Trainer Jamie Woodington has been pointing her to the Spruce Fir for months. Willie's Luv won the Santo Lalomia Handicap two starts back.

* Carlos Cruz was expected to return to riding Thursday following a spill in the eighth race Sunday, but agent Danny Mellul said Cruz would instead be out until next Wednesday. Although X-rays taken Thursday after Cruz complained of a sore lower back were negative, Mellul said for precautionary purposes Cruz will sit out the rest of the week.