OCEANPORT, N.J. -- A Breeders' Cup runner-up makes his season debut at Monmouth Park for a second straight Saturday.
Last weekend, Flower Alley, the runner-up in last year's BC Classic, triumphantly returned in the Salvator Mile. Now, Henny Hughes, the runner-up in last year's BC Juvenile, returns in the Grade 3, $150,000 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds.
He faces five rivals in the Jersey Shore, a six-furlong race that kicks off the holiday weekend at Monmouth. Monmouth will race every day through Tuesday, July 4.
Henny Hughes returns to the scene where it all began last summer. He made his debut at Monmouth with a six-length victory last June, launching a tumultuous season that included a win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, a high-profile private sale to Zabeal Racing International, and a trainer change from Patrick Biancone to Kiaran McLaughlin. The year concluded with second-place finish to Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Henny Hughes wintered in Dubai but did not race there. He returned to McLaughlin's Belmont Park barn in early April.
"It's a good place to get him started," McLaughlin said. "He might need a race to get into his best form, and the Jersey Shore is the right spot, because he won at Monmouth last year."
Henny Hughes will reunite with Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading rider, who was aboard for Henny Hughes's maiden victory. Bravo returns Saturday from a three-day suspension.
"I'm very excited to see the horse, because we have a relationship from the past," Bravo said. "He's an amazing animal."
Henny Hughes has the rail in a race loaded with speed horses. Fabulous Strike set the pace before fading to fourth in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup Stakes at Belmont Park. He's Got Grit was a dominant front-running winner last summer in the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth.
Keyed Entry also figures to be part of the pace mix. He owns the highest career Beyer Speed Figure in the race, a 110 for his pacesetting win in the slop in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park. This will be his first start since he finished 20th in the Kentucky Derby.
Like Henny Hughes, Keyed Entry won his maiden in his debut last summer at Monmouth.
Changing Weather and Saint Daimon are the two closers in the race.