Speaking Returns From Lengthy Layoff to Win John J. Reilly Handicap

The most dominant sprinter in the New Jersey-bred ranks couldn’t be slowed by a nearly eight-month layoff on Sunday at Monmouth Park, with trainer Eddie Owens, Jr. now left to plot what his next move is with the talented Speaking.

Speaking, a 5-year-old gelded son of Mr Speaker bred and owned by Holly Crest Farm, shook off some early challenges on the backside before pulling away in the final furlong for a 3½-length victory in the $85,000 John J. Reilly Handicap.

It marked the second straight year Speaking has won the John J. Reilly Handicap and extended his state-bred stakes winning streak to three.

The winning time for the six furlongs was 1:11.43.

“He ran big. I’m pleased,” said Owens, whose horse had been on the shelf since Aug. 27. “He didn’t win the way I wanted him to win but he won. I thought he would win easier. It looked like they were ganging up on him early on the backside but he was just much the best against this group.”

Sent off as the odds-on favorite in the field of six Jersey-breds, 3 and up, Speaking broke alertly and on the lead before being passed on the inside on the backstretch by Running Right By U and then on the outside by No Cents.

Jockey Jairo Rendon was having none of it, sending Speaking to the lead again. After engaging in a head to head duel with No Cents and Paco Lopez both entering and coming out of the final turn, Speaking surged late to win easily. No Cents held for second, one length ahead of Lemon Creek Louie.

Speaking paid $3.40 to win.

His statistics both sprinting and Monmouth Park became a touch more impressive with his latest victory. He has a 7-1-1 line from 10 career starts at Monmouth Park and is 6-for-9 at six furlongs. His lifetime earnings increased to $450,840 from 17 starts.

“I was not worried about the layoff,” said Rendon, who has been aboard for the three straight stakes wins. “This horse is always fast. (Owens) is very good at getting these horses to run off layoffs. I was a little bit concerned about some of the horses coming from behind because we went into the turn really fast. The guys were putting pressure on us.

“I didn’t want to be on the lead but the race turned out like that and I had to go. He’s just a good horse. He is very consistent. He does not run a lot but when he does he is usually good.”

The dilemma for Owens is where to go next. He said the only realistic option is the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap on Aug. 25, where Speaking would be seeking a third straight win in that race.

Because of bleeding issues, Owens said, he struggles to find stakes races since Lasix is no longer permitted in them.

Speaking ran just three times last year, twice at Monmouth Park, because of the Lasix stakes ban. Facing Jersey-breds mitigates some of that issue, Owens said.

“Right now all there is for him is the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap,” said Owens. “It’s tough to run him in open stakes company, which I would do, but he can’t be on Lasix in those races. So he may only run twice at Monmouth Park this year, like he did last year. It’s very frustrating.

“This is the best run we’ve had with him, winning three stakes races in a row. I think he is one of the best sprinters in the country. I really do. But I have to follow these Lasix rules like everybody else.”

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