The connections of the eight two-year-olds in the field hope their young charges can take a big step forward in Sunday’s $60,000 Tyro Stakes, the first stakes races for juveniles so far at the meet. The five furlong test on the turf course has long been considered a prep race for the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes, to be run at six furlongs on the main track here on September 1.

Although I’m Boundtoscore is already a stakes winner on the grass, as well as the only entrant to yet compete in stakes company, he’s not the early favorite. That distinction belongs to Rip Roarin Ritchie.

Not only has the gelded son of Bring the Heat, who was bred in Florida by Wesley Ward, been working exceptionally well over the Monmouth course, he’s got Ward as his trainer. Ward is well-known for having the magic touch with young horses and once again this year, is one of the leading high percentage (.23) trainers of two-year-olds in North America.

Rip Roarin Ritchie, who had the misfortune of drawing the rail in the sprint, broke his maiden at second asking while going gate-to-wire last time out on the grass at Churchill Downs. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 74, the best of the bunch in the Tyro, and will pick up the services of leading rider Elvis Trujillo.

I’m Boundtoscore is the only other who has proven himself on the turf. Trained by Troy Rankin, who owns the colt with Joe M. Davis, he was rank last out in the $50,000 Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs but then got into the race and won in a driving finish.

Itsmyluckday breezed over the Monmouth turf last week and trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr., who bought the colt for $100,000 this past March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of two-year-olds, said he liked the way the son of Lawyer Ron moved. In a pair of career starts at Monmouth on the main track, Itsmyluckyday has a second and a first and regular rider Angel Serpa will be back in the irons.


With the meet just past the midway point, there is a new shooter on the backside. Florida-based trainer Kathleen O’Connell has arrived with a string of six horses and will remain until closing day.

“We have a lot of turf horses and it’s been raining a lot in Florida,” said Brian Smeak, who has been her assistant for 12 years. “She carries 40 horses in South Florida and 40 at Tampa Bay Downs in the winter, and then we go to Colonial Downs (in Virginia). But it’s only a 32-day meet at Colonial. So instead of going back to Calder, we decided to come get our feet wet and see if Monmouth will be our summer place next year.”

The success that other trainers who stable at Calder Race Course and Tampa Bay Downs have enjoyed at Monmouth was a contributing factor in the decision.

“(Defending leading trainer) Jane Cibelli and Eddie Plesa, Jr. do great here,” said Smeak. “Now Jorge Navarro has come from Tampa and is doing well, and so is Anthony Pecoraro and some of the others from Florida. So we’re here and will give it our best shot.”

O’Connell got her start walking hots at the now defunct Detroit Race Course in 1970 and last year she saddled Watch Me Go in the Kentucky Derby. She has won training titles at Tampa Bay and was the first female leading trainer at Calder’s Tropical meet. Her best horse was million-dollar earner Blazing Sword, whom she trained for principal owner Gilbert Campbell.


When the locally-based, five-year-old Tune Me In, who at 25-1 was the longest shot in the field, captured the Grade 3 $150,000 Oceanport Stakes here on Haskell Day, there was jubilation in the camp of trainer Bruce Alexander. One week later, the barn is still basking in the afterglow.

“He ran big, didn’t he?” asked Brad Eacor, Alexander’s long time assistant. “It was such a nice pick-me-up for the whole barn. We had been waiting a long time for him to run like that. I’ve liked him since he was a two-year-old. He’s run some good races, but that was a great race. It’s been a while since we had a good horse like him in the barn. We’re a small stable, and the really good ones come few and far between. It sure is nice to win a graded stakes race, and win it right here at Monmouth.”

The $100,000 Grade 3 Cliffhanger Stakes, which is also on the grass, will be run here on September 1 and it is the logical nest spot for Patricia Generazio’s Tune Me In. It looks like he’ll get a rematch with Get Serious, who was only a half-length behind him in the Oceanport.

“He came back really good (from the Oceanport),” said co-trainer Pat McBurney. “He still loves racing and to stay as fast as he is at eight years old is really something. He’s such a pleasure to have in the barn. He’s a hard horse to train and he’s rough about galloping, but I guess he’s used to us and we’re used to him by now.”