The top flat offering on Saturday’s Monmouth Park-Meridian Health Steeplechase Festival card is the $100,000 Garden State Stakes for 2-year-olds, which goes as the fourth race on the program.
The one-mile event drew a field of eight promising and lightly raced 2-year-olds, topped by Curlinello, a colt by Smart Strike who won a Saratoga maiden event at first asking for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Another top-rated shipper will be Astrology, who broke his maiden Sept. 4 at the Spa for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Among the locally based hopes is Red Oak Stable’s Loving Dove, who figures to have an outside chance to upset the Garden State. The New Jersey-bred son of Mo Mon * Dove Creek, by Dove Hunt, broke his maiden against state-breds and last out finished seventh in the Continental Mile on grass.
“This is a tough open race,” said trainer Gregg Sacco, “but he’s the only one in the field who’s gone two turns. And that last race was not as bad as it looked.
“For one thing, he only ran the very last part of it, when he made up some ground late,” Sacco said. “For most of the trip, he was running green on the grass. He was looking around at scenery, not paying attention. It wasn’t until the last furlong that he focused. Then he took off, and he galloped out good.”
Loving Dove also has a license to be a runner. He is a full brother to Moneigh Lisa, a stakes winner at the current Monmouth meeting.
The name of the race recalls the original event for juveniles, run at old Garden State Park, which became a national sensation in 1953 when it was the first 2-year-old stakes in the U.S. to carry a $100,000 purse.