HE’S SO CHIC PRIMED FOR BIG EFFORT IN OPENING DAY’S DECATHLON

Monmouth’s 2009 season kicks off with a bang Saturday, with a field of eight entered in the $70,000 Decathlon Stakes at six furlongs. The stakes will be run as the 10th event on an 11-race card, with first post set at 12:50 p.m.

The field includes one of Monmouth’s all-time favorites in Gerry Sleeter’s 7-year-old Who’s the Cowboy, and a former claimer turned speedster in the Scott Volk-trained Unwritten.

But Jason Servis, who finished second in the trainer standings last year, is holding a strong hand with both He’s So Chic and Brush On By in the first of 79 stakes to be run at the meeting.
The two horses, who run in the colors of Char-Mari Stable, form a solid one-two punch for Servis, who expects to be in the race for leading trainer again this year. Jose Lezcano, who won the riding title at Monmouth last year, was named on both horses.
Of the pair, He’s So Chic is the strong horse. The 5-year-old son of Jump Start has won three of six Monmouth starts, and he also has a good record on wet tracks, which will likely come in handy on Saturday.
He’s So Chic, who won twice at Monmouth last year, finished his 2008 season with a strong second behind Fabulous Strike in the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct. This year, he finished fourth in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream, and then fourth in the Super Bowl Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
“He’s had a couple of okay races this year,” Servis said, “so now I expect him to throw a big one on Saturday.”
Servis said He’s So Chic had excuses in both his Florida starts.
“He was in some trouble in the Mr. Prospector,” the trainer said, “but he’s never really liked the Gulfstream track. He likes Tampa, but I ran him back much quicker than usual there, and the day after the race he had a 104.2 temperature, so something was definitely wrong.
“Now he’s had a couple of months to regroup, and I expect him to run a big race.”
Brush On By, a 5-year-old by Artax, has displayed a big closing kick on occasion, but has only three seconds and two thirds in 10 Monmouth starts.
“He’s never won at Monmouth, which could be a problem,” Servis said, “but he’s doing well and belongs in there.”
Both horses come from off the pace, which could be a winning style on Saturday.
“I know Unwritten has a lot of speed,” Servis said, “but I think some other horses in there will go with him. I’m hoping they set it up for our horses.”

FREE GRANDSTAND ADMISSION FOR SATURDAY’S OPENING DAY CARD

To celebrate the opening of Monmouth’s 2009 season, the track will offer free grandstand admission and half-price clubhouse admission on Saturday. First post time for the first of 94 afternoons of Thoroughbred sport is 12:50 p.m., and 11 races have been carded for Saturday.
Monmouth will race weekends through May, including a four-day holiday weekend for Memorial Day (May 22-25). The regular five-day-a-week schedule starts the first week of June.

MONMOUTH CELEBRATES ‘GREAT DESTINATIONS IN N.J.’ SATURDAY

Fans who attend opening day at Monmouth Park Saturday will have a chance to sample vacation opportunities in the Garden State at the first annual “Great Destinations of New Jersey Celebration.”
The free family event, which 10 of the state’s destination marketing organizations have combined to create, celebrates New Jersey’s amazing vacation, entertainment and travel destinations, and is one facet of National Travel Week.
On Saturday, all fans will receive a GDNJ “passport” when they enter the track. The passport will allow them to visit exhibit booths to pick up New Jersey travel and vacation ideas that encompass all the state has to offer, from the mountains in the northwest part of the state to the beaches at Cape May.
The object of the GDNJ is to highlight family vacations that are available locally and can be reached easily by car.
The passports also make fans eligible to win prizes and trips, with 15 drawings scheduled during the day.
Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.