Rachel Alexandra – 2009 Preakness, Haskell and Woodward winner and reigning Horse of the Year – will return to Monmouth Park on July 24, 2010 to run in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (moved from Haskell Day). Since I do want to focus on the upcoming U.N., I’ll dive more into the specifics on Sunday, but I’ll say this…if you’re not exciting about Rachel Alexandra running during the Elite Summer Meet at Monmouth Park, there’s a problem. I told my boss today that I thought Rachel would boost attendance on July 24 by over 5,000. Let’s start spreading the word now so I can be right. I want to see 20,000+.
The BetFair/TVG United Nations – in my eyes – is an underrated race. Just look what the past two winners (both won back-to-back editions) have accomplished in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. English Channel trounced the field in the ’07 Turf right here at Monmouth Park. And Presious Passion gave Conduit all he could handle in the stretch while finishing second last year at Santa Anita.
Unfortunately, we received news following Wednesday’s draw that 2-time defending champion and Monmouth Park legend Presious Passion will not be going for three in a row Saturday. Despite his absence, there’s still a chance a horse will have a “Presious Passion-like” early lead.
That horse would be California invader Acclamation who exits consecutive graded stakes scores out west including the Grade I Charles Whittingham most recently. He may not be 20 lengths in front like Mr. Passion in last year’s tour de force, but he should have a clear early advantage.
The horse most likely to be closest to Acclamation early is Get Serious. Like Presious Passion, Get Serious loves the Monmouth Park grass – having won eight of 10 starts on the local lawn. The big question mark with him is the distance. Can he get 11 furlongs? That’s a question I can’t answer.
I’m expecting my likely selection, Straight Story, to be third in the early stages of the U.N. – even though that might mean 10-15 lengths out of it. Last year, this 4-year-old finished a close second in a pair of Grade II’s and the Grade I Jamaica, but hasn’t had any problem finding the winner’s circle in 2010 – albeit against far weaker competition. Straight Story should be in the perfect position to strike should Acclamation and/or Get Serious falter, and I’m thinking he’ll be the one to catch with the lead in the stretch.
With two days to tweek my opinion, I’m looking at a Straight Story/Take the Points exacta box in the U.N.
The Grade III Salvator Mile immediately follows the U.N. Saturday and features five graded stakes winners. Early indications have me pointing towards Le Grand Cru wire-to-wire in this event. With trainer Todd Pletcher also saddling Munnings (pace setter in last year’s Haskell) in the Salvator, I can’t envision him wanting the two going head-to-head, so hopefully he’ll have Garrett Gomez take Munnings back off the pace leaving Le Grand Cru all along up front. At least that’s how the race looks in my head.
For fans all across the country, remember that U.N. Day will feature a $250,000 Guaranteed Pick 5 pool presented by BetFair/TVG and a $100,000 Guaranteed late Pick 4. For local fans, remember that U.N. Day also features a Monmouth Park umbrella giveaway. Maybe you should get in line now!!
Brad Thomas’ Thursday Trip Notes
Race 1 – Returnee Cancanier broke slow from the 2-post, had to hustle on a dull rail, steadied on the turn, and continued evenly and decently.
Race 4 – Pick Off, at 137-1, improved big-time engaging in a prolonged duel with a dropping-down, stretching out sprinter. His newfound speed will be dangerous as the conditioned claiming ranks thin.
Race 10 – Gimme Credit, a perfect stylistic fit for this turf course’s tight contours, showed open stakes quality acceleration.
Race 4 – Elite Miss continued her positive progression in her second 2010 start for a very patient barn. Might need a drop.
Race 5 – This state-bred maiden special came up weak and slow, but both Jax Maxx and Lucky Evening already have run for tags and they readily can take advantage of restricted maiden claimers. The former wants two turns and the latter had traffic issues.
Race 9 – Grade III Boling Springs runner-up Bay To Bay is a big leaguer. She ran super despite being compromised by pace, double bias and trip. 4th-finisher Martita Sangrita continued to improve and pulled up like she can advance yet another notch. 6th-finishing Justaroundmidnight was bottled up, boxed in, or lacking room throughout. She couldn’t be ridden for the final sixteenth, but only wound up beaten 3 ¼ lengths in a fairly amazing performance. She’s truly of graded stakes quality – especially with more time between starts.
Race 10 – Malibu Prayer is much improved over her 3-year-old alter ego now that she’s turned four. She can win the right Grade I at 1 1/16 miles or less.
Race 11 – Taperrific kept grinding despite stretch traffic in yet another improved performance. Two turns beckons.
Race 1 – What other top jockey other than Joe Bravo would have won with Happy Jo here? Bravo had to work hard every step on the dropping, 2-year-old filly maiden, 2nd-time starter. Many would have given up in upper stretch, but not this guy. That’s the competitiveness and the effort that makes him Joe Bravo.
Race 3 – Morning Line is yet another excellent Nick Zito-trained 3-year-old. This one could out gallop a relay team of 19th-century pony express horses without breaking a sweat.
Race 6 – Great ride by the almost-always-aggressive Eibar Coa sending erstwhile pace-presser Tune Me In on a front-end mission. Favored (2-5) Santa, a clear leader in his last, evidently failed to get the memo about how speed favoring the Monmouth turf was Sunday and rated (Rated!) his way to a tepid, 3rd-place finish. If only the horses were smart enough to pay attention to how a course is playing!
Race 7 – Barely Nothing is fit and tries hard, but is modestly talented. When he drops to his proper level, he could blossom into a new horse.