Updated on 09/17/2011 2:14PM

Lion Heart, Bravo, take Haskell

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Lion Heart cruises to the wire to win the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday giving rider Joe Bravo his first win in the track's marquee event for 3-year-olds.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Joe Bravo couldn't stop grinning as he pulled up Lion Heart after they teamed to win the Grade 1, $1 million Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Bravo, nine times the leading rider at Monmouth, finally had a victory in the biggest race at the track he calls home.

"It was such a great feeling, having the whole crowd behind you at my hometown track" said Bravo. "What a feeling!"

It was also a huge moment for Lion Heart ($5.80) as he won his second straight stakes and got his first Grade 1 win since the Hollywood Futurity at the end of his 2-year-old season.

Lion Heart controlled the 1 1/8 miles race for 3-year-olds from start to finish. He took charge early and held a clear lead throughout. Rock Hard Ten, the 9-10 favorite, chased the pace thrown down by Lion Heart but had no response in the lane.

"The Triple Crown is a long series," said jockey Corey Nakatani after Rock Hard Ten faded to sixth. "He ran really big in the Swaps. To fly all the way back to the East Coast might have been a bit much for him."

Rock Hard Ten, who was second in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont Stakes, had rebounded with a strong win in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Many handicappers expected the Haskell to turn into a two-horse battle between Lion Heart and Rock Hard Ten.

In the end, only My Snookie's Boy, Lion Heart's archrival, took up the chase in the lane.

They hooked up last time out in Monmouth's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes. Lion Heart, making his first start finishing fourth in the Preakness, got up in the final jumps to win by a head.

Trainer Patrick Biancone and Bravo both maintained the Long Branch was only a prep and that Lion Heart would move forward. The chestnut colt backed them up as he looked like the Lion Heart of the spring when he posted game runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

My Snookie's Boy rallied as hard as he could but there were no finish-line dramatics this time.

Lion Heart prevailed by a comfortable length as he stopped the clock in 1:48.95. Pies Prospect, trained by Nick Zito, ran third.

"This horse is unbelievable," said Biancone. "I've never had a horse like this who is so intelligent. It's emotional to train him because he understands everything we want."

Biancone will now point Lion Heart toward the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

My Snookie's Boy, an astute $50,000 claim by trainer Allen Iwinski at Gulfstream Park in April, also continued his development into a major player in the 3-year-old division.