Joe Pierce Jr., the senior man on the Monmouth Park
backstretch (he turns 86 on June 24) is down to a five-horse stable these days.
But that doesn’t mean you should ever overlook one of his runners.
entrant in Saturday’s $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for example. Hop Skip and
Away, owned by Pierce and H.C.B. Lindh, is having a very good season at age 8.
He’s gone 1-1-1 in 4 starts this year, all against open company, and should
appreciate meeting New Jersey-breds again.
Hop Skip and
Away, a son of Gold Fever, spent the winter in the care of Patricia and Mike
Farro, who were stabled in Pennsylvania.
He got through two allowance conditions across the Delaware
River, and also ran third in the Bensalem Stakes at Parx.
back with state-breds in the Reilly, a six-furlong event he’s run well in
before, and Pierce says he’s ready to show his best.
did a helluva job with him over the winter,” Pierce said. “He’s been rested the
last two months, and he’s ready to go again.”
Hop Skip and
Away has a solid record in the six-furlong Reilly. He ran in the event for the
first time in 2010 and finished third behind Unwritten and Joey P. In 2011, he
was third behind Dabnabit and Gunfighter. Last year was his best effort ever in
the race, when he finished second, two lengths behind The Hunk.
Skip and Away was toiling through the frigid winter up north, Pierce was
enjoying the balmy breezes in Florida.
take the winters off now,” the trainer said. “But I always look forward to
getting back to Monmouth. Getting back to the horses. I’ve been racing at
Monmouth since 1969, and I wouldn’t know what else to do. No chance I’ll
retire because I need something to do in the mornings,” Pierce said. “I’ve been
training so long, I wouldn’t know what else to do with myself.”
whose father Joe Pierce Sr. was a regular on the New Jersey circuit more than 50 years ago,
has had a loyal crew throughout his Monmouth days. “Baby Ray,” who had been an
assistant for decades, passed away this spring. But Roy Simms, who has been
with the father and son Pierces for 50 years, still plays a key role in running
“I’m down to five horses right now, but ...,”
Pierce said his voice rising with the word “but.” “But I’m expecting two
2-year-olds in from Ocala
very soon. Nothing like 2-year-olds to keep you young.”