05/31/2012 2:48PM

Monmouth: The Hunk looks like one to catch in John Reilly Handicap


OCEANPORT, N.J. – You don’t have to look long to identify the speediest of the speed horses in the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

Assuming a clean break, that role falls to The Hunk in the annual early-season showcase for New Jersey-breds going six furlongs.

The latest renewal drew 11. The Hunk, 4-3-0 in 7 starts at Monmouth, has post 3 with Carlos Marquez, Jr. set to ride the high weight at 123 pounds.

This will be the season debut, and second stakes start, for the 5-year-old The Hunk, trained by Ben Perkins Jr. He ran right with the leaders through quick fractions in his last outing before finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Mr Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Eve.

“He was running good at the end of last year so we decided to take him to Florida,” Perkins said. “We gave him a little break after that, and pointed for this race. He’s carrying a good amount of weight off the layoff and we got a little bit behind. You always wish you had another work or two, but the race is here and we’re going.”

While not desirable, Perkins doesn’t see the inside post as a major obstacle.

“He is pretty good leaving the gate,” Perkins said. “I think he has enough speed to get himself in position. He’ll get himself a spot early, I think.”

The draw worked out nicely for Bombast, if he runs.

He landed the outside post, a good spot for his stalking style.

This would be a very quick turnaround for the 5-year-old Bombast, trained by Jane Cibelli. He finished second last Saturday in an off-the-turf second-level allowance against open company.

“It’s not a given he’s even going to run in it,” Cibelli said. “It depends on whether The Hunk’s on his game but I think we’ve got a shot in there. He’s coming back in only a week but he came out of the race really well. The next day he was standing on his hind legs like he wanted to go back over there. If we do run, we’ll give him a reasonable rest after this.”

The solid lineup for this edition of the Reilly includes Hermosillo, last season’s champion New Jersey-bred who generally prefers more ground; Gunfighter, second in this race last year; Silent Appeal, a four-time winner here in 2011 and Deliburnsky, the baby in the group at 3.

Somehow it just doesn’t seem like a Reilly without Joey P. and Who’s the Cowboy, a pair of veterans who each earned more than $1 million the hard way.

According to Perkins, Joey P. has been retired and is enjoying life at a nearby farm. He won the Reilly three times – 2006, 2008, and 2009 – and ran second in 2010.

Who’s the Cowboy, now 10, is still going. He’s entered in an optional claimer earlier on Saturday’s card.

Who’s the Cowboy never won the Reilly in six tries but was second in 2007 and 2008.