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Name Changer heads back to the barn after winning the Monmouth Cup (G3).
The 37,186 fans who came out to Monmouth Park on Sunday afternoon for the Betfair Haskell Invitational (G1) to witness Good Magic romp as the 1-2 favorite also enjoyed 5 stakes races on the undercard. Conditions were excellent on the Jersey Shore with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's. The main track was rated fast and the turf was firm.
The $150,000 Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3), originally run as the Meadowlands Cup, featured a field of 6 older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Suburban (G2) 6th place finisher Zanotti was the 8-5 favorite over 7-2 Remembering Rita, winner of the Cornhusker Handicap (G3), and 4-1 Phat Man, an allowance winner last out.
Jockey Luis Saez sent Phat Man to the lead through fractions of 23.48 and 47.86 while pressed by Remembering Rita and stalked by 9-2 Name Changer. At the 3/8 pole Remembering Rita gained a short lead through 3/4 in 1:11.50, but into the lane, jockey Jose Ortiz sent Name Changer to challenge and he took over midstretch through 1 mile in 1:36.63. Kept to task by Ortiz, Name Changer outfinished late-running Zanotti by 1/2 a length in 1:49.56. It was a long 5 lengths back to 4-1 Page McKenney third.
Left: Name Changer returns after the race. Winning trainer Alan Goldberg said, "Today I thought we'd be a little farther back but I thought that with the horses in first (Phat Man) and second (Remembering Rita) early he'd be out there going with them. This horse has been breaking better than he did in the past. He broke good, maintained his position and everything was cool from there."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Zanotti in the paddock. The Juan Carlos Guerrero trainee improved his record to 7 wins, 8 seconds, and 2 thirds in 24 starts, earning $391,904 for owner Ten Strike Racing.
The $102,000 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes (G3) featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Eatontown (G3) winner Dream Awhile was the 7-10 favorite over 7-2 Lift Up, winner of the Miss Liberty Stakes, and 9-2 Elysea's World, 3rd in the Eatontown.
19-1 Viva Vegas and 8-1 Special Event dueled for the lead through fractions of 24.79, 48.31, and 1:11.67 while stalked by 43-1 longest shot Broken Bridle and favorite Dream Awhile. Entering the lane, Dream Awhile gained the lead through 1 mile in 1:35.39, but Elysea's World, 5th early under Jose Ortiz, rallied 3 wide to win by a neck in 1:47.70. It was a long 5 lengths back to Special Event third.
Left: Elysea's World heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, ?When we passed the 3/8 pole I didn't think we could catch the other filly because Joe (Bravo, aboard Dream Awhile) was going pretty easy. I was already trying to get close to him and he was already passing horses on the outside very easy. When we passed the quarter-pole I still didn't think I would get there. I kept riding my horse, riding my horse, and when we got to the sixteenth pole I thought, `Now I've got a shot.' My filly got a little bit of momentum and we got clear on the outside."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Dream Awhile in the post parade. Trainer Chad Brown, who trains the first two finishers, said, "In a situation like this you're hoping for a dead heat – and we almost got it. These fillies are so close. They were equal weights today, which made a difference. Both of them I though got good trips. They were a nose apart. They're that close in ability, so it was nice to see tem both on the wire. Elysea's World really had a bad trip last race. She was wide and it just didn't work out for her. She had trained very well coming up to this race, as did Dream Awhile. They both fired their best shot."
The $104,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) featured a field of 8 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Lady's Secret winner Divine Miss Grey was the 4-5 favorite over 4-1 Berned, 6th in the Ogden Phipps (G1), and 4-1 Unchained Melody, 5th in the Ogden Phipps.
Divine Miss Grey was quickest away through an opening quarter of 23.51 before Unhained Melody took over through a half in 46.80 and 3/4 in 1:11.26. Turning for home, jockey Joe Bravo, 6th early aboard Berned, came out 3 wide and swept to the lead, opening up by 2 1/2 lengths through 1 mile in 1:37.62. Kept to task by Bravo, Berned held off late-running 5-1 Dreamcall by 3/4 length in 1:44.52. It was a long 5 1/2 lengths back to favorite Divine Miss Grey third.
Left: Berned returns after the race. Winning jockey Joe Bravo said, "I took her off the pace because I knew the horses up front were going quickly. Down the back side, I started to creep up a little at a time. When we got to the top of the stretch, I knew I had the two in front beat. The only thing I was worried about from that point was the horse tracking me. I'm blessed to ride these amazing horses and I can't thank the connections enough for letting me ride this filly. She is special."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Divine Miss Grey leads first time by. The Danny Gargan trainee improved her record to 9 wins, 4 seconds, and 1 third in 19 starts, earning $483,672 for owners Corms Racing Stable and R. A. Hill Stable.
Kicking off the Saturday stakes sextet was the $102,000 Oceanport Stakes (G3) for older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) and Arlington Handicap (G3) third place finisher Synchrony was the 7-10 favorite in the field of 7 over 4-1 Irish Strait, winner of the Dan Horn Handicap, and 6-1 Force the Pass, 6th in the Poker (G3).
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche sent 9-1 Mo Maverick to a clear lead through easy fractions of 25.56, 49.93, and 1:12.89 while stalked by 18-1 Doctor Mounty and 32-1 Dover Cliffs. Entering the stretch Mo Maverick continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:36.37 but tired late. Synchrony, 6th early under Joe Bravo, rallied on the inside to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths over Doctor Mounty in 1:42.05. It was another 3/4 length back to Irish Strait third.
Left: Synchrony heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Joe Bravo said, "I got shut off at the start, got him to relax nicely behind horses going down the backside. Approaching the far turn, I was getting a little worried there would be no place to go. When the hole opened up along the rail, he exploded late."
Right: Synchrony in the post parade. Winning trainer Mike Stidham said, "He's a very classy horse who showed up today like we thought he would. He was able to give that good turn of foot when he needed it. The horse got murdered at the start. But the horse has shown he can sit back or lay a little closer if they are going slow. Today I was worried because they went 25.56 for the opening quarter and he was way back in the pack. But when you've got a lot of horse the hole isn't moving faster than you are. You're moving faster than the hole."
Immediately before the Haskell, a field of 11 older horses contested the $81,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. 11-1 Ray'swarrior led the early stakes while pressed by 4-1 Pool Winner and stalked by 6-5 favorite Imprimis. Entering the lane jockey Jose Ortiz sent Imprimis to the front and he took over for good, holdng off Pool Winner by a length in 1:01.69. It was another 1 1/4 length back to 13-2 Proforma third.
Winning trainer Joe Orseno said, "This was a big race for him today because we wanted to get him back on track. He hasn't been in his own stall (at Monmouth) for a while, so it's nice to just be able to walk him over to the paddock. There's nothing wrong with the MATCH bonuses for the owners or the trainers. But the owners want to get to the Breeders' Cup, and the question is, ‘Will the Laurel race be a good enough prep to get him there?' We'll look at it as it gets closer."
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