05/28/2010 12:00AM

Joey P. shoots for fourth Reilly win


OCEANPORT, N.J. - One more win, and Joey P. might retire the trophy.

Always a fan favorite at Monmouth Park, Joey P. bids for a fourth victory in the $100,000 John J. Reilly Handicap on Saturday.

The Reilly and the $100,000 Lamplighter for 3-year-olds on the turf are the featured events on the third day of Monmouth's 50-day, $50 million season. The 12-race card gets underway at 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

With the enhanced purses this meet, the Reilly, a traditional early-season stakes for New Jersey-breds, offers record money after being worth just $60,000 last year. The added cash lured a full field of 14 for the six-furlong race.

Even at the advanced age of 8, Joey P. is still a force. He has run twice this year, blowing away a third-level optional claiming field at Aqueduct before running last in a 4 1/2-furlong overnight stakes at Charles Town on April 17 as the 4-5 favorite.

That race was lost right at the break.

"We had some tough luck," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "He started to go up just before the start and he missed the break. He hopped out of the gate and he was too far behind. At that distance, you don't have a lot of chance to recover."

Perkins hopes it's not the start of an unwelcome trend for Joey P., who has earned $1,002,267. Joey P. also didn't have a good break in his Aqueduct win.

"We stood him in the gate a couple of times after that and we worked on him here." Perkins said. "The crew here know him better. Hopefully, it will be behind him."

Joey P. is 13-5-1 in 23 career starts at Monmouth. He ran once here last summer, taking the Reilly. He underwent emergency intestinal surgery on the morning he was slated to run in the Charles Town Dash and spent the rest of the summer recuperating. He didn't return to action until December.

Joey P. will be reunited with Joe Bravo, his rider for the three previous Reilly wins in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

While Joey P. has long been king of the New Jersey sprinters, Lucky James has emerged as a possible heir apparent.

Lucky James, a 5-year-old homebred for trainer Eddie Broome, won 4 of 7 last year, including the New Jersey Breeders Handicap here and the Eillo Stakes at the Meadowlands.

The field includes a solid lineup of consistent statebreds, including Who's the Cowboy, second in the Reilly in 2007 and 2008, Rough Road Ahead, and Hermosillo.

* Fantastico Roberto will add blinkers for the 1 1/16-mile Lamplighter. He will be making his fourth start for Todd Pletcher, Monmouth's leading trainer in 2007.

After starting his career with a pair of wins in Italy, Fantastico

Roberto was fourth in his U.S. debut on Arlington Park's Polytrack. He followed up with a pair of solid efforts in a return to grass: a rallying third in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine last fall and a second most recently at Keeneland.

"We've worked him twice in the blinkers," said assistant trainer

Anthony Sciametta. "He's been doing fine since he got here."

Bank the Eight, winner of the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, will make his grass debut for trainer Tony Dutrow.