OCEANPORT, New Jersey — Stanford won the $103,000 Long Branch Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.
Next up could be a showdown with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2.
The Haskell is scheduled to be American Pharoah's first race since winning the Belmont Stakes last month. Monmouth officials are anticipating a record crowd, erasing the current mark of 53,638 for the 2003 Haskell.
While American Pharoah remains on target for the race, the lineup of possible opponents remains in flux. Stanford could be in the mix now.
The Long Branch, the final local prep race for 3-year-olds, usually delivers at least one Haskell runner. Stanford's victory could build a case for a return in three weeks.
The 1-2 favorite stalked the pace set by Souper Colossal before taking command with a three-wide surge turning for home.
While it appeared Stanford would sprint clear, Souper Colossal kept battling, always keeping Stanford in the range.
Stanford prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths, with the top two well clear of the pack. It was 5 3/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Total Joint.
Stanford has won three of seven races, including a 2 for 2 record at Monmouth for trainer Todd Pletcher. This was the colt's first stakes victory for owners Stonestreet Stables, Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
"They might bring him back," Anthony Sciametta, Pletcher's New Jersey assistant, said of the Haskell. "I don't try to predict what Todd's going to do."
Reunited with Stanford for the first time since the horse's first two races last summer, jockey Joe Bravo made a Haskell pitch.
"The good thing is that we know he likes the course," Bravo said.
Stanford ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.31, paying $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Souper Colossal, the 3-1 second choice, returned $3 and $2.60. Total Joint paid $4 to show.