09/16/2005 11:00PM

Joey P. scores on cutback

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Joey P., Joe Bravo aboard, wins the Friendly Lover Handicap before a Festival Day crowd of 13,018.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - The two Joeys were an unbeatable combination Saturday at Monmouth Park.

Joey P. ($4.60), reunited with jockey Joe Bravo, rebounded from a seventh in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational to win the Friendly Lover Handicap.

The Friendly Lover was one of four $100,000 handicaps on the third annual New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day. The program, comprising 10 races restricted to New Jersey-breds, attracted 13,018 on a sunny and humid afternoon on the Jersey Shore.

Joey P., the second choice behind 6-5 favorite Gators N Bears, was the sentimental favorite of many.

Joey P. has made all eight career starts at Monmouth and gained fans with his victory in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes and the quixotic quest in the Haskell.

A 3-year-old gelding trained by Frank Costa, he bounced back on the cutback in distance to six furlongs after going 1 1/8 miles in the Haskell. He is unbeaten in his six starts at distances up to six furlongs.

"I knew he would run well," Costa said. "I had him fresh. He had run three hard races and he was a little tired when he ran in the Haskell. He doesn't want to go that far, anyway."

The anticipated duel between Joey P. and Gators N Bears, one of the leading sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region, never materialized.

Gators N Bears stumbled badly at the start and was never a factor.

Joey P., three wide throughout, stalked the solid pace set by War's Prospect. He collared the pacesetter inside the sixteenth pole and pulled away to a 1 1/4 length win in 1:08.59 for the six furlongs.

Bravo, unbeaten in four rides on Joey P., missed the horse's last two races while recovering from a broken collarbone. "He was awesome," Bravo said.

War's Prospect held for second, and trainer Bill Anderson saluted the winner. "Joey P. is a good horse," he said. "My horse didn't quit. He ran hard. Joey P. was just the better horse."

Second Collection was third.

In other Festival stakes:

- Picnic Theme ($8.40) took the Jersey Girl by 1 3/4 lengths over Final Assault with I'mtoogoodtobetrue, the 9-5 favorite, third.

Picnic Theme, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., ran the mile and 70-yard race for fillies and mares in 1:42.62.

Ridden by Julian Pimentel, Picnic Theme, 7, grabbed the lead rounding the final turn and was clearly in charge at the top of the stretch.

The race played out well for the winner, in contrast to her last start, in Monmouth's Girl Powder Handicap, when she was fractious in the gate, steadied early as an even-money favorite, and finished up the track.

"She broke really well today," Pimentel said. "She was just dragging me down the backstretch. I had a ton of horse the whole way."

- Totally Precious ($10.20) came charging late to collar odds-on favorite Summer Sting by three quarters of a length in the Eleven North for fillies and mares. Eastern Gale was third.

Totally Precious, ridden by Aaron Gryder for trainer James P. Connor, III, ran the six furlongs in 1:09.89.

It was the first victory for the 6-year-old mare since winning last year's Eleven North.

"We were pointing for this all summer," Connor said.

- Carrots Only ($27.60) defeated Upturn by three-quarters of a length with Cuba third in the Jersey Breeders. Tommy Turner rode the winner for trainer John Mazza. The time was 1:43.72 for the 1 1/16 miles.