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Lopez, Navarro, Red Oak And High Point Take 2013 Titles

Jockey Paco LopezMonmouth Park Racetrack concluded its 61-day racing season on Sunday, sporting across the board gains in attendance, on-track and simulcast handle.

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Through a lease from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) signed on May 4, 2012, Monmouth Park is marking its first full year under new leadership, with Darby Development LLC the operating manager.

“We knew last year would prove a good starting point,” said Dennis Drazin, advisor to Darby Development and the NJTHA. “The numbers posted this year prove that fans across the country have responded positively to our racing product, while those closer to home enjoyed great racing at one of the world’s most beautiful racetracks.”

Average attendance came in at 8,986, besting last year’s average of 8,599 by 4.5%, when Monmouth ran 65 cards. On-track wagering averaged $510,106, an 8.3% increase over 2012 as total wagering averaged $4,440,595, representing a 9.8% boost over last season.

“These numbers certainly met all expectations,” Drazin said. “We were hoping to build off of last year’s start and we have succeeded in doing so.

“We’ll look to continue this upward momentum as we strive to meet the goals set forth by ourselves just over one year ago: bring expanded gaming opportunities to the racetrack; create new family entertainment; and, provide world-class Thoroughbred racing at the Jersey Shore.”

The meet was once again highlighted by the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational, which saw Verrazano set a new win margin record, dominating his foes by 9 ¾ lengths in the Shore’s signature race. Other highlights included Big Blue Kitten’s impressive performance in the United Nations Stakes and the thrilling stretch duel between Last Gunfighter and San Pablo in the Iselin, with the former besting the latter, who was the defending champion.

“As we look to the future,” Drazin said, “we are on the brink of announcing a new off-track betting facility, we continue our work to bring sports wagering to the racetrack and have plans for enhanced on-line gaming opportunities – all geared at bringing horse racing closer to the fan.

“On-track, we will soon open the William Hill Race and Sports Bar – a state-of-the-art, Vegas-style sports book, which will offer free play on top sporting events. In addition, the entire facility will continue its transformation into a more fan-friendly, family oriented destination in the heart of the Jersey Shore.”

Paco Lopez was a runaway winner in the race for top jockey, booting home 99 winners. It was Lopez’s second Monmouth title, having taken home top honors in 2010.

Leading trainer went to Jorge Navarro, who saddled 47 winners, including a record-tying four on Sept. 22, 2013. For Navarro, a 38-year-old native of Panama, this was his first trainer’s title at any racetrack.

Red Oak Stable, who has been involved in racing for decades, enjoyed their first-ever Monmouth Park owner’s championship, having visited the winner’s circle 17 times, tying them with High Point Thoroughbred Partners, who also enjoyed their first owner’s title.

Thoroughbred racing shifts north to the Meadowlands for 10 all-turf live cards, beginning on Friday, Oct. 11. The Big M will host live racing on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays through Nov. 2 with the exception of Monday, Oct. 21, which will be a dark day.

Purple Egg handles route assignment in Barbaro

An ideal trip behind two dueling pacesetters helped Purple Egg win for the first time beyond six furlongs in Wednesday’s closing-day feature at Delaware Park, the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes for 3-year-olds.

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With Paco Lopez aboard for the first time since Purple Egg won back-to-back races to launch his career in August and September 2012, the gelded son of Lion Heart sat in third as 3-5 favorite Revocation and turf-to-dirt Team Valor runner Cerro battled through fractions of 46.27 seconds and 1:10.50. Approaching the turn for home in the 1 1/16-mile race, Cerro dropped back to third and Purple Egg launched a three-wide bid. Purple Egg forged a short advantage at the top of the stretch and cruised home 6 1/4 lengths in front, reaching the wire in 1:43.66.

Revocation held second, two lengths in front of Cerro. Keep the Canoli and Heat Press completed the order of finish.

Trained by Jane Cibelli for Goodwood Racing, Purple Egg is now 4 for 7 with earnings of
$181,900. It was his first win since he took the six-furlong Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs last December.

Flay Mignon outsprints foes in Jersey Juvenile

Flay Mignon, with Paco Lopez aboard, wins the second stakes of her career in the Jersey Juvenile.The filly Flay Mignon proved far too speedy for her four opponents in Saturday’s $60,000 New Jersey Juvenile, the final stakes of the season at Monmouth Park.

A stakes winner sprinting on turf two starts ago, Flay Mignon proved equally adept on the main track, completing six furlongs in 1:11.72 while finishing 5 3/4 lengths in front of runner-up Charleymillionaire. It was another 8 3/4 lengths back to She’s Hot Wired in third.

Sent to the front by jockey Paco Lopez, Flay Mignon ($3.40) clicked off fractions of 21.94 and 45.12 seconds. Charleymillionaire, one of only two males in the field, stayed within 1 1/2 lengths after the first half-mile, but Flay Mignon increased her advantage to four lengths at the eighth pole and widened her margin even more while being hand-ridden to the wire.

“I know that she’s a very fast filly,” said Lopez, who has been aboard for all three wins in Flay Mignon’s four-race career. “She broke really fast and went to the front easily. On the turn, I was just looking around to see if anyone was coming and didn’t see anyone.”

Flay Mignon is a home-bred daughter of Yesbyjimminy who races for owner Laurie Plesa and trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

“She’s shown how good she is and that she can run on anything,” trainer Plesa said. “We’ll see how she comes out of this and decide what’s next. We may give her some time off, but she ships to Florida on Wednesday so we’ll just wait and see.”

City of Weston rides rail to $63 upset in Gallant Bob

Coming to the quarter pole of Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx, jockey Paco Lopez, aboard 30-1 shot City of Weston, was looking for a way to get outside into the clear.

“My plan was the outside but I didn’t have a choice, so I had to come through on the rail,” Lopez said.

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The rail didn’t open until the sixteenth pole, but when it did, Lopez shot City of Weston on through and he scored a three-quarter-length victory over 2-1 favorite Clearly Now in the Gallant Bob for 3-year-olds. It was a half-length back to pace-setting Black Hornet in third. He was followed in the order of finish by Zeewat, Rainbow Heir, Majestic Hussar, English Manor, Salutos Amigos, and Amarish.

Originally carded with 14 horses, the Gallant Bob ran with nine after the scratches of Res Judicata, Distinctiv Passion, Take It Like a Man, Heaven’s Runaway, and Purple Egg.

It was the fifth win from 21 starts for City of Weston, a son of Holy Bull owned by Cloud Nine Lumoni and trained by Antonio Sano. He hadn’t won since April 27 when took the Big Drama Stakes at Calder.

City of Weston raced close up to a relatively hot pace as Black Hornet set fractions of 21.43 seconds and 43.70 for the half-mile.

Lopez had to take a hold of his horse coming to the quarter pole and he had no room to get off the rail in the stretch until inside the eighth pole when Black Hornet, under Kendrick Carmouche, drifted off the fence.

City of Weston covered the six furlongs in 1:09.63 and returned $63.

** Earlier on the card, Roadhog ($5.80), under Kendrick Carmouche, rallied outside of pace-setting S S Skittles and held off a late run from Shetan to win the $75,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for Pennsylvania-breds.

Roadhog, a 6-year-old gelding by Bowman’s Band owned by Ellendale Racing and trained by Elizabeth Merryman, covered the 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:41.47.

City of Weston Upsets Gallant Bob Field

Jockey Paco LopezAfter being bottled up mid-stretch, City of Weston and jockey Paco Lopez found room along the rail to rally past four horses and register a 30-1 shocker in the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (gr. III) Saturday, Sept. 21 at Parx Racing.

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Cloud Nine Lumoni’s 3-year-old Holy Bull colt completed the six-furlong test for 3-year-olds in 1:09.63 on a fast track to register a three-quarter-length victory over 2-1 favorite Clearly Now to secure the first graded stakes win of his career.

The victory was the first for City of Weston since April 27 when he completed a three-race win streak with a victory in the Big Drama Stakes at Calder Race Course. That win followed a stakes victory at Tampa Bay Downs and an allowance-optional claiming race score at Gulfstream Park.

The second graded stakes winner for trainer Antonio Sano, who also conditioned 2011 Azalea Stakes (gr. III) winner Devilish Lady, City of Weston entered off a runner-up finish in the Hard Spun Stakes Aug. 5 at Delaware Park.

In the Gallant Bob, City of Weston rated off the pace as Black Hornet enjoyed a clear lead through a quarter-mile in :21.43 and a half-mile in :43.37. Midway in the turn, Swale Stakes (gr. III) winner Clearly Now launched his move wide for jockey Luis Saez while Lopez looked for room in the two path while racing fourth.

Clearly Now passed the eventual winner in the stretch but once City of Weston found room inside he surged to the wire for a three-quarter-length victory. City of Weston returned $63 to win $20.80 to place, and $8 to show. Clearly Now paid $4 and $3.20 while Black Hornet held third and returned $5.60 to show.

Bred in Florida by Haras Gran Derby, City of Weston is the first stakes winner out of the Souvenir Copy mare How About Datt.

Record-Breaking Ack Ack for Pants On Fire

Pants On Fire comes home strong to win the Ack Ack HandicapPants On Fire drew away late to post a clear win in the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) Sept. 7 at Churchill Downs, completing the one-turn mile in a stakes-record time of 1:33.78.

The victory for George and Lori Hall’s homebred is the second straight graded stakes score for Pants On Fire, a 5-year-old Jump Start horse who won the Monmouth Cup Stakes (gr. II) July 28. Carrying high weight of 121 pounds in the field of eight 3-year-olds and up, Pants On Fire lowered the stakes record mark of 1:34.08 set in the 2007 Ack Ack by Istan. The track mark of 1:33.31 was set last November by Infrattini.

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After tracking in third through the far turn, jockey Paco Lopez swung out Pants On Fire for the stretch where early leader and 2-1 favorite Taptowne had opened a solid lead. But Pants On Fire, the second betting choice at 5-2, quickly gained ground, drew even just past midstretch, and then powered away to the 2 3/4-length victory.

“It was wonderful. It’s good to see him continue to run in good form. We love this horse. He’s a homebred. He’s our first homebred to have some big success,” George Hall said. “The (off the board finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands [gr. I] was obviously disappointing, but he’s still running strong and we hope he’s not hit the peak of his career yet.”

Longshot Right to Vote led early while Taptowne tracked in second with Pants On Fire and Brethren also close in the leading pack of four through a quarter mile in :22.68 and a half-mile in :45.25. Taptowne showed another gear to open a clear lead between calls in early stretch, clicking off six furlongs in a smart 1:09.38, but Pants On Fire showed a turn of foot not possessed by his rivals.

Trained by Kelly Breen, the Monmouth Cup victory had been the first graded stakes score for Pants On Fire since his 3-year-old season, when he captured the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Breen said he will consider the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) for the son of Jump Start .

“We’re coming off of a couple of good wins and, knock on wood, he stays healthy, we could go there,” Breen said. “George and I have been talking about a possible trip to Japan. They’ve been talking to us about coming over for a race there and I know it’s a different direction they run in, but it would be really neat to have a horse take you to places I’ve never been to. So, we’ll see.”

Pants On Fire returned $7 for the win, $3.40 to place and $2.60 to show. Clovertowne Farm’s Taptowne held second, returning $3.20 and $2.20 while George Kerr’s Good Morning Diva rallied for third, paying $2.60 to show. Rounding out the field of eight were Sabercat, Looking Cool, Moe Man, and Brethren, who stopped.

Pants On Fire was bred in Kentucky by the Halls’ K & G Stables. He is out of the Cape Town mare Cabo de Noche. The dark bay won for the eighth time in 22 lifetime races and boosted his earnings to $1,197,635.

Pants On Fire draws clear late in Ack Ack

Pants On Fire Wins Ack AckIt came more than two years late, but Pants On Fire finally found the Churchill Downs winner’s circle.

Ninth as the 8-1 second choice in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, the 5-year-old Pants On Fire rolled to victory Saturday night in the 21st running of the Grade 3, $110,700 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill. Paco Lopez was aboard for owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen.

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Rating kindly from just off the pace through the opening stages of the one-turn mile, Pants On Fire overtook the 2-1 favorite, Taptowne, inside the eighth pole before finishing 2 3/4 lengths to the good. He paid $7 as second choice after finishing in a stakes-record 1:33.78 over a fast track. Taptowne held second and Good Morning Diva was third in a field of eight older horses.

Pants On Fire had only one prior start at Churchill, and that was in the Derby.

“This was nice,” said Breen. “We’ll probably go straight into the Breeders’ Cup Mile now, then maybe over to Japan for a race after that. They’ve been kind of hinting around at us coming over there, and that could be fun.”

Pants On Fire, a Kentucky-bred by Jump Start, now has won 8 of 22 career starts. He spotted his rivals 3 to 7 pounds as the 121-pound highweight.

Flashy American prevails in Locust Grove

Flashy American ($5.20) wore down Wine Princess in the final 70 yards to take a hard-earned 1 1/4-length victory in the $111,400 Locust Grove. Awesome Flower was another 5 3/4 lengths back in a field of eight fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile race. The winning time was 1:43.53.

Corey Lanerie, who won the Grade 2 Pocahontas one race earlier on the card, was aboard Flashy American for Preston Stables and trainer Ken McPeek. Flashy American, a 4-year-old gray filly by Flashy Bull, now has won 4 of her last 5 starts and was coming off a victory in a restricted stakes at Saratoga.

Ribo Bobo runs win streak to seven in Icecapade Stakes

Rico Bobo wins the $72,750 Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park.Jason Servis liked Ribo Bobo so much, he claimed him twice over the winter at Gulfstream Park.

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The trainer’s confidence in the 5-year-old gelding was rewarded when Ribo Bobo extended his winning streak to seven with a five-length win over Immortal Eyes in the $72,750 Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The Labor Day card closed out the core portion of the Monmouth season. Racing continues on a two day schedule – Saturdays and Sundays – through Oct. 6.

The six-furlong Icecapade, the final open stakes of the year in New Jersey, dwindled down to only four runners on the wet-fast track.

Even with a small field, the Icecapade was still an interesting contest. It pitted Rio Bobo – claimed by Servis for $8,000 and lost to a claim in his next start before Servis reclaimed him for keeps for $6,250 – against Immortal Eyes who was 3 for 3 at the meet, including wins in the Mr. Prospector and Teddy Drone Stakes.

He Can Run, winner of two of his last three, and Royal Currier, a multiple stakes winner at Monmouth, completed the field.

Immortal Eyes grabbed the early lead under pressure from He Can Run. Ribo Bobo and jockey Gabriel Saez pounced on the leaders midway on the turn.

Ribo Bobo had the momentum, but Immortal Eyes fought on. It was clear at the top of the stretch that Ribo Bobo was winning this duel.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Saez said. “It was my first time on him and just wanted to sit off the speed a little bit, and he got the job done.”

Immortal Eyes, the 9-10 favorite, held second by a half-length over He Can Run, with Royal Currier the trailer.

Ribo Bobo paid $5.40 to win as the second choice. The time was 1:10.13.

Indian Spell scores at 16-1 in four-horse Miss Woodford

Indian Spell, with Gabriel Saez aboard, holds off the late charge of Fully Living to win the Miss WoodfordThe old racetrack wisdom about backing the longest shot in a short field paid off handsomely on Saturday at Monmouth Park in the $58,200 Miss Woodford Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters.

Indian Spell, the 16-1 outsider against three rivals priced 6-5 to 8-5, pulled the upset by a head over Fully Living.

Ju Ju Eyeballs, winner of five straight including the Crank It Up and Just Smashing stakes here, was the favorite and pressed the pacesetting Indian Spell on the turn.

Ju Ju Eyeballs, recovering from a muzzle infection that necessitated a scratch from the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga, managed to take a very brief lead before Indian Spell and jockey Gabriel Saez battled back.

Fully Living launched a three-wide bid that just missed at the wire.

Indian Spell, from the barn of Monmouth’s leading trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., earned her second win in nine starts. A $500,000 yearling purchase, Indian Spell is 2 for 4 since Plesa took over the training this summer.

“She’s a very well-bred filly and it’s great that’s she’s now a stakes winner,” Plesa said of the daughter of Indian Charlie out of Proud Spell, the winner of three Grade 1 stakes in 2008: the Kentucky Oaks, Delaware Oaks, and Alabama.

In her lone appearance at Monmouth, Proud Spell ran second in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Plesa also credited Saez with well-judged ride.

“I told the rider to just take a light hold and let her run her race,” he said. “He did a great job. He’s been a great addition to the riding colony here.”

Indian Spell ran the six furlongs on the fast track in 1:12.01, paying $35.80 to win.

Ju Ju Eyeballs was third followed by Frivolity.

Bow Bells cruises in Twin Lights

Bow Bells was a dominant winner in her stakes debut, beating Sense to Compete by 4 3-4 lengths in the $61,200 Twin Lights for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

The 9-5 second choice, Bow Bells pounced on the pacesetting Doubled on the second turn and quickly pulled clear for her third win in four starts.

Chris DeCarlo was aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher as Bow Bells ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.70 on the firm course. She paid $5.80 to win.

Parting Kiss was third followed by Miss Squeal, Shaikha, and Doubled.

Hard Enough just good enough to win Restoration

Hard EnoughHard Enough earned a hard-fought victory on Saturday in the $62,400 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf at Monmouth Park.

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It was the second straight stakes victory here for the chestnut colt following the Jersey Derby last month. The Restoration was the fourth win on the card for Paco Lopez, the meet’s leading rider.

The Jersey Derby was a relatively easy victory for Hard Enough, a $50,000 claim by trainer Bobby Dibona over the winter at Gulfstream Park. In that race, Hard Enough settled behind the pacesetting Shining Copper before collaring that rival on the final turn.

Shining Copper returned for the Restoration but this time he did not break on top after a bumpy start. That left Hard Enough, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, on the lead from the rail.

And he had constant pressure from Dynamic Strike through quick fractions of 22.51, 46.68 and 1:10.74.

“I talked with Paco before the race and I was afraid Shining Copper might not go to front like he did last time,” Dibona said. “I told him to be prepared, and if you’re in front, do what you’ve got to do.”

Turning for home, Hard Enough was still in command, but the pace and the added distance were taking a toll. But Hard Enough was game as the closers swarmed in. He managed to keep his head, and the distinctive white blinkers, barely in front right to the wire in a four-way photo for the win.

“The fractions were fast,” Dibona said. “I was afraid we wouldn’t hang on but he’s just game, very game.”

Michael With Us rallied from seventh to get second, edging Always Curious for the place spot. Chamois, the 2-1 favorite, was fourth.

Hard Enough paid $7.60 to win as the second choice. The time was 1:47.16 over the firm course.

Shining Copper was fifth followed by English Minister, Dynamic Strike and Chollie D.

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