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Barn Notes

Nik Juarez Gets First Career Haskell Mount Sunday

Posted Friday, Jul 29, 2016

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Journeyman Nik Juarez gets his first shot at capturing the Grade 1, $1 million betfair.com Haskell Invitational aboard Sunny Ridge on Sunday.


            “It’s very exciting for me,” said Juarez. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be able to ride in the Haskell this year. I feel like I grew up here. It really feels like home to me at Monmouth Park.”


            Juarez has ridden Sunny Ridge, the 3-year-old son of Holy Bull out of the Songandaprayer mare Lignum Vitae, in both of his wins over the Monmouth main track, which includes breaking his maiden at first asking and last year’s Sapling Stakes, Monmouth’s premier stakes for 2-year-old males.


            Third in the rider standings at Monmouth in 2015, Nik Juarez is no stranger to success in graded stakes at Monmouth Park, taking last year’s Iselin Stakes aboard Valid along with winning this year’s Salvator Mile on Res Judicata, who was the longest shot on the board.


            Horse racing has always been in the Juarez family with Nik’s father, Calixto Juarez, winning 513 races in his riding career while his grandfather, Charles Linton, was an exercise rider.


            The 22-year-old won his first career race on his first ever mount on Dec. 13, 2013 with Love Heart at Laurel Park.


            Owned by Dennis Drazin and trained by Jason Servis, Sunny Ridge is making his first start off nearly a five-month layoff and won the Grade 3 Withers on Jan. 30 at Aqueduct.


            “Whenever you ride a horse before, you feel more comfortable on him,” said Juarez. “I know him (Sunny Ridge) very well. It’s a six horse field, but a very tough field this year. I think the main thing is to be focused on the race and the task at hand. I think when I’m going through that tunnel, it’s going to be game time and I’ll just be focusing on the race.”


            For Juarez and Sunny Ridge to get to the winner’s circle for Haskell glory, the duo must get by Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who is making his first start since a third place finish in the Preakness, the only blemish on his record, and Preakness champion Exaggerator who makes his return to the races since his run in the Belmont Stakes.


            Bob Baffert sends out Iowa Derby winner American Freedom to try and grab his record ninth Haskell title.


            Gun Runner, third in the Derby and trained by Steve Asmussen, exits a wire-to-wire win in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.


            Eddie Plesa Jr. trained Awesome Slew is 2-for-3 over the Monmouth Park main track including breaking his maiden at first asking. He comes in off a third place finish in the Grade 3 betfair.com Pegasus, his first start around two turns.


The Haskell’s scheduled post time is 5:47 p.m. and will be telecast live on NBC.   


Select reserved seats remain for the race and can be purchased by calling 732-571-5563 or visiting www.monmouthpark.com. for the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” event for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.


            Gates will open early on Haskell Day at 10 a.m. with first race scheduled for 12 noon.


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