News & Barn notes

Speaking, Mia’s Crusade Notch Stakes Wins During Sunday’s New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival

August 27, 2023

It didn’t long for Speaking to state his case to repeat as New Jersey’s champion sprinter.

Honored by the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association of New Jersey as last year’s top state-bred sprinter and champion 3-year-old male, Speaking began making his case for more accolades this year with a four-length romp in Sunday’s $106,000 New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap during the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival at Monmouth Park.

Heavily-favored Mia’s Crusade, extending her solid 4-year-old campaign, was a handy 2¼-length winner in the co-featured $106,000 Eleven North Handicap on the 10-race program.

For Speaking, a 4-year-old son of Mr Speaker owned and bred by Holly Crest Farm, it marked the second straight year he has won the N.J. Breeders’ Handicap. The victory was his sixth in 14 career starts and came following a layoff of 98 days.

“I wasn’t worried about the layoff because he has been working so well,” said winning trainer Eddie Owens. “I was more worried about running him without Lasix. I knew if he broke good, which he did, they were going to have a problem with him. He’s very fast. If anyone in the race broke with him they were going to have problems.

“He’s a very nice horse. I think he’s one of the best sprinters in the country when he’s right.”

Ridden by Jairo Rendon, Speaking broke quickly from the rail and shook off prolonged pressure from Bustin Loose through an opening quarter of :21.89 and a first half of :44.81.

A discouraged Bustin Loose soon gave way, leaving Speaking without a challenger. Pogi finished second, 1¼ lengths ahead of No Cents.

Speaking paid $7.40 to win. The winning time for the six furlongs was 1:10.86.

“The plan was to get him out there, especially being on the rail,” said Rendon. “I didn’t want there to be too much pressure on him. He got out good. I didn’t have to use him to get the lead, which was good. He didn’t use too much energy to make the lead. (Bustin Loose) tried to stay with him early but I could see he (jockey Jose Ferrer) was using his horse and I wasn’t using my horse so I wasn’t worried about that.”

Now 2-for-3 this year, having won the John J. Reilly Handicap in his last start on May 21, Owens said he plans to give Speaking time off until January.

Mia’s Crusade, who won the Spruce Fir Handicap in the slop to start her 4-year-old campaign, won for the fifth time in 15 career starts for trainer Chuck Spina. Jomar Torres rode the daughter of Greenpointcrusader, who sat a stalking trip in fourth behind the early speed and drew off when asked coming out of the final turn.

The winning time for the six furlongs was 1:10.76. Beach Daze finished second, 1¼ lengths ahead of Roselba.

Mia’s Crusade, owned by Joseph and Gayle Ioia and Spina, paid $3.60 to win in the field of nine fillies and maries, 3 years old and up.

“Every race she seems to get better and better and this has been her best year yet,” said Torres, who has ridden her in her last 12 starts. “She can run on any surface – fast dirt, slop, turf. She does love the slop but the track was fast today and she ran a great race.

“I just asked her once around the turn and she responded. We got a nice set-up behind the speed. She broke well and she settled and she was ready when I asked. This was one of her better performances.”

Spina said consistency continues to be Mia’s Crusade’s greatest strength. She has a 5-2-2 line from her 15 lifetime starts.

“She tries every time,” he said. “Six furlongs is her best distance. But going a mile on the dirt two races ago she was only beaten a length. She’s just so honest. She hardly has any breeding but she gives her all every time. Is she better in the slop? Probably. But she couldn’t have done much better than she did today on a fast track.”