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HRN Original Blog:
Racing At The Jersey Shore

The Stars Were Out At Monmouth Park in 2013

A Guest Blog by Ben Massam
 
As another year of racing at Monmouth Park has come and gone, it’s fun to look back on some of the more memorable moments of the 2013 racing season.  The great thing about this game is that great memories can be made in a Grade 1 stakes race or in a $5,000 claiming race.  While everyone has their own unique experience at the track, here are a few races and horses that made for another excellent summer of racing on the Jersey Shore.
 
Not surprisingly, Haskell Invitational day provided the most action-packed card of the summer.  Although the weather appeared threatening for most of the day, the rains held off and allowed the 14 race card to go off unscathed.  As expected, the Haskell was the highlight of the day, with Todd Pletcher’s once-beaten colt Verrazano drawing off to a dominant 9¾ length score over six rivals.  Although Verrazano would subsequently disappoint in the Travers, the 116 Beyer speed figure he earned that day ranks as the highest from any three-year-old in 2013 to date.  Preakness winner Oxbow set the pace over a tiring track before fading to fourth. The Haskell would be Oxbow’s final start of the year, and he is currently being pointed to a 2014 campaign. 
 
The undercard stakes included impressive open-length scores from Joyful Victory in the Molly Pitcher, Pants On Fire in the Monmouth Cup, and Silver Max in the Oceanport.  Silver Max, of course, recently defeated reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the off-the-turf Shadwell at Keeneland.
 
The winner of the Teddy Drone Stakes on the Haskell undercard was perhaps one of the most compelling stories of the summer.  The eight-year-old gelding Immortal Eyes shipped in from Maryland to make four starts at Monmouth for trainer Damon Dilodovico, winning the Teddy Drone and the Mr. Prospector, as well as an allowance race, and finishing second in yet another stakes race.  His hard-nosed and front-running style won over many fans in the Garden State, adding to his impressive resumé of 17 wins at seven different tracks in 47 career starts.  While Immortal Eyes finished second to Ribo Bobo in the Icecapade Stakes on Labor Day, he returned 19 days later to notch the biggest win of his career in the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel.
 
The Philip Iselin Stakes—one of Monmouth’s most storied events—did not disappoint in 2013, as those who were at the track on August 18th were treated to a rousing stretch-long battle between Last Gunfighter and San PabloThe former, an odds-on favorite from the Chad Brown barn, moved up to engage last year’s winner, San Pablo, at the top of the stretch and matched strides with his stubborn rival before prevailing by a head at the wire.  Last Gunfighter added the Iselin to his 2013 accomplishments, which already included graded stakes scores in the Excelsior Stakes and the Pimlico Special.  Ridden by Joe Bravo, Last Gunfighter earned his seventh career victory in the Iselin.
 
Unable to find firm turf in New York, Chad Brown also brought his Grade 1-winning filly Dayatthespa to Monmouth for the Eatontown Handicap on June 29th.  Making her first start since a troubled trip in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park in early May, Dayatthespa set a swift pace over the Monmouth lawn before getting caught by Alan Goldberg-trained Laughing late in the race.  Laughing had not raced since October of last year, but returned ultra-sharp and used her Eatontown victory as a springboard to subsequent scores in the Diana, the Ballston Spa, and the Flower Bowl in New York.  The Irish-bred five-year old-mare is based at Colts Neck Stables, just a few miles from Monmouth Park, and improved her record to two-for-two over the local turf course.
 
Contested on June 9th, the Monmouth Stakes fit the definition of a ‘key race’ perfectly.  Of the eight horses who competed in the nine-furlong contest on the turf, five came back to win their next starts, including three Grade 1 wins later in the summer by first and second place finishers Boisterous (Man o’War) and Big Blue Kitten (United Nations and Sword Dancer).  Even if the Monmouth Stakes was presumably run as a prep for the United Nations, it could be argued that it was one of the most contentious turf races held anywhere this summer.
 
 Photo by Matt Shifman
 
At the end of the meet, there is always the tendency to look toward the future—and in thoroughbred racing, the future is the rising two-year-olds.  Throughout the 2013 Monmouth meet, race-goers were treated to a number of promising performances from juveniles.  Stonetastic, a gray daughter of Mizzen Mast, ran up the score for a 12½-length victory first time out on August 10th.  In her next start, Stonetastic was a game second in her two-turn debut in the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs.  One day after Kelly Breen’s filly made her triumphant debut, Pat McBurney sent out Just Call Kenny, a Jump Start colt, to a professional, effortless first time-out win.  Just Call Kenny recently returned off a layoff to finish second in an ‘a-other-than’ allowance condition at Laurel, but his pedigree suggests that added distance will be no problem.
 
Eye-catching two-year-old performances were not limited to the maiden ranks.  Miss Behaviour drew off to a decisive win in the Sorority Stakes on September 1st for trainer Phil Schoenthal.  The Pennsylvania-bred filly traveled to New York for her next start and proved that her pace-setting Monmouth tally was not merely a result of the speed-favoring surface, taking the Matron last weekend to run her record to three-for-three.  On the same day, flashy Saratoga maiden winner Dunkin Bend took the Sapling Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen. 

Not only did the 2013 meet produce a number of memorable performances, but it also gave followers of New Jersey racing many horses to keep an eye on in the offseason—from graded stakes contenders moving toward the Breeders’ Cup to $5,000 claimers racing through the winter.  The game goes on.  One can only hope that 2014 brings yet another compelling racing season at good old Monmouth Park.

  

 

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Older Comments about The Stars Were Out At Monmouth Park in 2013...

I think the Monmouth was probably my favorite New Jersey race. Plenty of quality and those Monmouth stars are doing well elsewhere, too.
When you see all of those very good horses listed, you see that the quality of racing was quite good this summer at the Jersey Shore.

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Meet Matt Shifman

In the 70’s I was another one of those kids that went to the track with their fathers, and I immediately became enthralled with the excitement and challenges of handicapping.  And then the charisma and dominance of Secretariat gave me a hero to follow. To this day, I still get emotional when I hear Chic Anderson’s call of the 1973 Belmont, “Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine”.

 
There have been many great horses run at the shore. In 1976 I watched Majestic Light win the Monmouth Invitational, now the Haskell, in track record time, defeating Honest Pleasure, the big favorite who was in from New York.  This was one of my first big wins at the track.
 
In the 80’s, as a disciple of Andy Beyer, I made my own speed figures because they were not available to the public. Needless to say I visited Monmouth frequently to test out the “figs”.
 
The 90’s allowed me to learn about the backstretch as a part owner of a few claimers that were stabled at Philadelphia Park.  Not a typical owner, I mucked stalls, cooled out the horses, and watched morning works.  Also, I met my wife and discovered that her grandfather bred, owned, and raced thoroughbreds on the West Virginia, Maryland circuit.  Today our office is decorated with winner’s circle pictures and a vast collection of Kentucky Derby glasses.
 
Today’s electronic age makes it so easy to gather information about racing.  I hope you use this blog to learn about Racing at the Jersey Shore.