OCEANPORT, N.J. * Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas returns to Monmouth Friday with Silver Edition, who goes in the $150,000 Jersey Shore Stakes (G3), which kicks off the Fourth of July holiday weekend * Saturday brings Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day, with both the $750,000 United Nations Stakes (G1) and the $300,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (G3) having “win and you’re in” status for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in October.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has been missing from the Monmouth scene in recent years after more than a decade of imposing presence, will be back in town Friday as Monmouth Park kicks off the three-day Fourth of July weekend festivities with the $150,000 Jersey Shore Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old sprinters.
Lukas will saddle Silver Edition in the six-furlong Jersey Shore as he seeks to win the event for the first time since 1999, when he sent out Yes It’s True to equal Smoke Glacken’s stakes-record time of 1:08 2/5.
Silver Edition, a son of Silver Deputy, is coming off two seconds, when he was beaten a neck by Lantana Mob in the Grade 3 Hirsch Jacobs at Pimlico, and five and a half lengths by J Be K in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 7.
“That other horse got away from us and our horse got a little intimidated on the inside,” Lukas said of the Stephens performance. “We weren’t going to beat him, but we might have been a little closer.
“We’re not making any excuses. We were happy to be second, and now we’ll come back and see if we can’t win the next one.”
SATURDAY’S UNITED NATIONS SHAPING UP A COMPETITIVE EVENT
With champion and two-time U.N. winner English Channel retired, Saturday’s renewal of the $750,000 United Nations Stakes (G1) looks to be a wide-open affair, with a field of up to eight of the East’s best grass horses set to do battle.
The 55th running of the United Nations is the top attraction of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Monmouth. The Grade 1 event has a special status as one of the “win and you’re in” events for Breeders’ Cup, and the winner of the U.N. earns an automatic starting berth in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. The $300,000 Salvator Mile, also Saturday, is also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event.
The mile and three-eighths turf test is expected to draw some seasoned runners from the top trainers, including one of the Bobby Frankel-trained trio of Champs Elysees, Out of Control or Sudan; Independent George from Graham Motion; Operation Red Dawn from Christophe Clement; Buddy’s Humor from Bruce Levine, and either Equitable or Silver Tree from the powerful Bill Mott stable.
And there are a couple of local runners who are expected to make an impact in the United Nations. Presious Passion, trained by Mary Hartmann, is a graded stakes winner who has also won stakes at Monmouth. Strike a Deal, trained by Alan Goldberg, broke his maiden on the Monmouth grass and comes off a bang-up effort in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont.
GOTTCHA GOLD SITTING ON READY FOR SALVATOR REPEAT TRY
Saturday’s $300,000 Salvator Mile (G3) has an added attraction this year as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, meaning the winner earns an automatic starting berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
For Centaur Farms, Inc.’s Gottcha Gold that’s just more incentive to try for a repeat in Monmouth’s top one-mile event of the summer. Last year, the 5-year-old son of Coronado’s Quest upset the odds-on Lawyer Ron in the Salvator and went on to run second to Corinthian in the inaugural running of the Dirt Mile on a sloppy track here.
Gottcha Gold, coming off a narrow defeat (a neck to Student Council) in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 16 , has worked extremely well for his repeat try, finishing his prep with five-eighths in 1:01 3/5 last Saturday.
“I was very happy with the work,” trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. “He’s as ready as he can be for this race.”
Gottcha Gold impressed clockers with the way he went through his final breeze, as he continued going after the recorded five-furlong drill, galloping out steady fractions for six furlongs, seven furlongs and one mile.
“He’s like a train,” Plesa said of the work. “Once he gets going, he keeps on going.”
With his regular rider Chuck Lopez sidelined by injury, Gottcha Gold will have a new jockey Saturday in Eddie Castro, who was aboard in the work. Castro, however, is “new” only in the sense that he hasn’t ridden the horse this year. The jockey was aboard when Gottcha Gold broke his maiden at Calder in 2005, and won an allowance race at Monmouth with Gottcha Gold in 2006. Castro last rode the horse on Oct. 6, 2006, when they were fourth in the Grade 3 Pegasus at the Meadowlands.
Gottcha Gold’s best races have come on the front end * he won both the Salvator and Iselin last year in wire-to-wire fashion -- but Plesa said the horse does not need the lead to do his best.
“If somebody wants the lead bad enough, they can have it,” the trainer said. “He can sit off the pace and make his run like he did in Florida (a win in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream in March). There was a rabbit in there, and he just stalked the fast pace and made the lead in the stretch.”