07/30/2006 11:00PM

Praying for Cash can end local slump in Haskell

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Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
Praying for Cash (right), winning the Long Branch, is 3 for 4 at Monmouth.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Three of the five winners of the Haskell Invitational from 1992-96 were based at Monmouth Park. The late Sonny Hine saddled Technology and Skip Away, the 1992 and 1996 winners, and Jimmy Croll was owner and trainer of Holy Bull, the 1994 winner.

Since then, local horses have been shut out.

Praying for Cash, Awfully Smart, and Electrify will try to change that Sunday, when their trainers - Kelly Breen, Alan Goldberg, and Eddie Plesa Jr., respectively - make their Haskell debuts.

"This is our Kentucky Derby," said Breen.

Praying for Cash seemed destined for the Haskell since his debut here last summer. Before the race, there was a strong buzz surrounding Praying for Cash, a son of Songandaprayer, and he rewarded the ownership team of former Duke basketball star Bobby Hurley, Ricky Gallo, and Pat Scire with a 4 1/2-length victory.

"We started to dream about the Haskell," Breen said. "We tried to come up with a game plan to get to the Haskell. It was a longshot, but everything that we've done worked out."

Part of the plan was to keep Praying for Cash at Monmouth whenever possible. He is 3 for 4 on the Jersey Shore. The lone loss came in the Coronado's Quest on June 25, when he finished second after an awkward start.

Praying for Cash ran twice at Gulfstream Park over the winter, finishing third in an allowance race and sixth in the Grade 2 Swale. He most recently captured the Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes, beating heavily favored Latent Heat in Monmouth's Haskell prep, to score his first victory in a route.

Praying for Cash has always been a fast horse, at times a bit too fast, and Breen said he's been trying to correct that.

"We're trying to teach him to slow down," said Breen, who gallops Praying for Cash every morning except when he breezes. "The only problem I saw as a trainer was his need for speed in the morning. Working fast is against everything we've been trying to do, which is to get him to relax."

On Sunday, Breen galloped Praying for Cash a leisurely six furlongs in 1:18.

"It was just to let him know he doesn't have to go in 1:10," Breen said. "He did everything the right way. Now it's all systems go."

Joe Bravo will be back aboard. Monmouth's leading rider, Bravo missed the Long Branch because he had a stakes commitment in Florida. Jose Velez Jr. picked up the mount.

Awfully Smart earned his first stakes win last time out in the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park. He trains at nearby Colts Neck Stables.

Plesa, based in Florida, has a division at Monmouth this summer, and Electrify was one of the horses he sent north.

Electrify won two stakes this spring: the Sophomore Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He missed by a neck to Extra Bend in the Spend a Buck Stakes in his lone Monmouth start. Most recently, Electrify ran fifth in the Iowa Derby.

Next step for Hurricane Shockey

Hurricane Shockey registered a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93 in his comeback victory here June 29. A New Jersey-bred named for New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, Hurricane Shockey beat claimers in his first race since November.

Hurricane Shockey steps up Wednesday to the $40,000 second-level allowance feature at a mile and 70 yards. A 5-year-old, he will make only his 16th career start.

"He has always been a horse with a lot of ability," said trainer Jim Ryerson. "He's had some physical problems, but he came out of that first start good. He's had plenty of time between races and he has trained good."

* Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Monday that Flashy Bull was "90 percent certain for the Haskell." McLaughlin was working to line up a rider for Flashy Bull, the third-place finisher in the Ohio Derby.