Updated on 09/15/2011 12:36PM

Stars come out for Long Branch


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Although the $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes is typically regarded as a prep for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, this year's renewal is a showcase race in its own right.

Possibly the best field in the race's history will assemble on Sunday, including a showdown between two of the nation's top 3-year-olds, Burning Roma and Thunder Blitz. Add to that impressive colts This Fleet Is Due, Dayton Flyer, and Junior Deputy, and the Long Branch can rightly claim its significance in the 3-year-old divisional picture.

Multiple stakes winner Burning Roma, trained by Anthony Dutrow, enters the Long Branch off an impressive 9 3/4-length win in the Leonard Richards at Delaware Park on June 17. His time of 1:42.41 in the race was only .80 of a second off the time that Spectacular Bid recorded in the same race in 1980. He earned a 114 Beyer for the race .

Burning Roma's 3-year-old campaign has consisted of four wins in five starts. He has never finished worse than fourth in a race, and he has notched seven wins in 10 career starts, including a victory in the Grade 1 Futurity as a juvenile. Owned by Harold Queen, Burning Roma is four of six at the mile-and-a-sixteenth Long Branch distance. Rick Wilson will be in to ride Burning Roma.

"He has always given his best under every situation he has faced," Dutrow said, "whether it be location, distance, or competition. He has been an honest horse and wonderful to be around."

The Joe Orseno-trained Thunder Blitz will add Triple Crown flavor to the race. He finished a solid fourth in the Kentucky Derby and then ran sixth in the Belmont Stakes. He has only two wins in 10 career starts, including a victory in the Grade 3 Flamingo. But, as a May foal, Thunder Blitz is sure to improve with age and maturity. Jorge Chavez will come in from New York to ride Thunder Blitz for the first time.

"He is training so much better now because he is growing up," said Orseno, who trains Thunder Blitz for Stronach Stables. "He has accomplished a lot considering he is a May foal. I haven't pushed him hard or given him a real steady campaign just yet."

This Fleet Is Due could use the Long Branch as a breakout race in his first stakes effort. He enters on a two-race winning streak for trainer Bill Mott. Robbie Davis will ride This Fleet Is Due, who has never finished out of the money in eight career starts.

Eibar Coa will be aboard Junior Deputy, who has won three of his last four starts after being claimed, for trainer David Fawkes. Dayton Flyer, trained by Robert Barbara, was third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan two starts back. He gets jockey Joe Bravo on Sunday.

The remaining entrants are Game Effort, Chuck Lopez up, and Max Jones, Roberto Alvarado.