09/19/2013 11:23AM

Monmouth Park: Ima Jersey Girl goes for hot trainer in Jersey Girl Handicap

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Ima Jersey Girl, who won the Jersey Girl Stakes last year at Monmouth, will return to defend her title in the 1 1/16-mile race Saturday.

As summer turns into fall and the weather turns cooler, trainers Greg Sacco and Eddie Broome are heating up at Monmouth Park. Both have been winning at a high percentage lately and figure prominently in the three $60,000 stakes on Saturday’s New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival card. All 10 races on the program are devoted to New Jersey-breds.

Sacco, who comes into this weekend with a 5-for-24 record (21 percent) over the past month locally, will saddle defending race winner Ima Jersey Girl in the Jersey Girl Handicap for fillies and mares (race 6), last-out winner Quepos in the six-furlong New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap (race 8), and the 3-year-old Dancing Lion in the Charles Hesse III Handicap (race 9).

Broome’s recent statistics at Monmouth are even better than Sacco’s. He is on a 6-for-20 tear (30 percent) the past 30 days. Broome has the 7-year-old mare First Acquital for the 1 1/16-mile Jersey Girl and the 6-year-old Partyallnightlong, a sharp winner making his first start following a 15-month layoff, for the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap.

Ima Jersey Girl soared to a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure – a 24-point improvement off her previous start – when she romped by 12 1/4 lengths as the 2-1 favorite in the 2012 running of the Jersey Girl. In her lone start this year, Ima Jersey Girl was a distant fourth going 5 1/2 furlongs in the Fort Monmouth. The 5-year-old Lightnin N Thunder mare should be ready for her return to a route after working a mile a week ago.

Her rivals include First Acquital, claimed out of a winning effort for $16,000 in July. She returns to statebred company after a pair of third-place finishes in her first two starts for Broome. First Acquital gets a major rider switch to Gabriel Saez, who won four races on last Sunday’s Monmouth card and is 8 for 26 (31 percent) over the last 10 days of racing.

Partyallnightlong, plagued by two separate shin fractures, has been able to race only twice the past two years. But he’s fully healthy now as evidenced by his 2 3/4-length win in a third-level optional $50,000 claimer that produced a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure on Aug. 30. He should go favored in the Breeders’ Handicap.

Sacco will saddle Quepos, a 7-year-old gelding he claimed for $7,500 in late July. In his second start for Sacco, Quepos won a $25,000 starter allowance with a career-top 88 Beyer.

The field also includes Zealevo, idle since winning back-to-back starts by 6 1/4 lengths each time in May, and the filly Geeky Gorgeous, who comes out of a win in the $127,000 Regret on July 28.

The Sacco-trained Dancing Lion will seek his first stakes win in the 1 1/16-mile Hesse after missing by a nose as the 2-1 favorite in a second-level optional $16,000 claimer three weeks ago.

His opponents include Smoke the Devil, who won last year’s Hesse as the 7-2 choice but is 0 for 3 this year; and the 9-year-old Hermosillo, who won the Hesse in 2009, was second in 2010, and third in last year’s running.