12/22/2009 1:00AM

Owner struck it rich with Joey P.

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photos
A victory in Saturday's Gravesend would put Joey P.'s career earnings over $1 million.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - If Joey P. can regain his best form and win Saturday's $65,000 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, he will become a millionaire. To call his beginnings humble would be an understatement.

Joey P. is a New Jersey-bred son of Close Up out of the mare Luckey Lipco. He is owned by his breeder, John Petrini, who was basically given the mare for free and received a free breeding right to the stallion Close Up in a somewhat unorthodox manner.

According to trainer Ben Perkins Jr., Petrini owns a carpet business. He put in carpet in a restaurant owned by Carlo Dethomasi, who claimed Close Up from Anstu Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher on Oct. 25, 2000, at the Meadowlands for $22,500. Close Up, a son of Capote, never made it back to the races.

When Dethomasi didn't pay Petrini for the carpet, he offered Petrini a lifetime breeding share in Close Up. The first mare Petrini bred to Close Up was Luckey Lipco, who had competed in low-level claiming races on the New Jersey circuit in the 1990s for owner-trainer Walter Medio.

"It was a free mare," Perkins said. "Somebody gave the guy the mare, and this is the first foal he gets."

Joey P. began his career in the barn of trainer Frank Costa and made his debut at Monmouth Park on Aug. 18, 2004, in a New Jersey-bred maiden special race. Perkins had a horse in the race, Listen to Us, who was sent off the 2-1 favorite. Perkins said he remembers seeing Costa and Joey P. in the paddock before the race.

"We had the horse that was picked on top, and Frank Costa walks into the paddock, and he's got a little smirk on his face," Perkins said. "I said, 'Frank, that's a big sucker. He's a monster.' The horse I had was pretty nice. My horse is in front, and that horse is sitting in third, and in four strides that horse went by him and opened up eight lengths. I grabbed Frank right after the race - 'Do you guys want to sell this horse?'"

Petrini did not sell Joey P. He won seven of his first 10 starts through his 3-year-old year before Petrini moved the horse to Perkins, who was going to take him to Florida. But Joey P. had chips in his knees that needed to be removed, the first in a process of infirmities Perkins believes prevented Joey P. from reaching his full potential.

In addition to chips in his knees and ankles, Joey P. had breathing problems that required two tie-back surgeries. Perkins said he believes if Joey P. didn't have breaking issues, he could have been a Breeders' Cup Sprint-caliber sprinter.

"We had some nice horses like Delaware Township," Perkins said. "He was better than those horses; he just had that breathing [problem]. He's just a freak of nature. You could breed that mare a thousand times to that stud, and you're never going to get one like him."

Perkins said that Mr. Medio, a full brother born one year after Joey P., is winless in 18 starts. Herecomesjr., the last foal from that mare, never made it to the races.

Joey P., a 12-time stakes winner who will soon turn 8, is making his second start since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in June, according to Perkins. The problem was diagnosed the day Joey P. was to ship to Charles Town for the $250,000 Charles Town Dash, which Joey P. won in 2008. In his comeback race, Joey P. finished last in the Valley Forge Stakes at Philadelphia Park.

"He trained good before the race, he trained beautiful after the race," Perkins said. "It's just Philly. I don't put any stock into how horses run there, if they run good or bad or whatever."

Perkins said how Joey P. runs Saturday could determine the caliber of races he will compete in next year.

Fabulous Strike on vacation

Fabulous Strike is getting a break on a farm in Ocala, Fla., and will be pointed to a limited 7-year-old campaign in 2010 that his connections hope ends with a start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

A multiple stakes winner, Fabulous Strike has not raced since getting run down by Kodiak Kowboy in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in the slop at Belmont in early October. Trainer Todd Beattie said he toyed with the idea of running Fabulous Strike in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash at Laurel on Oct. 24 or the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct in November, but opted against both. Beattie said the De Francis would have meant running Fabulous Strike back in three weeks off a tough race. The $100,000 Fall Highweight was not rich enough.

"The client," Beattie said, referring to owner Walter Downey, "felt for the money it was just worth putting him away and get him started in early spring."

Beattie said Fabulous Strike has been at Woodside Ranch in Ocala, Fla. - where Beattie's brother Richard also has horses - since the beginning of December. Todd Beattie said he hopes Fabulous Strike will return to his barn sometime in March and that a start in April or May is possible. Races such as the Aristides at Churchill in June, the newly minted Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga in July or August, and the Breeders' Cup Sprint are likely targets.

Haynesfield to miss Alex Robb

The connections of Haynesfield thought Sunday's Alex Robb Handicap for New York-breds would have been the ideal prep for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February. But Haynesfield grabbed a quarter in his right front foot during training hours Tuesday morning and was not entered in the Robb.

His status for the Donn could also be in jeopardy, depending on the severity of the injury and how long it takes to recuperate.

"It's day to day," said Toby Sheets, assistant for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Haynesfield, a 3-year-old son of Speightstown, was coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap over Aqueduct's main track Nov. 21. Last winter, he went 3 for 4 over the inner track, with all three wins coming in stakes.

The Robb, run at 1 1/16 miles, drew a field of seven and marks the return to the races of Wishful Tomcat, who has not run since winning the Fratello Ed Stakes on June 27. Wishful Tomcat, the 2008 Discovery winner, has won his last six starts versus New York-breds.