08/17/2013 5:51PM

Monmouth Park: Hard Enough just good enough to win Restoration

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Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Hard Enough (right), under Paco Lopez, just hangs on to win the Restoration Stakes on Saturday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Hard Enough earned a hard-fought victory on Saturday in the $62,400 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf at Monmouth Park.

It was the second straight stakes victory here for the chestnut colt following the Jersey Derby last month. The Restoration was the fourth win on the card for Paco Lopez, the meet’s leading rider.

The Jersey Derby was a relatively easy victory for Hard Enough, a $50,000 claim by trainer Bobby Dibona over the winter at Gulfstream Park. In that race, Hard Enough settled behind the pacesetting Shining Copper before collaring that rival on the final turn.

Shining Copper returned for the Restoration but this time he did not break on top after a bumpy start. That left Hard Enough, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, on the lead from the rail.

And he had constant pressure from Dynamic Strike through quick fractions of 22.51, 46.68 and 1:10.74.

“I talked with Paco before the race and I was afraid Shining Copper might not go to front like he did last time,” Dibona said. “I told him to be prepared, and if you’re in front, do what you’ve got to do.”

Turning for home, Hard Enough was still in command, but the pace and the added distance were taking a toll. But Hard Enough was game as the closers swarmed in. He managed to keep his head, and the distinctive white blinkers, barely in front right to the wire in a four-way photo for the win.

“The fractions were fast,” Dibona said. “I was afraid we wouldn’t hang on but he’s just game, very game.”

Michael With Us rallied from seventh to get second, edging Always Curious for the place spot. Chamois, the 2-1 favorite, was fourth.

Hard Enough paid $7.60 to win as the second choice. The time was 1:47.16 over the firm course.

Shining Copper was fifth followed by English Minister, Dynamic Strike and Chollie D.