OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Afleet Again and Ibboyee square off again in the $100,000 Spend a Buck Stakes for 3-year-olds, a mile and 70-yard race that is the top attraction on the first Sunday of the 50-day, $50 million meet at Monmouth Park.
The 11-race card also features a trio of allowance races each worth at least $80,000. First post is 12:50 p.m.
Afleet Again and Ibboyee first met in the one-mile Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on April 24, when Afleet Again, overlooked at 24-1, kicked in late to run down Ibboyee by 1 1/2 lengths.
The element of surprise is gone this time for Afleet Again, a big gray colt who took time to develop.
"We were kind of taking a shot there," trainer Butch Reid said of the Withers. "I think it was a little too short for him. I think he will enjoy distances longer than one mile, but we got a little lucky."
The good fortune was a very fast pace that set the stage for a closer. The track configuration and pace dynamics could be much different in the Spend a Buck, which has drawn a competitive field but possibly not as much speed. While the Withers was contested at a one-turn mile on Aqueduct's main track, the Spend a Buck is around two turns. Afleet Again will break from the outside post in a nine-horse field with Abel Mariano again in the saddle.
"I think he really liked that big turn at Aqueduct, but I think he'll do fine here," said Reid, who has eight stalls at Monmouth this year.
Afleet Again breezed four furlongs over the track in 48.30 seconds last weekend.
"He seemed to handle it beautifully," Reid said.
The Withers was the third win in 10 starts and the first stakes victory for Afleet Again, who is owned by the Cash Is King Stable which also campaigned his sire, Afleet Alex.
"He was slow picking up the game, but as he's learned, he's gotten more into it, and he's much sharper," said Reid, who would love to see Afleet Again develop into a contender for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational here Aug. 1.
"That's a possibility," Reid said. "He'll have to earn his way there, but he's going to be given an opportunity."
The Withers was the third straight in-the-money finish for Ibboyee in a graded stakes. He looked like a winner until Afleet Again came rolling. He had finished second in the Grade 2 Swale and third in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park. D' Funnybone won both of those races.
The field also includes promising last-out allowance winners My Elusive Star, Our Dark Knight, Allez Reef, Nacho Friend, and Rule by Night, and the maiden winners I've Got the Fever and Medaglia's Express.