News & Barn notes

Grade 1 Winner Force the Pass Back in Saturday’s Cliff Hanger

May 03, 2018


Trainer Alan Goldberg has been encouraged by everything he has seen recently from Grade 1 winner Force the Pass, who tops a 10-horse field in the $75,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes, the feature race on Monmouth Park’s Saturday, May 5, opening card.

 But the veteran conditioner also knows there’s no way to accurately predict how a horse will perform following an injury-induced 20-month layoff – even if all indications are that the 6-year-old son of Speightstown is poised for a big effort.

“He’s training unbelievably well,” Goldberg said. “Is it going to equate into how he is going to run? I don’t know. Has he lost something? I don’t know that either. I won’t know until he runs. But he’s acting great, he looks great and he has been training great.”

The Cliff Hanger Stakes, at a mile on the grass for 3 year olds and up, headlines a nine-race opening card that serves as the lead-in to the 144th Kentucky Derby, which has a scheduled post time of 6:46 p.m. The first live race of the 52-day Monmouth meeting has a special 1:45 post time on Saturday.

Force the Pass, a homebred owned by Colts Neck Stables, was last seen finishing third in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Turf Cup Stakes at Laurel Park on Sept. 24, 2016. His breakout 2015 campaign was topped by a victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, which served as the catalyst to a year that saw him bank more than $1.1 million.

“He came back with an injury out of the Laurel race,” said Goldberg. “We started training him again and he was going pretty good and then one thing led to another and we had to stop on him again for a while.

“Ever since we started back again with him this time he’s been great. Am I going to be disappointed if he runs horribly? Yes, I guess I would. That’s because he is doing as good as a horse can do.”

Force the Pass shows a 4-4-4 line from 13 career starts, with career earnings of $1,262.154. He has a 2-3-2 line from eight starts at the Cliff Hanger’s one mile distance.

The Cliff Hanger Stakes, and the live card, complement the Shore’s Biggest Kentucky Derby Party on Saturday. Gates open at 10 a.m. to accommodate a Kentucky Derby card with a first race post time of 10:30 a.m.

Among the day’s other events and promotions:

A Best Derby Hat and Best Dressed Couple contest, sponsored by vineyard vines;

Live music by Moroccan Sheepherders;

A red carpet photo op;

Family Fun Day activities (free to children 12 and under), which include a bounce house, clowns, face painting and pony rides;

Mint juleps, the official Kentucky Derby drink, will be available;

An appearance by the vineyard vines mascot.

Monmouth Park’s meeting runs from the Saturday opener through Sunday, Sept. 9 and is highlighted by the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Sunday, July 29.

Post time for Saturdays and Sundays starting May 12 will be at 12:50 p.m. On Thursdays and Fridays in the summer it will be at 1:15 p.m. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. on those days.

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