07/10/2008 11:00PM

Long Branch right spot for Atoned to finally win


Atoned, a fringe player in the 3-year-old division, gets a chance to emerge from the shadows Saturday in the $150,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The Long Branch, at 1 1/16 miles, is the local prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3. The first two finishers in the Long Branch are usually extended invitations to the Haskell.

Trainer Todd Pletcher would love to have Atoned end a seven-race losing streak, which would open the Haskell door for the Dogwood Stable colt.

"If he performs well, Mr. [Cot] Campbell and I will talk about it," Pletcher said of the Haskell. "It would be great if he did perform well enough to deserve a try."

Atoned has suffered several close loses in stakes that could have propelled him to the next level. He stumbled in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in November and finished second, only a neck behind Court Vision.

He was second again, also by a neck, in his season debut in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Atoned ran poorly in his last graded stakes, the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland - an effort that disappointed Pletcher.

"He breezed so well before the Lexington on the Polytrack," Pletcher said. "The race wasn't part of our original plan, but after he breezed, we felt we should take a shot. Like a lot of horses do, they perform differently in the afternoon on the synthetic surfaces than they do in the mornings."

After the April 19 Lexington, Atoned was freshened and returned to Monmouth where he has run some of his best races. He has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 starts at Monmouth, including yet another neck loss in his comeback following the Lexington, the June 14 Spend a Buck Stakes.

"We thought he ran very well, first time back from the Lexington," Pletcher said. "We were pleased with his effort. We hope to improve a notch on that."

Jose Lezcano will ride.

Hey Byrn will have a new pilot in Joe Bravo for his first start since finishing seventh to Big Brown in the Preakness.

Chuckie Lopez, the horse's regular rider, remains sidelined with a foot injury.

"Joe will be an asset," trainer Eddie Plesa said. "He knows the track, he knows the horse, and he knows how to win big races."

Completing the field are Truth Rules, Indy Joe, and the entry of Goldsville and Z Humor, who were both cross-entered in the Barbaro Stakes on Sunday at Delaware Park.

Kiss the Kid gets class relief

After five straight appearances in graded stakes, Kiss the Kid finds an easier spot Saturday in the $70,000 Bob Harding Stakes.

Kiss the Kid, seventh last time out in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, switches back to the turf after three straight dirt races for owner-trainer Amy Tarrant.

Foreverness, a longtime fixture in turf stakes for New York-breds, makes his season debut for trainer Greg Sacco.