News & Barn notes
Four Grade 3 Races Serve As Supporting Features On Sunday’s Haskell Invitational Card
July 27, 2018
Trainer Doug Anderson said he was simply looking for a young horse with some potential when he claimed Remembering Rita for owner Jeral Keith Adams for $50,000 in November of 2016 at Churchill Downs.
One graded stakes win and $254,946 in earnings later, he has one of those horses that allows everyone in the sport to dream big.
A winner of the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in his last start on July 6, Remembering Rita will take on five rivals in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, one of four graded stakes races on Sunday’s 14-race betfair.com Haskell Invitational card at Monmouth Park.
It’s the latest major test for a horse that keeps defying the odds.
“You always hope, but you never really expect anything like this,” said Anderson. “After Gary Stevens rode him at Keeneland (on April 21) he came back and said `he’s not paying attention at all. This horse needs blinkers to stick to his business.’
“So we put blinkers on him and that’s when it happened.”
Fitted with blinkers for the first time Remembering Rita broken his maiden by 11¼ lengths. He followed that with an 11-length romp in an optional claimer and then won the Cornhusker Handicap at a mile and an eighth – the distance of the Monmouth Cup – by 1½ lengths.
The 4-year-old son of Spring At Last-Deep South will take on the likes of the hard-hitting gelding Page McKenney, a winner of 22 lifetime starts, in the $150,000 Monmouth Cup, which is for 3-year-olds-and-up.
“It looks like a pretty competitive field,” said Anderson, who has not been to Monmouth Park since serving as an assistant to Scooter Dickey in 1980s. “Hopefully my horse will continue to step up the way he has lately.”
Remembering Rita was only able to race once in 2017 after being claimed by Anderson “because of a bone chip that was worse than we thought.” He said owner Adams was getting antsy about seeing his colt race under his colors again “but he understood the situation,” Anderson said.
“I think he is happy with the way things turned out,” he added.
GRADE 3 MATCHMAKER
Four weeks after they staged a thrilling stretch duel in the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park, Dream Awhile and Special Event will go at it again as part of an eight-horse field in the Sunday’s Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes.
The $100,000 Matchmaker Stakes, for fillies and mares 3 and up, will be contested at a mile and an eighth on the grass and go as the ninth race on the 14-race Haskell card.
The Chad Brown-trained Dream Awhile, who has not missed the board in five U.S. starts since coming over from France, held off Special Event by three-quarters of a length to win the Eatontown Stakes on June 30. It was another two lengths back to Elysea’s World, who is also part of the Matchmaker field as well.
Dream Awhile, a 4-year-old daughter of War Front-Baroness Richter, has two wins, a second and two thirds in her five starts since coming into Brown’s care.
Party Boat, trained by H. Graham Motion, will mark her return to graded stakes company for owner Hope H. Jones, one of two surviving daughters of Amory L. Haskell, the first president and chairman of Monmouth Park and the man for whom the Haskell Invitational is named
Motion will also saddle Irish Strait in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes Sunday for Isabelle de Tomaso, Haskell’s other surviving daughter.
“It’s nice to have horses ready for both of them on Haskell day,” Motion said. “I know it means a lot to them.”
GRADE 3 OCEANPORT
Trainer H. Graham Motion knows that Dan Horn winner Irish Strait is facing a demanding challenge in Sunday’s Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes, but as sharp as the gelding is right now – and knowing his affinity for the Monmouth Park turf course – he feels it’s worth taking a shot.
“I think he’s coming into the race as well as I can expect,” said Motion. “This will be a tough test for him and he will need to step up again, but he has done it before and we know he likes this turf course.”
Irish Strait defeated state-breds in winning the Dan Horn at Monmouth Park on June 17 and shows a 4-2-2 line from 10 career Monmouth grass starts, including a 2½-length victory in the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes a year ago.
“It was nice that we were able to get in that race against state-breds,” Motion said. “We know he likes it here, so we’ll see.
Irish Strait is owned and was bred by Isabelle de Tomaso, one of two surviving daughters of Amory L. Haskell, for whom the Haskell Invitational is named.
The Oceanport, which is for 3-year-olds and up, is at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass.
Heading the seven-horse field is the Michael Stidham-trained Synchrony, a multiple graded stakes winner coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. Synchrony was also third in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day.
GRADE 3 MOLLY PITCHER
Unchained Melody, the 2017 winner of the Grade 2 Mother Goose, will look to regain her form in Sunday’s Grade 3 Molly Pitcher on the Haskell Invitational undercard.
The Brian Lynch-trained filly has failed to hit the board in three straight graded stakes races since winning the Mother Goose. Most recently, the daughter of Smart Strike-Love Match was fifth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 9.
The $100,000 Molly Pitcher, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-up at a mile and a sixteenth, has drawn a field of eight. The Steve-Asmussen-trained Dreamcall comes in with a three-race winning streak, with Divine Miss Grey back at Monmouth following a three-quarters length victory in the Lady’s Secret Stakes on June 30.
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