OCEANPORT, N.J. * Hystericalady will be the odds-on choice to score a repeat victory in Sunday’s $300,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G2) * A Little Gem and Open Skies are both horses for courses in the $70,000 Miss Woodford Stakes * Reserved seats near the finish line are available for Monmouth Stakes Day on Sept. 13 * The new turf race will close for nominations on Wednesday, Sept. 3.
Last year, Hystericalady came into the $300,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G2) off two losing efforts over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park. She affirmed her love of a real dirt surface by winning the Monmouth race by more than six lengths.
Hystericalady shipped into Monmouth on Tuesday, and has been galloping here every day under the watchful eye of Galen May, longtime assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. May, who has been with the mare for all of her 20 lifetime starts, is thrilled with the way she looks this summer.
“She’s put on some weight even with all the racing and shipping around the country,” May said Saturday. “She’s eating right since we got here, and she’s really been lively on the track. She galloped a mile and a quarter this morning, and she wanted more. She just loves what she’s doing.”
Hollendorfer has spaced the mare’s races evenly this year, giving her four to five weeks between starts, and the results have been gratifying. Her only poor race came in her first start, over the synthetic surface at Santa Anita (she has yet to win in four tries on artificial tracks). Since then she has won three stakes at three different tracks, and her only loss came in a sprint when she had to be hard used from the get-go from her inside post.
But she’s become a monster in two-turn events, and goes into Sunday’s race here as the 3-5 favorite on Brad Thomas’s morning line. Robby Albarado, who won aboard the mare at Oaklawn Park, has the mount again.
Five entered to oppose Hystericalady, including Lexi Star, who finished second in last year’s Molly Pitcher, and Talkin About Love, who won last year’s Monmouth Oaks (G3).
OPEN SKIES, A LITTLE GEM HORSES FOR THE COURSE IN MISS WOODFORD
Sunday’s $70,000 Miss Woodford Stakes, which honors the Hall of Fame racemare of the 19th Century, gives 3-year-old fillies a chance to prove themselves in good company.
Prominent among the nine entered are two who have a proven affinity for Monmouth, A Little Gem and Open Skies.
Martin L. Cherry’s A Little Gem is unbeaten in three starts over the local strip. The daughter of Yonaguska came to Monmouth last year in late July, broke her maiden on Aug. 2, and then won the Sorority Stakes on Sept. 2 while under the care of trainer Steve Margolis.
This season, A Little Gem came to Monmouth in May with Eddie Plesa Jr. as her trainer. She returned to the races here on July 24 and won an allowance race by nearly seven lengths as the longest shot on the board at 8-1. It was her first start in more than six months, but her disregard at the windows was shocking nonetheless, especially with a bullet work preceding that start.
“I was surprised at the price,” Plesa said. “Especially since she was two-for-two at Monmouth and had worked so well.
“She had really gone off form last winter, and she needed time off, so her owners gave her the time she needed. I got her at the start of the meet here, and she’s been doing fine. She’s working as well as always.”
A Little Gem comes into the six-furlong Miss Woodford off another bullet work, a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 2/5 on Aug. 8.
“She gets a real test as a 3-year-old in this race,” Plesa said.
Another Monmouth lover is ERL Corp’s Open Skies, who has won both her main track tries here this season for trainer Tim Hills. The filly by Defrere suffered her only loss here on the turf last out, when she finished second in the Staybridge Suites Stakes. Open Skies has proven she’s adept at most things, with victories at six furlongs, seven furlongs and a mile and 70 yards.
“She’s versatile, that’s for sure,” Hills said. “But I think her best game is seven furlongs or a mile around one turn. She wins her races on the turn. She’s a vastly improved filly this year.
“This is a very competitive race,” Hills said, “but the timing is good for our next objective * the New Jersey-bred day here on September 20.”
Hills will have his choice of stakes on New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day, either the Eleven North at six furlongs or the Jersey Girl Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth.
RESERVED SEATS AVAILABLE FOR MONMOUTH STAKES DAY, SEPT. 13
Reserved seats in the grandstand mezzanine and clubhouse are available for $2 each for the first running of the Monmouth Stakes on Saturday, Sept. 13, which is expected to feature Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Haskell Invitational winner Big Brown.
The reserved seats for sale are those in the sections closest to the finish line. They can be purchased by calling 732-571-5580, or at Monmouth Park. There are also free seats available on a first-come, first-served basis in the grandstand balcony section.
“The fans will be the big winners from the addition of the Monmouth Stakes to our schedule,” said Bob Kulina, vice president and general manager of Monmouth Park. “They’ll have another opportunity to see an exciting performer like Big Brown before he heads on to the Breeders’ Cup.
“The Sports Authority remains committed to providing the best racing possible at Monmouth, and this race certainly furthers those goals,” Kulina said.
MONMOUTH STAKES CLOSES FOR NOMINATIONS ON SEPT. 3
The newest addition to the stakes schedule, the Monmouth Stakes at a mile and an eighth on the turf course to be run Saturday, Sept. 13, will close for free nominations on Wednesday, Sept. 3.
The race, for 3-year-olds and up, will have a purse of $500,000 if Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Haskell Invitational winner Big Brown, runs as expected. The winner’s share of that purse will be $300,000. Otherwise, the Monmouth Stakes will carry a $200,000 purse, with a winner’s share of $120,000.
The race will be run under allowance conditions with 3-year-olds carrying 120 pounds and older horses carrying 124. There are three-pound and five-pound allowances, with the lowest possible weight 115 for 3-year-olds and 119 for older. Big Brown will carry 120 pounds under the conditions.
There is a $500 fee to enter the Monmouth Stakes, and supplementary nominations may be made at time of entry for $200.