Updated on 09/18/2011 12:30AM

'Praying' puts it all together

Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTO
Praying for Cash, Jose Velez, Jr. up, wins his first stakes in the Grade 3 $150,000 Long Branch Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Praying for Cash earned his first stakes victory as well as an invitation to the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell after defeating 1-2 shot Latent Heat in the Grade 3, $150,000 on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

Praying for Cash ($10.60) finally lived up to the buzz generated by his sensational debut here last summer, when he scored by 4 1/2 lengths over maiden special weight company. A son of Songandaprayer, he has shown flashes of talent in the past - now he will have an opportunity to shine in the Haskell on Aug. 6.

With regular jockey Joe Bravo at Calder, Jose Velez Jr. picked up the mount on Praying for Cash. They teamed to relentlessly pressure Latent Heat into submission.

Latent Heat broke on top in the five-horse field but soon had company midway on the first turn as Praying for Cash slipped up the rail. Those two battled side by side until Praying for Cash finally edged away to a S1 1/4-length victory.

"It was a little tight the first part of the race," Velez said. "We were walking a little bit at the end, but he still had something left."

Trainer Kelly Breen will now hope that Praying for Cash will have something left for the Haskell.

"He ran a great race," Breen said. "He showed that he is game, stuck down on the inside. He showed us that he can go long."

The 1 1/16-mile time was 1:45.43 on the fast track. Praying for Cash scored his first win beyond six furlongs.

Latent Heat was second by a head, with Victory Lake third. Gottcha Gold was fourth, followed by Meadow Blue, Praying for Cash's entrymate.

Ashkal Way sets course record

Ashkal Way ($6.40) stretched his U.S. unbeaten streak to three with a course-record victory in the $60,000 Elkwood Stakes.

A 4-year-old owned by Godolphin Racing, Ashkal Way ran the one mile in 1:32.50 under Velez, surpassing the previous record of 1:33.54, which had been set two races earlier.

Ashkal Way, winner of two allowance races at Belmont Park, started his career in Europe with a one-race stop in Dubai. He improved his overall record to five wins in 12 starts.