News & Barn notes

Sugar Boy, A Sensation In Puerto Rico At 2, Faces A Key Test In Saturday’s Long Branch Stakes on Monmouth’s Opening Day Card

May 08, 2024

The question trainer Jose D’Angelo keeps getting asked when it comes to 3-year-old colt Sugar Boy is this: Just how good is the son of Khozan?

Saturday’s featured Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds on Monmouth Park’s 10-race opening day card could go a long way in starting to provide an answer.

A sensation at Hipodoromo Camarero in Puerto Rico as a 2-year-old, when he went 4-for-4 (winning those races by a combined 21¾ lengths, including a Grade 1 and a Grade 2), Sugar Boy will make his second start in the United States in the $100,000 Long Branch Stakes. The mile and 70-yard race offers the bonus of free entry and start fees to the Grade 1 NYRA Bets Haskell Stakes to the winner.

“The horse did everything he could do in Puerto Rico,” said D’Angelo. “His owner (Ignacio Vargas) decided to ship him to Florida for his 3-year-old campaign to see what he could do in the United States.

“He has shown talent from the first day. But this will be a good next test for him.”

In his U.S. debut in the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Sophomore Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 24, Sugar Boy was a solid second. That came after a nearly four-month layoff. It was also his debut for D’Angelo.

“He ran really well,” said D’Angelo. “I don’t think post eight was the best for him but he overcame that and ran well. For his first start in the United States and his first start as a 3-year-old I thought he handled the competition.”

Jockey Samy Camacho, who rode Sugar Boy in that Tampa Downs race and has the call for the Long Branch Stakes, said he was impressed by that effort.

“Everybody says they don’t know what he beat in Puerto Rico,” said Camacho. “The first time running in the United States everything was different for him. But he ran well. You can tell he has talent.”

D’Angelo remains as curious as anyone when it comes to finding out how good Sugar Boy can be.

“It’s one thing to dominate the competition in Puerto Rico,” he said. “But it’s another level of competition in the United States. We started to see what he was capable of in that race at Tampa. I know he’s a good horse.

“So we’re trying him in another stakes race in the Long Branch. He has been training very well. I think he will run big on Saturday.”

The 88th edition of the Long Brach Stakes drew a field of eight, with the Todd Pletcher-trained Heartened coming off a pair of solid efforts. The son of Street Boss was second in the slop in an optional claimer at Keeneland, beaten just a neck, after finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby (beaten 2¼ lengths).

The Hugo Padilla-trained Lonesome Boy figures as a factor as well after finishing fourth in his most recent start in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial.

Sugar Boy has post two for the Long Branch Stakes.

“We’ll find out more about him Saturday,” said D’Angelo. “It’s time to see what he can do. I know he has talent. We saw that in the race at Tampa Bay. He needed that race too.”

First race post time throughout the 51-day meet will be 12:50 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. When Friday racing starts on June 21 post time those days will be 2 p.m.