News & Barn notes

Oak Bluffs Rallies To Win Joey P. Handicap By A Half Length

September 14, 2019

Oak Bluffs, claimed back by trainer Mary Eppler for $20,000 two starts ago, showed his grit and penchant for winning by rallying from next-to-last to capture the $75,000 Joey P. Handicap at five furlongs on the grass on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

The hard-hitting gelding, sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of seven Jersey-breds, scored by a half-length over Pnutbutter Special. It was a nose back to Like What I see in third in a blanket finish.

The victory was the 19th overall and 15th on the grass for the 9-year-old son of Defrere-Disco Shaker by Disco Rico.

“I had to claim him back,” said Eppler, who also now owns Oak Bluffs. “He was too good to me, even if I never ran him back. I originally claimed in November of 2015 for $5,000. He did nothing but run well for me before he was claimed away (on March 17 for $25,000). I had to get him back. He’s just a tough, old sound horse who loves to win. He always tries hard.”

For a late-running turf sprinter the race set-up could not have been more ideal, with an early five-horse scramble for the lead and the opening quarter mile going in :21.07. Oak Bluffs was next-to-last early, before jockey Paco Lopez made a move entering the turn. Oak Bluffs was still fifth then.

“I love this horse. I know this horse very well. He always tries,” said Lopez. “Sometimes he’s back a little too far early on, sometimes he’s right there. Today he broke good and we let everything develop in front of us. I always seem to have horse late when I ride him.

“I loved seeing that early speed duel. We were in a great spot. I took him a little wide in the turn and that probably didn’t help him but he pulled me to the win.”

With Oak Bluffs wide coming out of the turn, he still had to run down Jersey Joe B., who would tire late, and Pnutbutter Special, who got the jump on Lopez’ horse coming out of the turn into the stretch.

But Oak Bluffs out-finished Pnutbutter Special and then held off the late-running Like What I See.

Time for the five furlongs over a firm turf course was :57.59.

“I was really excited for him this race. He’s a lot like Page McKenney. They both like to win,” Eppler said. “Knowing him and seeing that early speed duel today I thought he would get there. At the three-eighths pole I thought he was in a really good spot. Then he showed us how much he likes to win again.”

Oak Bluffs was claimed away from Eppler on March 17 at Gulfstream for $25,000 by Jorge Navarro before Eppler got the horse back for $20,000 on June 8 following a win at Monmouth Park.

With the $45,000 winner’s share Oak Bluffs has now earned $687,456 for his career.