This Ones for Phil captured the featured $75,000 Decathlon Stakes, “Jersey Joe” Bravo won three races, and a crowd of 10,847 enjoyed opening day festivities as Monmouth Park kicked off the 2011 Thoroughbred racing season in winning style on Saturday.
The crowd represented a 5.4 percent increase over opening day of the 2009 meet, and both on-track wagering of $700,796 (up 5.4%), and total betting of $4,534,828 (up 6%) represented strong gains over the 2009 numbers.
“We certainly exceeded all expectations,” said Bob Kulina, vice president and general manager of the racetrack. “To post increases over our 2009 numbers shows our product remains strong.
“No one went into today expecting to compete with last year’s Elite Summer Meet – that was not in the equation,” Kulina said. “What we did show today is that Monmouth Park is a top destination on the Jersey Shore, and an attractive wagering option from coast to coast.”
On opening day in 2009, Monmouth drew 10,292 fans, on-track betting was $664,930, and total wagering for the day was $4,279,438. Last year, Monmouth ran an Elite Summer Meet with purses of $1 million per day that was a smashing success for its 50-day run.
In the six-furlong Decathlon Stakes, This Ones for Phil charged into command at the top of the stretch, opened a clear lead, and then withstood the late charge of Wildcat Brief for a length and a quarter victory. Awesome Son, who set the pace to the stretch, finished third, six and a half lengths farther back.
It was the second win of the day for trainer Tony Dutrow, and the third for Bravo, who jumped off to a great start as he seeks his 14th Monmouth riding title.
This Ones for Phil, owned by Pompa, Mandato & Dubb, sprinted the six furlongs in 1:09 3/5 and paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40 across the board as the favorite in the field of five.
Wildcat Brief, second choice at 2-1, paid $2.60 and $2.20 and completed the $12.40 exacta. Awesome Son returned $2.60 to show.
This was the first start in more than a year for This Ones for Phil, a 5-year-old son of Untuttable, who won stakes in 2009 and 2010.
“Whatever ailments he had seem to be behind him now,” said Dutrow. “I was impressed, but not surprised. This is a really nice horse. We’ll keep him short – six, seven furlongs. This should set him up nicely for the True North (Belmont, June 11).”
Bravo, who won the seventh race on the Dutrow-trained All of the Above and the sixth race on the Todd Pletcher-trained Turbo Compressor, said, “My instructions were to enjoy myself because I was on the best horse. I don’t think he ran his best race today off the long layoff, and still ended up running 1:09 3/5 on a track that wasn’t that fast.”
Bravo has won 13 riding titles at Monmouth, but has not finished in the top spot since 2007.