05/11/2007 11:00PM

Joey P. breaks track record


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The most fascinating season in the 62-year-old history of Monmouth Park began Saturday on a cool, overcast afternoon.

It will be a year unlike any other in the history of New Jersey racing as the Breeders' Cup comes to Monmouth for the first time on Oct. 26-27.

The 13,066 fans who turned out for the opener were treated to a cleaner, updated experience. By Breeders' Cup Day, Monmouth will have invested $30 million in plant renovations.

A new cushion for the main track was one of the major off-season projects. While the new cushion produced remarkably fast workout times over the last month, race times - with the exception of the Decathlon Stakes - were in line with normal expectations. Speed did not hold in the Monmouth tradition as outside closers were strong factors.

Every opening day has glitches, and this was no exception. Bettors in New York could not wager on Monmouth's first two races because of a tote malfunction.

In the $60,000 Decathlon Stakes, Joey P. broke the track record for 5 1/2 furlongs by almost a full second.

A popular 5-year-old gelding bred in New Jersey, Joey P. was clocked in 1:01.91 for the distance rarely run at Monmouth by older horses. Man of Danger set the old mark of 1:02.89 last August.

"He went fast," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "The track has been playing pretty quickly in the morning, so I thought they had a chance to break the record. This was a pretty wide-open event and he really showed us something today."

Joey P. ($4.80), making his first start since undergoing throat surgery over the winter to correct a breathing problem, improved his record at Monmouth to 9 for 13.

Joey P. advanced on the turn and took charge at the top of the lane to register a two-length win over Slam Bammy, last year's Decathlon winner.

Who's the Cowboy rallied from last in the five-horse field to get third.

The Decathlon was the second win of the day for the team of Perkins and Bravo. Bravo also won the 10th with True to Tradition ($12.20).