06/11/2009 11:00PM

Joey P. continues quest for $1M in Charles Town Dash


OCEANPORT, N.J. - One nice day. That's all trainer Ben Perkins Jr. asks, a break in the recent rainy stretch on the Jersey Shore so he can give Joey P. a solid workout.

That's all it takes. One drill, and the amazingly durable 7-year-old gelding will be ready to defend his title in the $250,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash on June 20.

Joey P. won last year's edition by three lengths, the only victory of the 16 in his career garnered outside New Jersey.

"I'm expecting that race to come up tougher," Perkins said.

Among the probables are Ikigai, winner of the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park, and Trust or Bust, a winner of four straight, including two stakes.

Joey P. started this season running sixth in the Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct in March. He got sick after that race but bounced back to win the John J. Reilly Handicap on Memorial Day weekend, his third career victory in the statebred feature.

The win put him within hailing distance of $1 million in career earnings. He has banked $973,472 the hard way, grinding out wins year after year.

After posting a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Reilly, Joey P. does not appear to have missed a step.

"He came out of it fine," Perkins said. "He hasn't missed a day since. He's such a big, strong horse. He's well mannered and he doesn't require a lot of training."P

Ever Always earns big Beyer

Ever Always turned in one of the flashiest performances of the meet on Wednesday, demolishing a second-level allowance field of New Jersey-bred fillies and mares by 15 1/4 lengths.

Unbeaten in three starts, the 1-20 favorite blazed the six furlongs in 1:08.47. She could have gone faster, with just the slightest encouragement.

Jockey Elvis Trujillo had her under tight restraint in the early stages, and needed all his strength to keep her from barreling right to the lead. Once angled off the rail, Ever Always zipped to the front and was geared down through the lane.

If urged, Ever Always might have flirted with the track record of 1:07.47 set by Idiot Proof in 2007. She earned a 102 Beyer for the eased-up victory, a very impressive performance for a 3-year-old in only her third start.

Now comes the fun part for trainer Jason Servis: figuring out the next start for Dennis Drazin's homebred.

A 3-year-old filly sprint stakes is the more aggressive option, a consideration given her standout form. A more conservative approach would be open allowance races now that she has exhausted her state-bred conditions.

"We haven't settled on anything yet," Servis said. "We'll start to make some decisions in the next couple of days."

The future seems limitless for Ever Always, who debuted here last year, earning her maiden win on a disqualification.

She came out of that race with some bumps and bruises that got her an extended vacation.

"She twisted her back a little when she got bumped," Servis said. "We stopped on her and gave her plenty of time. We wanted to run her against New Jersey-breds, so there was no reason to get her ready for winter racing."

The time off to heal and mature has certainly paid off. Ever Always returned with a stellar first-level win on May 16, romping by 9 1/4 lengths.

That was only a hint of what was to come on Wednesday.

* Karen Johnson will be signing copies of her book "The Training Game" outside the Monmouth gift shop on the ground floor of the grandstand on Sunday from 2-3 p.m.