05/30/2013 1:05PM

Monmouth Park: Hop Skip and Away in another John J. Reilly attempt

Nikki Sherman Photography
Hop Skip and Away has hit the board in the last three runnings of the John J. Reilly Handicap.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – For years, the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds was a reunion for popular Monmouth Park veterans like Joey P. and Who’s the Cowboy.

Most of the old favorites have faded from the scene, giving way to the next generation of statebred handicap runners for Saturday’s renewal.

Hop Skip and Away is the link to the race’s recent past. An 8-year-old gelding trained and co-owned by Joe Pierce Jr., he hit the board in the last three Reillys. He was second last year following third-place finishes in 2010 and 2011.

The veteran still has spring in his step. He spent a productive winter at Parx Racing with trainer Patricia Farro, winning a third-level allowance while running third in the Bensalem overnight stakes.

Now back at the Pierce barn, Hop Skip and Away will reunite with Pedro Cotto Jr., his usual Monmouth pilot. They were assigned 116 pounds.

Of the other eight entrants in the six-furlong race, seven will be making their Reilly debuts. Only Bombast, third last year, has prior experience in the race.

While a newcomer to the Reilly, Voodoo Charm is a statebred stakes winner. He captured the 2011 New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap and will continue a tradition of never having raced anywhere but Monmouth, where the 5-year-old is 4-2-1 in 13 starts.

Voodoo Charm was purchased privately over the winter by Joseph and Gayle Ioia and trainer Chuck Spina. He has run once at the meet, finishing fourth in a second-level allowance on opening weekend.

“He ran decent off an eight-and-half-month layoff,” Spina said. “He’s a hard-knocking campaigner. This is his second race back and he had to need that race. His best race is to make one run after sitting off the pace, and that’s what we going to try to do. This race came up pretty tough.”

Voodoo Charm, with regular rider Chris DeCarlo aboard, will also carry 116 pounds.

Top weight honors go to Arlo at 122. A 5-year-old gelding trained by Cynthia Reese, Arlo has been competing primarily in open allowance races and overnight stakes at Parx.

All of the Above is next at 119. He missed by a nose in Monmouth’s 2011 Long Branch Stakes. He has run only six times since then, finishing second here most recently as the 3-2 favorite in the same allowance race as Voodoo Charm.

Joe Bravo has the return call.