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Double Thunder Rallies Late To Take Sapling At Monmouth

In a field of 2-year-olds going a mile for the first time, favorite Double Thunder grabbed his third win in four starts with a late rally to win the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Super Saver colt had to go three-wide on the far turn to find running room, giving Monmouth’s leading jockey Paco Lopez another win at the track’s summer meet.

Breaking from post one, Lopez took Double Thunder back early, sitting fifth on the rail behind leaders Under the Gun and Midnight Worker. After fractions of :23.87 for the first quarter and :47.54 for the half mile, Double Thunder was boxed in on the rail and shuffled back to sixth entering the far turn as Midnight Worker caught Under the Gun and moved to the lead, Chancellor Bay tracking him.

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On the turn, Lopez moved his colt to the outside, going three-wide to find racing room as the field entered the stretch. Into the Monmouth straight, Chancellor Bay took over the lead from Midnight Worker as both American Sanctuary and Double Thunder rallied to his outside, both catching Chancellor Bay in the last sixteenth of a mile. Double Thunder was fastest to the wire, sprinting by American Sanctuary to win the Sapling by a half-length.

The race’s final time for the mile over a fast track was 1:38.76. Find this race’s chart here.

Double Thunder paid $4.20, $2.60, and $2.40. American Sanctuary paid $4.80 and $3.40. Midnight Worker paid $3.60.

“In the mornings it took him a little while to figure things out but his gate works showed he was probably going to be okay. I don’t think there was any concern about going two turns for the first time. If you look at all of his races it seems like he breaks a little slow, a step slow, but he always seems to come running. So I didn’t think that would be an issue. We were actually waiting for him to go longer. I’m pleased with the way he ran. He took dirt, he got in trouble by coming in and going out, so it wasn’t the best of trips and he still won,” Anthony Sciametta, assistant to Todd Pletcher, said after the Sapling.

“It was a tough trip for sure. They didn’t make it easy for him. The horse broke well today. I was surprised he broke that well – maybe because he was on the rail. I don’t know. I didn’t want him that close early so I tried to get him to settle but it was a very rough trip,” Paco Lopez told the Monmouth Press Office after the race. “For a while a had nowhere to go. (American Sanctuary) had me pinned in. Finally, he made his move at the eighth pole and I was able to get some room to get my horse running. I think (American Sanctuary) moved a little too early, which was good for me. I had nowhere to go for a while. I was waiting on that horse and he finally went and that helped me.”

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and out of the Tapit mare Rattataptap, Double Thunder is owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III. He was purchased by agent Gerard Butler from Taylor Made Sales Agency for $60,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase.

Value Proposition Best in Red Bank At Monmouth

Klaravich Stables’ Value Proposition cruised home to a nearly three-length victory in the $150,000 Red Bank Stakes on Saturday afternoon at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.

The Chad Brown-trainee was dispatched the 3-10 favorite in the field that scratched down to four runners. The 5-year-old ridgling stepped the flat mile over “good” turf in 1:38.18 and paid $2.60 and $2.10. Pacesetter Proven Strategies held for second and paid $2.60 to place, with Reconvene checking in third and Vanzzy rounding out the field. There was no show wagering.

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“I just took a hold of him early on,” said winning jockey Paco Lopez, after riding his sixth winner of the day. “He was running so smoothly the whole way. When we got to the three-eighths pole, I moved him into position to strike and in the lane, he just cruised home. He was much the best and I rode him that way.”

A son of Dansili (GB) from the Diktat (GB) mare Dash To The Front (GB), Value Proposition improved his lifetime mark to 5-1-3 from 11 starts, good for earnings of $359,773.

Live racing continues at Monmouth Park on Sunday, Sept. 5, with a first post of 12:15 pm.

An old favorite wins by a nose in the Grade 3 Parx Dash

Chasing the pace early and trading the lead with rivals in the homestretch, heavy betting favorite The Critical Way (1-5) got his head down first at the wire and won by a nose Tuesday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Parx Dash Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint at Parx Racing.

Owned by Monster Racing and trained by José Delgado, the 7-year-old Tizway gelding ran his winning streak to three races, all stakes and all with Paco López riding.

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Battle Station (9-1), a 6-year-old gelding that was claimed this summer at Saratoga and sent from trainer Rob Atras to the barn of Danny Velázquez, finished second. Francatelli (7-2), a 4-year-old gelding, set the early pace and was a head behind in third. He was two lengths clear of fourth-place So Street (15-1), another 4-year-old gelding who has lost his last 14 starts.

The winning time on the firm turf was 58.55 seconds off early fractions of 23.03 and 46.44 seconds. There were seven starters left after four scratches from the primary field.

The Parx Dash was originally scheduled for last Tuesday but was postponed because of wet weather in Bensalem, Pa. The $200,000 Parx Dash (G3) serves as the prep for the $300,000 Turf Monster (G3), to be run on Saturday, Sept. 25 at Parx Racing.

Lopez Wins With Amatteroftime, Alta Velocita On New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day

It only seemed fitting that a day celebrating New Jersey-bred horses belonged to jockey Paco Lopez, trainer Kelly Breen, and breeder-owner John Bowers.

Lopez, who tied his own Monmouth Park record by riding seven winners on Saturday, captured two of the three stakes races during Sunday’s New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., while Breen won the $100,000 New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap with Pickin’ Time, last year’s champion New Jersey-bred 2-year-old.

Pickin’ Time, who held off Golden Brown to win by 1¾ lengths in the six-furlong New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap for 3-year-olds and up, is owned and was bred by John Bowers.

Bowers was honored during the day as the 2020 New Jersey Breeder of the Year.

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“It’s great that Pickin’ Time and Mr. (John) Bowers would win this race on Jersey-bred day,” said Breen. “He’s a top breeder. It’s difficult when you have a top 2-year-old and you have to transition to 3. Then at 3, having to run against older horses in a race like this like Golden Brown, who is a top older horse, one of the best Jersey-breds ever.

“We knew we had our work cut out for us. Our horse was training well and doing well. I’m just glad he showed up. We talked a lot about the cut back (to six furlongs from a mile and an eighth in the TVG.com Haskell Invitational in his last start). We sharpened him up with the breezes. We did all I thought we needed him to do to get him ready for a top effort off the shelf. He showed up. They went fast. But he’s a fast horse too.”

Ridden by Nik Juarez, Pickin’ Time looped three-wide coming out of the final turn while Golden Brown, ridden by Lopez, shot the rail.

“It was for the best that I had to go wide coming out of the final turn,” said Juarez. “The favorite (Golden Brown) was down on the rail so I wanted to get the jump before he got through and make sure I was clear and kick some dirt. We were able to get the jump on him and that made a difference.”

Pickin’ Time, making his first start since being elevated to fourth in the Grade 1 Haskell, returned $8.60 to win.

The winning time for the son of Stay Thirsty was 1:09.58, with Dr. Doyle getting third.

The other two stakes races on the 12-race card for state-breds belonged to Lopez.

The track’s leading rider guided Amatteroftime to a 4¾-length victory over Prendimi in the $125,000 Charles Hesse III Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth and also captured the $100,000 Eleven North Handicap, doing so with a rousing stretch run that saw Alta Velocita get up to win by a nose over Jersey Jewel.

Amatteroftime, trained by Silvino Ramirez, earned his first stakes win since capturing the 2018 New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap. The 6-year-old gelding is now 5-for-13 at Monmouth Park during his career.

Amatteroftime paid $5.40 to win, covering the mile and a sixteenth in 1:44.49. Optic Way finished third, another two lengths back.

Lopez’s victory in the six-furlong Eleven North aboard Alta Velocita wasn’t nearly as easy, with the filly rallying from eighth, seven lengths back, at the quarter pole, finally catching Jersey Jewel on the wire. The winning time was 1:10.45.

Though Alta Velocita has won four of her last five starts, the Eleven North marked the first stakes victory in her 15-race career.

“At the top of the stretch, I was hoping we’d get fourth because of how far back she was. Maybe fifth and then a long drive home,” said winning trainer Andrew Simoff. “As it got closer my hopes picked up. I still didn’t she was going to get there inside the sixteenth pole. She had that late surge and switched to that right lead and took off and that was it.”

Alta Velocita returned $6.20 in the field of 11 fillies and mares, three and up.

“At the five-eighths and then the half-mile pole I was thinking `she is dead last,’ ” said Lopez, who is virtually assured of his eighth Monmouth Park riding title. “I let her go very wide and let her do her thing. She was flying. I think she made up 10 lengths in the stretch.”

Vigilantes Way Among Seven Lopez Winners at Monmouth

Paco LopezIt may be true that records are made to be broken, but jockey Paco Lopez keeps tying his own at Monmouth Park. Lopez matched the record he set twice in 2014 by winning seven races on Aug. 28 14-race card, capping the performance with a half-length victory aboard Phipps Stable’s homebred Vigilantes Way in the $100,000 Miss Liberty Stakes.

Lopez, well on his way to an eighth Monmouth Park riding title, won five consecutive races spanning the fifth through ninth races before matching his track record in the co-featured Miss Liberty Stakes aboard the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro.

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“When I looked at the horses I was riding today I felt good. I felt quite a few had a shot,” said Lopez, who won the Charles Town Oaks (G3) aboard R Adios Jersey Aug. 27 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. “I am very grateful to do this again. I guess the next thing I have to get to is eight wins here.”

The Shug McGaughey-trained Vigilantes Way ($3.20) covered 1 1/16 miles over a turf course listed as “good” in 1:43.14, having just enough to hold off the late-running Miss Teheran . It was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third to Counterparty Risk .

Also on Saturday, Peace Sign Stable’s Belgrano scored a two-length victory in the $100,000 Rainbow Heir Stakes under Issac Castillo. It marked the first time 79-year-old trainer Frank Russo saddled a winner in a six-figure race.

Paco Lopez ties own Monmouth record with 7 wins, including stakes

It may be true that records are made to be broken, but jockey Paco Lopez keeps tying his own one at Monmouth Park.

Lopez matched the record he set twice in 2014 by winning seven races on Saturday’s 14-race card, capping the performance with a half-length victory aboard Vigilantes Way in the $100,000 Miss Liberty Stakes.

Lopez, well on his way to an eighth Monmouth Park riding title, won five consecutive races spanning the fifth through ninth races before matching his track record in the co-featured Miss Liberty Stakes aboard the heavily-favored Vigilantes Way.

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Trained by Shug McGaughey, Vigilantes Way rebounded from a loss in the Grade 1 Diana in her last start. Prior to that she won the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 20.

In the co-featured $100,000 Rainbow Heir Stakes at 5½ furlongs on the turf, Belgrano found an opening along the rail early in the stretch and burst through for a two-length victory. It marked the first time 79-year-old trainer Frank Russo saddled a winner in a six-figure race.

But the day belong to Lopez, the runaway leader in the Monmouth Park jockey standings with 72. Isaac Castillo, who rode Belgrano to victory, is second with 40 winners.

“I think I was very lucky today,” said Lopez, who won the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks aboard R Adios Jersey on Friday night. “You look at these last couple of horses I won with and they handled the track. It’s a little wet both on the dirt and turf. I’m lucky this horse (Vigilantes Way) likes this grass course.

“When I looked at the horses I was riding today I felt good. I felt quite a few had a shot. I am very grateful to do this again. I guess the next thing I have to get to is eight wins here.”

Vigilantes Way covered the mile and a sixteenth over a turf course listed as “good” in 1:43.14, having just enough to hold off the late-running Miss Teheran. It was another 1½ lengths back in third to Counterparty Risk.

The victory was the sixth in 14 career starts for the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, who was bred and is owned by the Phipps Stable. She is 2-for-2 on the Monmouth turf course.

“I was pleased with the way she ran,” said McGaughey. “It was a little bit different. She was stuck there for a minute but Paco Lopez worked out of it and we beat a nice filly who was second.

“I think she likes the quick turns. She does like Monmouth but the quick turns seem to suit her, because she has run good at Pimlico. She handles about any type of turf course. So when it rained a little it didn’t bother her. I think we’ll try her in the Violate Stakes (Sept. 25 at Monmouth Park) next.”

Vigilantes Way returned $3.20 to win in the field of six fillies and mares, three and up.

Belgrano, who won the Virgil “Buddy” Raines Stakes at Monmouth Park a year ago, earned his fourth win in six starts on the track’s turf course. The 7-year-old gelding was coming off a six-length win in handicap company at a mile, with the shorter distance proving to be no issue. He finished two lengths ahead of Grateful Bred, who was a neck better than The Connector.

Belgrano returned $8.40 to win in the field of nine 3-year-olds, flashing under the wire in 1:02.52.

“After this race I think I can say for sure that this is the best horse I have ever had,” said Russo, who has been training since 1976. “I thought it might be tough for him at the end, especially going shorter, but he sort of got his way at the beginning of the stretch when the rail opened. It was a perfect trip.

“It’s a great feeling. This is the biggest race (purse-wise) I have ever won. I was worried about the rain. If it was off the turf we were out. So I’m happy it stayed on the grass. I think he is at his best right now. Could not be happier with him than I am right now.”

R Adios Jersey Wins Charles Town Oaks To Remain Unbeaten In Five Starts

R Adios Jersey was hustled to the front at the start under Paco Lopez and was never headed en route to a 3 1/4-length victory in Friday night’s $400,000, Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks in Charles Town, W. Va.

Pauline’s Pearl finished second, with Allworthy third and 7-10 favorite Caramel Swirl fourth in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies.

The winner, a Florida-bred 3-year-old filly by Adios Charlie out of Marion Theatre, by Montbrook, paid $12.80 as the second wagering choice after running seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.37. R Adios Jersey set fractions of :22.24, :46.27 and 1;11.06 along the way. The filly earned $230,400.

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“I sent her and I got her into the race very good,” said Lopez. “I know the horse and she’s very fast. I tried to save her a little bit because the last time I rode her at Tampa, she got a little tired. … I wanted to go and try and sit second with her but the owners said I had to send her and I have to listen to the boss.”

“Turning for home she started to get really tired. She was running very hard all the time, that filly. But Georgina [Baxter] the trainer told me, Paco, that filly is ready.”

R Adios Jersey is owned by Averill Racing LLC and ATM Racing. She is trained by Georgina Baxter, a former exercise rider who in 2018 took over the racing stable of Ralph Ziadie, whose Florida trainer’s license was not renewed by regulators after an unusually high number of medication violations. Ziadie’s son, Kirk, is serving a six-year ban for repeated medication violations. Baxter has won at a 27% clip since taking out her trainer’s license.

R Adios Jersey, bred in Florida by Ocala Stud and Mike O’Farrelll, won her previous four starts in Florida, including a stakes triumph at Tampa Bay Downs in her most recent start on March 28.

Iselin puts Code of Honor back in the win column

Racing for the first time in seven months, Code of Honor won for the first time in six starts, proving much the best in the Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes.

Code of Honor traveled sweetly throughout the 1 1/16-mile Iselin and jockey Paco Lopez, who has been putting on a riding clinic this summer, made the most of his live mount. Lopez left his rail spot stalking the pace from mid-pack at about the five-furlong marker, keeping the best horse in the Iselin out of trouble. From that point, Code of Honor’s six opponents were in trouble. The even-money favorite won by 2 1/2 lengths, breezing across the finish in what looked like a perfect comeback run for a horse whose connections will chase bigger game in the autumn.

“This is the first time he has run in a long time,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Code of Honor for his breeder, William Farish. “With my training, I don’t try to overdo it. I think he could have been drifting out a little at the end. Maybe he was getting a little tired, I don’t know. But we got it in him, and we got a win and hopefully we can go on to some other things down the road. We’ll see how he comes out of it, but I think it sets us up pretty good.”

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McGaughey didn’t name a race but mentioned an early October stakes at Belmont, which would be the Oct. 2 Woodward over nine furlongs, as Code of Honor’s likely next stop, all being well.

It’s easy to forget what a rising star Code of Honor seemed two Augusts ago, when he won the Travers, and a month later the Belmont stewards reversed his narrow defeat by Vino Rosso in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Vino Rosso went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but Code of Honor finished a flat seventh in the race, didn’t start again until the following June, and while effective at times, has never quite gotten back to his peak.

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Saturday’s start was a step in the right direction. Code of Honor broke alertly and took Lopez – if not the other way around – right into the Iselin. Code of Honor settled in fourth while in front of him three horses, West Will Power, Brice, and I’m a G Six, volleyed for the lead. The first quarter-mile was slow, the second one considerably quicker for a half-mile split of 47.72, and by then Lopez had Code of Honor outside.

Going three paths wide around I’m a G Six and Brice, Code of Honor had the lead at the three-furlong pole. Into the stretch Lopez looked over his left shoulder, his right shoulder, saw nothing and was able to ease up on his mount the final half-furlong. Winning time was 1:42.38 over a fast track, good enough for a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. Code of Honor paid $4.

Phat Man was geared up for this race and Lopez said that was the horse he looked out for after making the lead, but Phat Man, rallying mildly and wide, never threatened the winner. West Will Power, running an odd race, and still a work in progress, came back on Phat Man and edged him by a neck for second.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Lopez said of Code of Honor. “He was strong. You could not tell he was off as long as he was. He was very comfortable the whole time.”

The 2021 Travers comes next weekend, harking back to Code of Honor’s high point, reached as a 3-year-old. Two years on, Code of Honor hinted he still could make a dent in the top of the older-male dirt division.

Code of Honor Shakes Off Cobwebs to Win Iselin

Whatever plans trainer Shug McGaughey settles on going forward with Code of Honor he now has the perfect set-up race behind him to work off.

Code of Honor, the 2019 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) runner-up and Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) winner, easily shook off the cobwebs from a seven-month layoff, rolling to a 2 1/2-length victory in the Aug. 21 $252,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park.

Ridden by Paco Lopez, the multiple grade 1 winner outclassed his six rivals despite being idle since a fifth-place finish in the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

“I thought he ran good. I was pleased, very pleased,” said McGaughey. “Paco Lopez let him break and run away from there. He knows that racetrack and he had him laying up a little closer than he usually is and made his move kind of early on to try to go on and get the thing over with. He rode a really nice race on him.”

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Lopez, well on his way to an eighth Monmouth Park riding title, was able to get the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Noble Mission into a spot along the rail off of early frontrunners I’m a G Six, West Will Power, and Brice. Following an opening quarter in :24.42, with the half going in :47.59, Lopez slipped Code of Honor outside to give him clear run.

He took off after the leaders through six furlongs reached in 1:10.77 and was rolling three-wide coming out of the turn, drawing off with ease. West Will Power finished second, a neck ahead of Phat Man .

The winning time for the mile and a sixteenth was 1:42.38.

“Once he was clear and on the outside I felt good, said Lopez. “He’s a very nice horse. He was strong. You could not tell he was off as long as he was. He was very comfortable the whole time. I was waiting a little bit in the stretch for Phat Man to make a run at us but my horse was just too good.”

The W. S. Farish homebred paid $4.00 to win. He is one of eight winners out of his dam, the graded-winning Dixie Union mare Reunited. Among her two unraced foals is a 2-year-old colt by Honor Code named Sidekick.

The victory improved Code of Honor’s overall line to 7-4-2 from 17 starts and boosted his career earnings to $2,881,320. Six of those victories have come in graded stakes.

“This is the first time he has run in a long time,” said McGaughey. “With my training I don’t try to overdo it. I think he could have been drifting out a little at the end. Maybe he was getting a little tired, I don’t know. But we got it in him and we got a win and hopefully we can go on to some other things down the road.

“We’ll see how he comes out of it but I think it sets us up pretty good. I’d like to think about a race at Belmont Park the first part of October. This will take a little bit out of him, shipping (from Saratoga) and running and now you’ve got to ship back. It’s not 50 degrees. It’s hot. I’ll be glad to get him back up to Saratoga and watch him for a few days. We’ll take it easy with him and go from there.”

Real Talk takes early lead all the way in Jersey Shore Stakes

Real talk – you can’t break much faster than Real Talk did Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Doing his best Quarter Horse impression, Real Talk rocketed out of the starting gate to open a clear early lead in a race with several other pace players, and, after fending off a midrace challenge from Fire Sword, went on to a sharp 4 1/2-length score in the $100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes.

Real Talk ran six furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.02 and paid $6.40 to win this race restricted to 3-year-olds. Paco Lopez rode the winner for trainer David Carlos and owner Bell Racing.

If any horse in the Jersey Shore looked like the speed of the speed it was Mighty Mischief, but he was a couple lengths behind after Real Talk’s perfect beginning.

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“He just broke out of the gate so fast,” Lopez said. “He was right on top after the gate opened. It reminded me of when I rode Quarter Horses.”

Fire Sword threw in the towel past the three-furlong marker and three-wide Mighty Mischief tried to take up the chase, but he was left reeling by the winner in upper stretch while holding on for second. Then came Moonlite Strike, Fire Sword, Upstriker, and American Gentleman. Indian Lake was scratched.

Second last out in the Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream, Real Talk now is a four-time winner from 10 stars, with this his first stakes tally. The Florida-bred is by Gemologist out of Woodland Walk, by Bernardini.

*** On Saturday, Introduced won her second race in a row this summer at Monmouth, pushing past pacesetting Running Memories in deep stretch to win the $102,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes by three quarters of a length. Introduced, trained by Jorge Duarte Jr. for Richard Santulli’s Colts Neck Stable, ran 5 1/2 furlongs over firm turf in 1:02.50 and paid $10.60 to win.

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