06/30/2009 12:00AM

Speedy but shaky at finish


With high speed and the best Beyers in the field, Black Jack Blues is the one to catch and beat in Thursday's feature race at Monmouth Park. Unfortunately for his connections, catching Black Jack Blues hasn't proven to be too tough a task of late, and he could be a vulnerable favorite for the third time in as many starts in the second-level allowance sprint at six furlongs.

A confirmed front-runner, Black Jack Blues will look to steal the feature, the eighth of nine races on the card, even though he has failed on the lead as the public choice in his last two races, both at this same class and distance as Thursday's race.

"That's just the way he is," said trainer Scott Volk. "The one time we tried to rate him, right after we claimed him, [jockey] Jose Lezcano had to pull him up. So there's no secret to our strategy. He's a one-dimensional speed horse. It is what it is."

Black Jack Blues caught a sloppy strip in his latest and missed by a neck to the late-running Our Honor after dueling for the lead from the start.

"He was on the rail there, and that was the worst part of the track," said Volk, who is as in tune as any trainer when it comes to the handicapping nuances at Monmouth. "Another second. He has lots of seconds."

Black Jack Blues has run second 13 times in 36 starts, to be exact, and he figures to have trouble lasting on Thursday if Wincat runs with him early on. Wincat, who will be ridden by Stewart Elliott, is the only horse in the field capable of keeping pace with Black Jack Blues but one other speedy horse is all that's needed to ruin the chances of a front-runner, especially one who has trouble lasting under normal circumstances.

If a race-long pace battle between Wincat and Black Jack Blues does develop, as expected, Rough Road Ahead may be the main beneficiary. A close third in his latest against optional claimers, Rough Road Ahead will make his third start off the layoff on Thursday, and with a clean trip from his rail post he figures to be in perfect position behind the speeds.

Elvis Trujillo, the leading rider at the meet, will ride Rough Road Ahead for trainer John Tammaro III.

Lucky James, A Dynamite Time, Township Cat, and Delaware shipper Pattysbuddy complete the field.