News & Barn notes

Cox-Trained Salute The Stars Upsets 1-2 Favorite Kingsbarns In Saturday’s TVG.Com Pegasus Stakes On Haskell Preview Day

June 17, 2023

Trainer Brad Cox made history a year ago when Cyberknife won the Haskell Stakes in record time. Now he has a chance to tie another prestigious record in Monmouth Park’s showcase race.

Salute the Stars, in Cox’s care for just the second race of his career, surged from off the pace to catch 1-2 favorite Kingsbarns on the way to a neck victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds on Haskell Preview Day at the Shore track.

By winning the Pegasus Stakes, the local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Stakes on July 22, owners Gary and Mary West received a free entry and start fees to Monmouth Park’s premier race. And that means Cox has a chance to match Bob Baffert as the only trainers in the race’s history to win it three straight years.

Cox won the Haskell in 2021 with Mandaloun and last year with Cyberknife.

“We’ll see (about the Haskell),” said Trace Messina, Cox’s assistant. “Obviously that’s an option. We have a lot of 3-year-olds in this division. But that’s a possibility for sure.”

Ridden by Joe Rosario, Salute the Stars, sent off at 5-2 in the field of six 3-year-olds, kicked off a stakes-filled 14-race card that saw the Chad Brown-trained Consumer Spending ($11.00) follow by winning the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes by three-quarters of a length, out-finishing 13-10 favorite Surprisingly.

In the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, Petulante was able to collar Nimitz Class late for a half-length victory, and in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes 6-1 Catnip rallied for a half-length victory over Never Explain, as multiple Grade 1 winner Tribhuvan showed the rust from a lengthy layoff by fading to fourth after setting soft early fractions in the nine-furlong grass race.

Additionally, early longshots on the card created a Pick 5 carryover of $74,986 that will start in the Win Early Pick 5 in the first race on Sunday’s card.

Salute the Stars, a West homebred and son of Candy Ride, made his debut for Cox on May 14 at Churchill Downs in an off-the-turf allowance.

“We liked him a lot first time out,” said Messina. “We were going back and forth, dirt or turf, and we said let’s just run him on the grass. And then the race came off. It gave us the option to see what he was like on the dirt. Not against true dirt horses but it was competitive field that day.

“I was not feeling good on the backside (this race). He was too aggressive going into the first turn. On the backside Joel did a good job getting him to relax. Even at the three-eighths pole I thought `he’s not going anywhere.’ But when he straightened out he got going.”

The winning time for the mile and sixteenth was 1:43.87, with Kingsbarns finishing 2½ lengths ahead of Howgreatisnate in third.

Consumer Spending, who had the benefit of a race following a length layoff, added a second graded stakes win to her credentials. The 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, owned by Klaravich Stables and ridden by Samy Camacho, had been tracking the leaders in fourth in the mile and a sixteenth grass race before kicking in.

The winning time was 1:42.00

Petulante, trained by Victor Barboza and ridden by Luis Saez, scored his first graded stakes win in the Salvator Mile, improving his career line to 6-4-2-0 for owners Lugamo Racing Stabler.

The 4-year-old colt’s late run and strong stretch kick ended Nimitz Class’ five-race winning streak.

The winning time was 1:36.88

Catnip, also ridden by Rosario, improved to 3-for-3 as a 4-year-old – and since being gelded – in winning the Monmouth Stakes for trainer Michael Stidham in an oddly run race that saw the patience displayed by Rosario pay off.

“He always had the potential,” said Stidham. “We ran him in the Virginia Derby (last year) and it was probably a little premature where he was mentally and physically. So after he had time off before he came back this year we gelded him and that has really helped a lot. He hasn’t lost since then. Mentally, he’s a little more relaxed, a little more focused, and just a better race horse.”

The win gave owners Susan and John More free entry and start fees to the Grade 1, $600,000 United Nations on Haskell Day.

“We’ll certainly be looking next in the direction of the United Nations,” said Stidham.