News & Barn notes

Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes A Tough Challenge For Longshot Viva Vegas

June 28, 2018

Miss Liberty_300

In a field with two Chad Brown-trained fillies and a horse that defeated his last time out, trainer Derek Ryan is realistic when it comes to Viva Vegas’ chances in Saturday’s Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes. 

“It’s a tough race for her,” he said. “The hope is she hits the board so we can get her some graded black type.” 

The 47th running of the Eatontown Stakes, at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-up, has drawn a field of eight. The $100,000 supporting stakes on the 13-race card will go as the ninth race. 

“It’s not the distance that concerns me,” said Ryan. “She’s just that much short of being a good turf horse. Hopefully, she’ll surprise us. She’s training great. She’s doing great.” 

Viva Vegas, a 4-year-old daughter of The Factor-Viva Vega, comes in off a second place finish in the Miss Liberty Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf on June 9 at Monmouth Park. She was beaten 1¼ lengths that race by the Michael Dickinson-trained Lift Up, who is also in the Eatontown Stakes field. 

Ryan has had Viva Vegas for her past 11 starts, taking over her training duties from Bob Baffert. She shows a 3-4-0 line from 15 career starts and a 3-3-0 line from 10 lifetime grass starts. 

“She’s coming off a good race, so that gives us a little reason to hope,” Ryan said. “(Jockey) Carlos Hernandez did a nice job with her last time. So who knows? Maybe he can get lucky and get his first graded stakes win with her.” 

The two Brown-trained fillies offer a formidable presence, though. Dream Awhile comes off a strong third-place finish in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on May 5 and has only missed the board once in nine lifetime starts. Stablemate Elysea’s World won the Grade 3 Suwannee River Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 10, beating Dream Awhile by a neck. 

In addition, trainer Shug McGaughey has the speedster Special Event set to go just nine days after a second-place finish (by a neck) in an $80,000 optional claimer at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass at Belmont Park on June 21.