05/20/2009 11:00PM

Two stakes, two Jersey specialists


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Get Serious and Joey P. should both welcome a return to Monmouth Park on Saturday. The two geldings have enjoyed past success on the Jersey Shore, and appear well-positioned in their respective stakes.

Get Serious, a two-time winner here last summer, makes his season debut in the $70,000 Elkwood Stakes at one mile, the first grass stakes of the meet. Joey P. will make his 23rd start at Monmouth in the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap, run at six furlongs on the main track for New Jersey-breds.

It took a long time for Get Serious to get focused. The 5-year-old didn't turn the corner until the spring of 2008, when he was gelded.

"He'd always be a very difficult, obstreperous horse to deal with," trainer John Forbes said. "On Breeders' Cup Day at Monmouth, we had him in a supporting stake and he threw the jockey off and ran loose and had to be scratched. As much as we liked him, we decided he had to be gelded."

Following the procedure, Get Serious had a severe reaction, losing a lot of hair while the pigment around his eyes and muzzle drained.

"Physically, it was the oddest thing," Forbes said. "He just went to seed."

When he revived, Get Serious was a different horse. Switching to the turf at Monmouth last year, he started with a fourth in a second-level allowance sprint. He stretched out for the next two races on the grass, turning in a pair of powerful front-running allowance victories.

He ran exclusively in stakes in the four remaining starts of the campaign, including a near miss in the Mohawk Handicap for New York-breds at Belmont Park and a victory in the slop at the Meadowlands in the Alysheba Stakes.

"He really turned around as a gelding," Forbes said. "In his last race before, at Philadelphia Park, he went over kicking and screaming, wheeling, stopping, running around in a circle. He hardly let us put the tack on him and then he refused to perform. He's still ornery, but he just started running."

Other top contenders in the Elkwood include last-out allowance winners Big Stick and March to Victory; lightly raced Carson Hall; and a trio of veteran stakes winners, Victory Alleged, Icy Atlantic, and Silver Tree. Silver Tree is the class of the field, with more than $1.7 million in a career earnings.

Reilly: Joey P. back after illness

Joey P. is back to defend his Reilly title, one of 12 wins at Monmouth for the 7-year-old.

This will be his second start of the season, following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct on March 7.

Joey P. got sick after that race, ending any plans to run him back before the Reilly.

"He had a high temperature for a few days," trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said. "It just really knocked him out, so we gave him a month on the farm and picked him up when we got back to Monmouth."

The health issues seem to be history. Joey P. turned in bullet works in the last two drills, most recently a five-furlong move in 58.60 seconds on May 16.

Who's the Cowboy, eighth in the Decathlon Stakes on opening day, will look to bounce back on the switch from open to statebred company.