01/15/2011 2:57PM

Joey P. still going strong, with Gulfstream victory at age 9


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Jockey Joe Bravo probably said it best when summing up the performance by the amazing old pro Joey P. after the 9-year-old had reasserted himself after relinquishing the lead near midstretch to outgame the favored Safe Trip and win Friday’s fifth race.

“How cool is that?” said Bravo who has been aboard Joey P. for 13 of his 18 career victories.

Not only is Joey P. a millionaire and still going strong at the age of 9, he’s doing it at a high level. His win here Friday came under second-level optional claiming conditions, with Joey P. entered under a $62,500 claiming tag. The New Jersey-bred is still owned by his breeder, John Petrini, and is trained by Ben Perkins Jr. after having spent the majority of his career with Frank Costa.

Joey P. won his first two starts as a 2-year-old at Monmouth Park during the summer of 2004. Bravo first teamed up with the son of Close Up when he made his 3-year-old debut the following June and was aboard for his next nine victories, seven of them stakes including his only graded triumph, which came in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore on July 4, 2005.

“I remember when I first saw him he was a long, lanky horse and I never thought he’d have any speed,” said Bravo. “Then I got on him for the first time in the morning for a workout and said, ‘Who is this? What is this?’ ”

Bravo said that for all of Joey P.’s victories, his best performance might have come in defeat – in the 2007 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct in which he finished second, beaten a head by Grand Champion, while carrying 131 pounds.

“He stumbled at the break, got checked on the backside then came flying past horses and just got beat,” said Bravo. “It was really a shame he ran second that day, but of all the times I’ve ridden him, I’d say that was his best race ever.”

Eldaafer preparing for return

Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer and Preakness runner-up First Dude were among a number of important names on Saturday’s local work tab.

Eldaafer, with trainer Diane Alvarado aboard, worked six furlongs in company with an unidentified stablemate in 1:13 as he continues to point for his return, which will come in either the Grade 1 Donn or the Gulftream Park Turf Handicap.

First Dude went seven furlongs in 1:25.16, posting splits of 47.66 for the half and 59.77 before galloping out a mile in 1:38.17.

Trainer Dale Romans confirmed afterwards that First Dude will make his 2010 debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

Other works of note included Mucho Macho Man, five-eighths in 59.26 in preparation for the Grade 3 Holy Bull, and the 3-year-old filly Kathmanblu, who breezed five-eighths in 1:00.38. Kathmanblu is among the nominees for Saturday’s Sweetest Chant Stakes.