Only hours remain until the 79th renewal of the $150,000
Philip H. Iselin Stakes, one of the highlights of Monmouth Park’s
summer racing season. Originally known as the Monmouth Handicap, the Iselin was
first contested in 1884, and renamed in honor of the former president and
chairman of the board of Monmouth
Park in 1986. A field of
eight will run in this year’s renewal, including the Marcus Vitali trained
will be Valid’s third consecutive stakes try in Oceanport after placing a close
third to 2013 Preakness (G1) and 2014 Whitney (G1) runner up Itsmyluckyday in
the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 6, and claiming victory by a half length in
the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup on Haskell Day, July 27.
“He likes the track here,” said
Vitali. “He ran a really big race against Itsmyluckyday and came back in his
next race to win. I thought his last race was superior. I thought he was going
to run really well in there and he was very impressive. Everything we’re doing
evidently is going forward. He came out good, and has been doing everything
right since the race.”
A 4-year-old gelding by top
stallion Medaglia d’Oro out of the Grand Slam mare Grand Prayer, Valid has only
one stakes victory on his record but has placed in multiple graded stakes, good
for $324,282 in lifetime earnings in his 17 career races to date. Vitali says
that he’s been pointing toward this race, and believes that a victory here
could be a sign of great things to come for his horse.
“This is the direction we’ve been
heading after his last race,” said Vitali. “I think it’s the next logical move.
We figured we’d go here and make a decision after this race if he’s what we
think he is. I think it’ll be a competitive race and if he runs well in there
we maybe can look for bigger and better things.”
A Crossed Sabres Farm color-bearer,
Valid is the morning line favorite in the Iselin
at 5-2, but will face a solid field in the Grade 3 event. Multiple graded
stakes winner and 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner Pants On Fire is second on
the line at 3-1, with the Chad Brown trained Integrity third choice at 7-2.
As for strategy in the Iselin, Vitali believes that Valid’s best option is to
stalk the pace in the mile and one eighth contest as his horse and jockey
Orlando Bocachica break from post three.
“He’ll be laying up close,” Vitali
said. “I think he’ll come out of there and lay second or third, get two or
three lengths off the lead and let him try to relax in position. Hopefully it
backs up a little bit and he can take advantage of a pace. I think the
three-hole’s a good spot. I’ll leave it up to Bocachica (Jockey Orlando) to kind
of guide him around and put him where he wants to be, but I feel if he’s close
he should be in good shape.”
The Phillip H. Iselin Stakes will
go as race 10 on Sunday’s 11-race card.