05/29/2009 11:00PM

Musket Man will take it easy until Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Musket Man returned to Derek Ryan's barn at Monmouth Park on Wednesday, ending a brief vacation on a nearby farm for the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

He will resume jogging Sunday with the $1 million Haskell Invitational, the richest race of the meet, on Aug. 2, the long-range objective.

Ryan does not plan on running Musket Man prior to the Haskell. Musket Man will resume serious galloping next week.

"He had a little busman's holiday," Ryan said. "There are only eight weeks to go. Time goes fast."

Skipping the Belmont Stakes gives Ryan a fresher horse for the rest of the season.

"Running in the Belmont would blow the whole summer," Ryan said. "Hopefully, I'll have a horse for the Haskell and the Pennsylvania Derby. Perhaps the Travers, we'll see. The Haskell, we'll start with that."

Earlier this year, Musket Man won the Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby.

Gray regains enthusiasm

Although Elizabeth Gray has a stable at Monmouth for the first time this summer, the trainer is no stranger to the Jersey Shore.

She was an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Croll in 1991. One of her highlights was occasionally getting on champion sprinter Housebuster.

"I was as nervous as could be, but he was a nice horse," Gray said.

From there, she spent 13 years as an assistant to Dale Romans, working with top runners such as Roses in May and Kitten's Joy.

Two winters back, Gray walked away from the game, citing "burnout."

"I completely removed myself from the racetrack," she said.

She planned to open a day-care center for dogs.

"I'm an animal lover," Gray said. "But you're inside all day long. I couldn't take it. And you can't get the racetrack out of your system."

She opened her own stable last year and now has 15 runners. Gray won her first race last summer at Saratoga, a meet in which she wound up babysitting a lot of Bobby Frankel's horses.

"They ran in his name, but it was flattering for him to include me in his program," Gray said. "I didn't know the extent of what he was thinking. After he said he'd send me a couple, two came. Then two more. And they kept coming. I wound up with 30."

Over the winter, Gray headed off on her own to Florida with seven horses. When it came time to make summer plans, Monmouth seemed a logical fit.

"Everybody who came to Florida from here was so pleasant and they talked about what a great time they had at Monmouth," Gray said. "If you have to work seven days a week in the barn, it is nice to have a good time while you're at it."

Trujillo picks Presious Passion

Presious Passion and Kiss the Kid, the two top turf runners based at Monmouth, are both on target for the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes on the grass at 1 1/8 miles on June 13.

The inaugural edition of the race last fall wound up being the final victory, and last race, for Big Brown.

The Monmouth Stakes was repositioned this year to serve as a prep for the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on July 4 at 1 3/8 miles.

Elvis Trujillo, the regular rider for both, is committed to Presious Passion for the Monmouth Stakes and the U.N., the race the gelding won last year with Eddie Castro aboard.

Owner-trainer Amy Tarrant is shopping for a rider for Kiss the Kid, winner of the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park in late March.

* Heavy rain Friday morning lightened the work tab. Only two horses had timed drills in the slop: Private Happy (three furlongs in 36.60 for trainer Frankie Costa) and Zuloushe (a half-mile in 52 for trainer Eddie Broome).

* After a video review, the stewards held jockey Joe Bravo blameless for the first race disqualification on Monday in which his mount Red Elephant finished first but was placed third.