News & Barn notes

Trainer Eddie Owens Jr. Looking To Add To Fast Monmouth Park Start With Great Navigator In Sunday’s Friendly Lover Handicap

June 05, 2024

As pleased as trainer Eddie Owens, Jr. is with his start to the Monmouth Park meet, one that is on its way to setting personal bests across the board for the second straight year, he’s not surprised by the success.

It’s why he has high expectations for Sunday when he sends out Great Navigator in the Friendly Lover Handicap at Monmouth Park and then potential NYRA Bets Haskell Stakes-bound Sea Streak in the NYRA Bets Pegasus Stakes on Saturday, June 15.

“I was expecting my horses to run good once we got to Monmouth Park,” said Owens. “It isn’t like I’m just going over there with them and trying to figure it out on the fly.

“Every one of the horses we’ve run at Monmouth Park so far I expected to win.”

Owens, 63, hasn’t fallen too short of that mark so far.

He has four wins and two thirds from seven Monmouth Park starts and has already won three stakes races at the Jersey Shore track (Sea Streak in the Long Branch Stakes, Speaking in the John J. Reilly Handicap and Riding Pretty in last weekend’s Smart N Classy Handicap).

Add in a victory in the Limehouse Stakes with Ship to Shore at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 6 and his four stakes wins so far are a career best.

And he says there is more to come.

“It feels like there’s a lot more out there for me with stakes races,” he said. “I plan on winning this weekend and then next weekend. If I go over there I’m expecting to win. That’s why I go over. I’m going over to win.”

Owens, who trains 14 horses for Vincent Annarella’s Holly Crest Farm, said the mile distance of the Friendly Lover and a return to Jersey-bred company for Great Navigator “hits him right between the eyes.”

Now 4, Great Navigator dazzled in breaking his maiden at Monmouth Park in 2022 before going on to be second in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga in his next start. The son of Sea Wizard-All Even by Stephen Got Even has one win in three starts this year, all at Gulfstream.

Paco Lopez, the track’s runaway leading rider, is listed for the mount on Sunday.

Sea Streak, meanwhile, already earned free entry and start fees to the Haskell with his romp in the Long Branch Stakes. The $150,000 Pegasus Stakes is the final local prep for the $1 million, Grade 1 Haskell Stakes on July 20.

That would mark Owens’ first starter in a Grade 1 race since he went out on his own in 2020 after working for Ben Perkins Sr., Joe Orseno and then briefly for the late John Mazza.

“It would mean a lot if he makes the Haskell because this is home. I grew up in Long Branch,” said Owens. “So it would be special to have one in the Haskell, especially a Jersey-bred.

“He is doing very well. If there are no setbacks that’s what we are pointing to with him.”

A year ago, Owens had an overall record of 11-11-11 from 52 starters, winning three Jersey-bred stakes races at Monmouth Park. This year could easily surpass that.

“It feels like this could be a good year for us,” said Owens. “It feels a little different this year. It feels like every one of the horses has responded to what we are doing and I have a great crew. If you look at the horses I have they all look good.

“I just want to keep it going.”