News & Barn notes

Speaking Set For Return After 8 1/2-Month Layoff In Sunday’s John J. Reilly Handicap For Jersey-Breds

May 17, 2024

As successful a start as trainer Eddie Owens Jr. has had to the Monmouth Park meet already he’s looking to add to it when Speaking makes his 5-year-old debut in Sunday’s featured John J. Reilly Handicap for Jersey-breds.

Owens, who trains exclusively for Holly Crest Farm, won with two of his three starters during Monmouth Park’s opening weekend, highlighted by Sea Streak’s 7¼-length romp in the Long Branch Stakes, one of two local preps for the Grade 1 NYRA Bets Haskell Stakes on July 20.

Now he’s sending out “the star of the stable” in Speaking in the six-furlong John J. Reilly off an 8½-month layoff.

“He’s doing great,” said Owens. “He couldn’t be doing better. I’m not worried about the layoff. He runs well fresh and he’s good and fit.”

A winner of four state-bred stakes races over his 14-race career, Speaking won the John J. Reilly Handicap a year ago. The gelded son of Mr Speaker-High Noon Nellie by Silver Deputy sports a 6-1-1 line from nine career starts at Monmouth Park and is 5-for-8 at six furlongs.

He was New Jersey’s Champion 3-year-old Sprinter in 2022.

Limited to three starts last year with new rules prohibiting the use of Lasix in stakes races, Speaking generally has his races spaced out because of bleeding issue, Owens said.

It has not prevented him from banking $399,840 for his career. Three of his career losses have come in graded stakes company.

“His strength is his speed. He’s a very fast horse,” said Owens. “This is the best spot to bring him back – facing Jersey-breds at Monmouth Park. He has had a lot of success with that.”

Six other Jersey-breds, 3 and up, will challenge Speaking with the hope that the lengthy layoff works to their advantage.

“He gives you everything all of the time,” said Owens. “He’s the star of the stable. Sea Streak is going to have to catch up to him. He has won four stakes races. Sea Streak has won one.

Owens, who also won an allowance optional claimer with Little Ni during last week’s opening weekend, also nabbed a third with his only other starter so far at the meet with Ship to Shore in allowance company.

Sea Streak, meanwhile, “came out of the Long Branch in great shape,” said Owens.

That keeps Sea Streak on schedule to go next in the NYRA Bets Pegasus Stakes on Haskell Preview Day on June 15. That’s the final local prep for the Haskell, with Sea Streak having already earned free start fees and entry to Monmouth Park’s Grade 1 showcase race off his victory in the Long Branch.

“Right now the plan is to go next in the Pegasus with him, knock on wood,” said Owens. “I’m hoping everything stays good with him to get him there.”

If Sea Streak does go on to the Haskell he will be seeking to join Thanks to Tony as just the second Jersey-bred to win the race. Thanks to Tony won the 1980 edition of the Haskell.