News & Barn notes

Navy Commander Wins Long Branch Stakes With Ease To Earn Invitation To July 29 Haskell

July 07, 2018

Navy Commander_391

Navy Commander controlled a slow early pace and then had plenty in reserve when it mattered most to capture the $100,000 Long Branch Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park by 3¼ lengths – earning a chance to race in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 as a result. 

Trained by Robert “Butch” Reid and ridden by Angel Arroyo, Navy Commander covered the mile and a sixteenth in 1:46.66, effectively lulling his four rivals to sleep in the 84th edition of the Long Branch Stakes. 

American Lincoln was second. It was another 4¾ lengths back to Show Me The Bucks in third. 

Arroyo put Navy Commander on the lead through fractions of :25.79 for the opening quarter, :51.57 to the half and 1:15.55 after three-quarters of a mile. He was strong through the stretch when asked by Arroyo. 

“You could have not asked for a better scenario the way this race unfolded for us,” said Reid, who began his training career at Monmouth Park in 1983 and is now based at Parx. “But I knew there were a couple of horses behind him that were going to test him and he came through with flying colors.” 

Owned by Swilcan Stables, Navy Commander won for the fifth time in 11 career starts and for the fourth time in seven starts as a 3-year-old. The Long Branch marked his first stakes victory. 

“My horse broke really good. He went to the front easily and I knew down the backside that we weren’t going that fast and that I had a lot of horse,” said Arroyo. “I just had to be patient with him and keep him relaxed. He had a lot left in the stretch when I needed it from him. Those slow fractions helped but he was very strong at the end, too.” 

Reid, who trained at Monmouth Park for 15 years, last started a horse in the Haskell Invitational in 2010, when eventual 2011 Breeders’ Cup Marathon upset winner Afleet Again was fifth in the Shore track’s showcase race. 

“It’s a great compliment to be invited to the Haskell Invitational off this,” he said. “We have to see if we think we’ll be competitive. We don’t enter races just for the sake of running in races. But it’s always a prestigious race and something you have to think about long and hard if you’re invited to it. You only get so many shots in a horse’s career and a 3-year-old horse’s career and sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance.” 

Sent off at 5-2, Navy Commander paid $7.60 to win. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Poseidon’s Warrior-Glenmary Lane had finished last in the slop two races back in the mile and a sixteenth Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico before rebounding with a victory in state-bred allowance company at Parx at six furlongs on June 12. 

“I dropped him back into a sprint that race as a confidence builder and to get his head on straight again,” said Reid. 

The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational is at a mile and an eighth.