07/07/2010 11:00PM

Trappe Shot can take it up a level

Email

OCEANPORT, N.J. - One of the most impressive performances by a 3-year-old on the Belmont Stakes card unfolded hours before Drosselmeyer rallied to win the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

Trappe Shot put on quite a show, cruising to a four-length win in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs. He rang up a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his third straight win under wraps, leaving an impression that something special had arrived.

Racing fans, along with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, will get an indication of where Trappe Shot is ultimately headed on Saturday when he figures to be heavily favored in a small field in the $175,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The 1 1/16-mile race is the prep for the $1 million Haskell on Aug. 1. Traditionally, the first two Long Branch finishers are extended invitations to the Haskell.

That's the road McLaughlin hopes Trappe Shot heads down, if he proves up to the task in his first two-turn assignment.

"It's a learning curve for us and the horse to see if he can go longer," McLaughlin said. "We think he can. The Haskell is possible, if he handles the two turns well."

If Trappe Shot struggles with two turns, other races are on the horizon - like the King's Bishop at seven furlongs on Aug. 28 at Saratoga.

Either way, it should be a very interesting August for a colt just starting to tap his potential.

Trappe Shot sold for $850,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale as the highest-priced Thoroughbred in Maryland auction history.

He ran only once at 2, finishing fifth at Saratoga after a stumble at the start. A son of Tapit, Trappe Shot next surfaced at Gulfstream in a pair of Florida-bred races. He overwhelmed the competition both times. The margin in his maiden win was 10 1/4 lengths; he wheeled back to take an allowance race by 12 3/4.

McLaughlin had targeted the Withers as Trappe Shot's stakes debut, but he missed that race with "a tiny bit of inflammation in one ankle."

"It was just bad timing. He didn't need time off," McLaughlin said.

The Woody Stephens on the Belmont undercard was next under consideration, but the decision was made to run instead in the allowance race.

"We went the conservative route and he won impressively," McLaughlin said. "Now we're stepping him up to a stakes."

The Long Branch might not be much tougher than the allowance race. Of the six entered, only Trappe Shot, Southern Ridge, and Nacho Friend are definitely on target for the Long Branch. Colizeo, Latigo Shore, and Wildcat Lake were also cross-entered in Saturday's $100,000 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park.

Southern Ridge, who drew the rail, is stepping up from his maiden win while Nacho Friend dons blinkers after running fourth in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes last month.

"We put blinkers on him to keep him focused and have him closer to the pace," trainer Kelly Breen said.

Battlefield: Banrock heads cast

Banrock chased Presious Passion twice here last summer, missing by a nose in the Monmouth Stakes before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations.

The New York-bred Banrock, now 7, returns to Monmouth in a less demanding spot Saturday, the $100,000 Battlefield Stakes at one mile on the turf. He was fifth most recently in his season debut in the Kingston Stakes for statebreds at Belmont Park.

Mini Punt, the Kingston winner, is part of a Battlefield lineup that also includes Whatsthescript, making his first start since running eighth in the Breeders' Cup Mile.