05/21/2011 6:09PM

Monmouth: Successful Mission easily handles switch to dirt in Elkwood

Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Sucessful Mission, winless in his only two previous tries on dirt, dominates the off-the-turf Elkwood under Chuck Lopez.

The only luck that jockey Chuck Lopez had throughout most of Saturday’s card at Monmouth Park was all bad. Three of his horses finished last and another, a maiden filly named Ejazaat, tried to bolt through a gap on the backstretch and dumped him.

Fortunately, Lopez was uninjured and he came back to guide Successful Mission ($11) to an emphatic wire-to-wire victory in the $75,000 Elkwood Stakes.

Although the 5-year-old Successful Mission was coming off the biggest win of his career in the Grade 3 Miami Mile on turf and was winless in two tries on dirt, trainer Ed Plesa Jr. said he was confident his horse would run well when the Elkwood was moved from the turf to Monmouth’s main track.

Plesa pointed to a five-furlong workout in 1:00.80 on May 13, the second best at Monmouth that morning, as proof Successful Mission could handle dirt.

“Chuckie worked him five-eighths last week and he was absolutely fantastic,” Plesa said. “I told the owners at Live Oak Plantation that some time in the future we’ll have to try him on dirt.”

Plesa didn’t expect that moment would come so soon, but when heavy rain for most of the week forced Monmouth officials to take Saturday’s races off the turf, Successful Mission got his chance to run on dirt now rather than later.

“I did feel very confident that he’d run a big race,” Plesa said.

Successful Mission cleared his eight opponents early while getting a ground-saving ride. He withstood pressure, first from Sunshine Rambler and then Hockley while pulling away in the stretch to score by 7 1/4 lengths while completing the mile in 1:35.xx.

Hockley finished second, 7 1/2 lengths in front of Schoolyard Dreams. Both horses were entered for the main track onlyu.