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Luna Vega, Just Jenda Clash at Monmouth

Monmouth Park’s overnight stakes usually come up salty, but Sunday’s $100,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes has come up unusually strong for the 2010 running.

The race attracted three graded stakes winners and one graded stakes-placed runner among the nine fillies and mares entered to run one mile and 70 yards.

Heading the roster are Millennium Farm’s Luna Vega, winner of last year’s Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Stakes, and Larry and Cindy Jones’s Just Jenda, winner of the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in 2009.

The field also includes Kevin Sleeter’s Talkin About Love, the 2007 Monmouth Oaks winner, and Bryant H. Prentice 3rd’s Bon Jovi Girl, who was second in the Grade 2 Cotillion at Philadelphia Park last fall.

Luna Vega, trained by Steve Asmussen, arrived at Monmouth Friday morning from New York, with Asmussen assistant trainer Bill Wilson on hand to welcome her.

“I’ve been with her a lot the past two seasons,” Wilson said, “and I’ve been looking forward to getting her again. She’s such a unique individual, and I like being around her.”
Luna Vega, a 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, has a perfect record at the track. She shipped in to win an allowance race here last June, and then returned to capture the Molly Pitcher on Aug. 30.

Her best races have come over fast tracks, and her worst efforts over wet tracks. She caught a wet surface at Oaklawn Park last out when she was fifth in the Bayakoa Stakes.
But the forecast is for fine weather this weekend, and most likely a fast track on Sunday, much to Wilson’s delight.

“We know she likes this track,” he said, “and we’re expecting a big effort from her Sunday.”

Cindy Jones, who trains Just Jenda, is trying for a family Monmouth Beach Stakes repeat with a Monmouth Oaks winner. Last year, her now-retired husband Larry Jones saddled Maren’s Meadow to win the overnight stake a year after winning the 2008 Oaks.

Just Jenda, a filly by Haskell winner Menifee, ran twice at Monmouth last year, scoring smashing wins in the Serena’s Song Stakes and Monmouth Oaks.

“She just loves Monmouth Park,” Cindy Jones said. “We’re hoping to be three-for-three over the track.”

Last out, Just Jenda ran fourth in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn. But she had an excuse * and then some. She ran into a filly named Zenyatta, and managed to get within six lengths or so of the champion.

“That’s the best racehorse either of us has ever seen,” Jones said. “I would have loved to run second to her, but the mile and an eighth is not my filly’s cup of tea. She’s best at a mile, with a mile and a sixteenth the limit.”

Just Jenda has been turning in bullet works at Delaware Park to get ready for this race, which just thrills Jones.

“When she bullet-works, she throws a really good race,” the trainer said. “We’re looking forward to Sunday.”

Kevin Sleeter, the breeder-owner-trainer of Talkin About Love, got his mare turned around the second half of 2009 after a slow start. The 6-year-old daughter of Not For Love finished second in two stakes here in June and August, and then won the Revidere in September. She went on to take the Maryland Million Ladies Stakes on the turf at Laurel later that month.

To get her ready for her first start since last November, Sleeter had Talkin About Love drill an eye-opening half-mile in :35 2/5 on Wednesday. It was her fastest breeze ever, and the best of 15 on the tab that morning.

“I wanted to put some speed into her, perk her up a little,” Sleeter said. “The way she’s been running, she goes backward after the break, and then she has too much to do. She needs to show a little more speed early.”



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