Updated on 09/16/2011 8:48AM

Puck wins, eyes Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Bill White expected Puck to be close to the pace in the Grade 3, $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup on Saturday, so he was a little concerned when Puck was shuffled back at the start and raced far off the pace.

But Puck showed a new running style in the Long Branch, the prep for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Aug. 4, closing from off the pace to capture his first graded stakes and second consecutive stakes win. The victory gave the Calder-based White his first win in his first Monmouth start, and also earned Puck a berth in the Haskell in three weeks.

Shah Jehan set the moderate early pace in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, with Essayons stalking the pace and the 4-5 favorite Stephentown sitting back in fourth along the rail. At that point in the race, Puck rated in fifth by jockey Manuel Aguilar.

Turning for home, Essayons, the 5-2 second choice, moved alongside Shah Jehan and seemed primed to go by him, while Stephentown started to lose ground along the rail. Puck came four-wide turning for home, and eventually got by the leaders at mid-stretch to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths.

Shah Jehan was very strong along the rail to hold second, while Stephentown came back inside of Puck down the stretch to gain third. Essayons, Smoked Em, and Heir D'Twine completed the order of finish.

Puck ($11.80) covered the distance over a fast track in 1:44.35. He improved to 4-3-1 in 9 career starts, with his only out-of-the money finish coming in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. His last start was a victory in the Unbridled Stakes at Calder on June 22. Puck had never raced outside of Florida before coming to Monmouth.

"We had a van ready to take him back home tomorrow," White said. "I think we'll cancel it after the way he ran today. Now I'll sit down with the owners, and if we get invited to the Haskell, I'll strongly consider keeping him here. We wouldn't have to ship and he's had a race over the track."