08/03/2016 10:50AM

Sunny Ridge could run next in Pennsylvania Derby or Travers

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Sunny Ridge’s third-place finish in last Sunday's Haskell Invitational may set him up nicely for his next start.

Trainer Jason Servis and owner-breeder Dennis Drazin ran out of time to get Sunny Ridge a prep race for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and were forced to go into the 1 1/8-mile race off a five-month layoff. As it turns out, Sunny Ridge’s third-place Haskell finish may set him up nicely for his next start.

Under a trouble-free ride by jockey Nik Juarez, Sunny Ridge raced behind the leaders on the far turn and then finished bravely to nail Nyquist for third in deep stretch of Sunday’s Haskell.

“I think Nik would have been cocked and loaded on the turn if we had been able to get him a prep race,” Servis said.

On Monday morning, Sunny Ridge was full of himself at Servis’s Monmouth Park barn, playing with his toy, a fluorescent orange traffic cone, and demanding attention from anyone near his stall.

Going into the Haskell, Servis was concerned that the race might knock out Sunny Ridge, who had missed time since March with a pulled muscle in his hind end.

“I mean, I’m surprised how well he’s come out of the race,” Servis said Tuesday. “I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest.”

Servis said he would speak with Drazin about pointing Sunny Ridge to the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24 or the $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 27.

Drazin, a lawyer, is the head of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. He is a former chairman of the New Jersey Racing Commission and has served as general counsel and president of the horsemen’s association.

He has owned and bred horses for more than 30 years and had talked about running Sunny Ridge in Monmouth’s signature race since last season, when Sunny Ridge finished second in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

Drazin was thrilled by Sunny Ridge’s performance Sunday.

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“We were hoping to get a piece of it, and we did,” Drazin said immediately after the Haskell. “How could we not be happy? We got caught in a situation where we couldn’t get him a prep race because there would not have been enough time to come back in the Haskell.”

Sunny Ridge, a Holy Bull gelding bred in New Jersey, concluded his 2-year-old season by finishing second by a neck to Haskell winner Exaggerator in the Delta Jackpot. Earlier this season, he won the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct.

Awesome Slew hated slop

While clearly disappointed by Awesome Slew’s performance in the Haskell, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said his horse came out of the race well and hinted that he likely would run again in the near future.

“The good news is we live to fight another day,” Plesa said Monday. “He came back fine, scoped clean. We jogged him on the asphalt by the barn this morning. He’s good.”

Awesome Slew raced on the early pace outside of Nyquist and then settled just off Nyquist and American Freedom on the backstretch. He was done after six furlongs, though, and dropped back to finish sixth and last under jockey Paco Lopez.

The Haskell, run over a sloppy track, was Awesome Slew’s first start over a wet surface.

“I would have liked to have seen him a little farther back early, but he just didn’t like the track,” Plesa said. “That’s what Paco told me, and that’s what it looked like to me. I’m not saying he would have beat those horses over a fast track, but he’s a better horse than he showed.”

Plesa said the race reminded him of Itsmyluckyday’s effort in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Itsmyluckyday won nine races, including the Grade 1 Woodward, and earned $1.7 million for Plesa from 2012 to 2014. In the Derby, which also was run in the slop, Itsmyluckyday tired to finish 15th. Plesa ran him back two weeks later in the Preakness, and he finished second to Oxbow.

“When a horse doesn’t run well because he doesn’t like a track and comes back fine, it’s best to run them back quick sometimes,” Plesa said. “We’re not going to run this horse back in two weeks, but we probably won’t wait too long with him either.”

Awesome Slew, a son of Awesome Again owned and bred by the Live Oak Plantation of Charlotte Weber, is 2 for 5 in his career. Plesa thinks highly of him, and he’s worth following in his upcoming races.