05/24/2006 11:00PM

Joey P. returns with new trainer

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Ryan McAlinden / EquiPhotos
Joey P., unbeaten in six starts at six furlongs, will make his 2006 debut in Saturday's John J. Reilly Handicap.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Joey P., an underdog hero here last year, makes a dual debut in the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

The race will be Joey P.'s first start of the season, and also his first for trainer Benny Perkins Jr.

Owner John Petrini transferred the horse from Frank Costa to Perkins over the winter with the goal of shipping to tracks beyond New Jersey and New York.

Perkins will be hard-pressed to improve on a runner who is 7 for 10 lifetime, including a win in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes here last July. He is unbeaten in six starts at this six-furlong distance.

A modestly-bred horse (by Close Up out of the mare Lucky Lipco), Joey P. won four races last season in which he posted Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or more.

"Frank did a great job with him," Perkins said. "He's perfectly sound. You don't find a lot that come to you in one piece. Usually, when you get horses from someone, they are fixer-uppers."

The main competition could come from Hammered, a commanding winner of three statebred races here last summer.

Wilentz may take shot at Belmont

Trainer Joe Orseno is contemplating the Belmont Stakes for Wilentz following the injury to Kentucky Derby-winner Barbaro and the defection of Preakness winner Bernardini.

Under normal circumstances, the Belmont would be a major stretch for Wilentz, who only secured his first-level allowance victory here on

May 13. But then, this has been far from a normal year for 3-year-olds.

Wilentz is only 2 for 9 lifetime but Orseno hears an opportunity calling.

"There have been tougher Belmonts in the past," Orseno said. "We're going to work him once more and then discuss it. The way it looks, why not take a shot to be into a race like that?"

Orseno feels 1 1/2 miles could be an asset for his colt.

"This is a horse that I believe will definitely do that," Orseno said. "The last time he ran, he got shuffled back to last and he really came running."

U.N. long-range target for 'Hotstuf'

Norman Pointer and his best horse, Hotstufanthensome, are both doing fine.

Pointer had a rough winter with three cardiac surgeries. Surgeons repaired both carotid arteries and later performed a bypass.

"I'm doing good, for what I went through," Pointer said.

The most obvious changes: Pointer appears to have lost weight and the former chain smoker has given up cigarettes.

Hotstufanthensome had an easier winter, winning the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap on the turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29 in his most recent start.

Like all grass horses at Monmouth, Hotstufanthensome is hampered by the absence of a turf course until late June.

The 6-year-old recently had a sharp workout on May 22, five furlongs on the dirt in 1:00, the fastest of 26 clocked at that distance.

Pointer is looking at the $60,000 Battlefield Stakes on the grass at The Meadowlands Racetrack on June 12 as Hotstufanthensome's next target.

Longer range, Pointer is aiming for Monmouth's premier turf race, the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations on July 8. At 1 3/8 miles, the U.N. is the same distance as the Mac Diarmida.

"I can see him in that," Pointer said. "I think the horse is getting better as he gets older and he certainly likes the distance."