OCEANPORT, N.J. * The band played “California Here I Come” at Monmouth Park on Saturday as Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion scored a front-running upset victory in the $750,000 United Nations Stakes (G1) and J. Paul Reddam’s Notional captured the $300,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (G3).
Both the United Nations and the Salvator Mile are Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” events, and the winners of both races earned automatic starting berths at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 24-25. The U.N. winner, Presious Passion, is guaranteed a spot in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, and the Salvator winner, Notional, has a starting date in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“It’s the largest total handle outside of a Haskell Day in recent memory,” said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. “It was a terrific card and the wagering reflected just that.”
Presious Passion, who never gets any respect in the mutuels despite his record at his home track here and his victories in graded events, went off at 13-1. He took command from the start and Eddie Castro nursed him along all the way to reach the wire a neck in front of Strike a Deal, the 2-1 second choice, with Equitable a length and a quarter farther back. Champs Elysees, the 11-10 favorite, finished sixth.
The winner raced the mile and three-eighths over a turf course termed yielding in 2:13 4/5, just one second off the course record.
Presious Passion gave his trainer, Monmouth-based Mary Hartmann, her first-ever victory in a Grade 1 event with her first starter in a major event.
The winner paid $29.60, $8.80 and $5.40 across the board and topped a $109.20 exacta. Strike a Deal returned $4 to place and $3 to show, and Equitable paid $4.20 to show.
“I’m shaking,” Hartmann said. “This is the best feeling in the world. I’m just enjoying the win today. I’ll talk with the owners, Pat and Frank Generazio, to see what path we’ll take to get to the Breeders’ Cup, but that’s the plan for sure.
“It didn’t bother me at all when I saw the early fractions of :24 and then :49. I thought he might sprint away a little bit from there and make them come and catch him, but it all worked out perfectly. I don’t think the mile and three-eighths is his best distance. I think a mile and a half is.
“He’s a very easy horse to train,” Hartmann said. “I think he’ll just get better from here. This is just amazing.”
The race was really devoid of drama, as is reflected in jockey Castro’s comments.
“I got the early lead pretty easily,” Castro said, “I didn’t have to use too much horse. I was able to relax on the front end and get soft fractions. At the three-eighths pole, I just let him go and he kept on going.”
The winner’s prize of $450,000 nearly doubled Presious Passion’s lifetime earnings, which now total $908,028 on a record of 8-4-2 in 29 starts. He won the Grade 2 McKnight last year and the Grade 3 Pan American this year.
In the Salvator Mile, Notional sat behind Gottcha Gold’s steady early pace until the quarter-pole, when Joe Bravo sent him to challenge for the lead. The winner, trained by Mark Hennig, battled with Gottcha Gold through the stretch and was finally able to draw clear in the final yards, scoring by two and a quarter lengths.
Notional, sent off at 7-1 in the field of six, raced the one mile over a fast track in 1:35 4/5 and paid $17.80, $5.40 and $2.80 across the board. Gottcha Gold, the 4-5 favorite, completed the $48.40 exacta and paid $2.60 to place and $2.10 to show. Honest Man was two and a quarter lengths farther back and returned $2.60 to show. Indy Wind, the second choice, finished fourth.
Gottcha Gold, who used his front-running style to win last year’s Salvator Mile, went right to the front from the gate, running a quarter in :23 and a half-mile in :46. After six furlongs in 1:10, Notional pounced on Gottcha Gold and engaged in a head-and-head duel entering the stretch. Bravo kept busy on the winner, who tried to lug in a bit at the eighth pole, and Notional straightened out the last sixteenth and increased his margin to the wire.
“I was sitting way off the pace early,” Bravo said, “and when I asked him, he went from about six or seven lengths back to right up with the leader. I thought I might have moved too soon, but luckily not. Gottcha Gold was battling back, but my horse put him away inside the sixteenth pole and ran on from there.”
This was the first win this year for Notional, a 4-year-old son of In Excess who was a stakes winner last year as a 3-year-old for trainer Doug O’Neill and finished second in the 2007 Florida Derby. He suffered a fractured cannon bone and did not return to the races until this February. The Salvator was Notional’s fourth lifetime win, and the winner’s prize of $180,000 raised his bankroll to $695,790.
Hennig, who watched the race on television, said, “Mr. Reddam thought the artificial surface in California wasn’t suiting him well. He sent him to me in New York at the beginning of June. Doug (former trainer O’Neill) and I talked about him. He was frustrated out there. He didn’t know if he could attribute it to the surface or his injury after the Florida Derby. Doug and I worked together well * it was an East-West attack.”
In the $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes, Silly Goose Racing Stable’s Maddy’s Lion made a big run through the stretch to nail the front-running Joey P. on the wire.
Maddy’s Lion, trained by Gregg Sacco and ridden by Carlos Marquez Jr., was up to score by a neck, completing the six furlongs over a fast main track in 1:09 1/5. Sent off third choice in the field of seven older sprinters, Maddy’s Lion paid $10.80, $3.60 and $2.60 across the board.
Joey P., the even-money favorite, completed the $30.40 exacta and paid $2.40 to place and $2.20 to show. Mr. Umphrey, who was nearly four lengths farther back, paid $2.60 to show.
It was the first win in three Monmouth starts this year for Maddy’s Lion, a 6-year-old son of Lion Hearted who finished second to Mr. Umphrey in the Longfellow Stakes here last month.
Joey P., who was coming off a victory in a four and a half-furlong stakes race at Charles Town, set all the pace, clipping off fractions of :21 4/5 for the quarter and :44 2/5 for the half. He held a clear lead at the eighth pole, but Maddy’s Lion made a determined run in the middle of the track to get up in time.
Live racing continues at Monmouth Park on Sunday, July 6 * first post 12:50 p.m.
$300,000 SALVATOR MILE STAKES (GRADE 3)
WINNER * NOTIONAL
2ND * GOTTCHA GOLD ($2.60, $2.10)
3RD * HONEST MAN ($2.60)
WINNING TIME * :23, :46, 1:10, 1:35 4/5
WIN PRICE -- $17.80, $5.40, $2.80
WINNING EXACTA -- $48.40
WINNING TRIFECTA -- $178.80
WINNING TRAINER (MARK HENNIG) * “Mr. Reddam thought the artificial surface in California wasn’t suiting him well. He thought he’d be better back on dirt. He sent him to me in New York at the beginning of June. (Former trainer) Doug (O’Neill) and I talked about him. He was frustrated out there. He didn’t know if he could attribute it to the surface or his injury after the Florida Derby. Doug and I worked together well; it was an East-West attack. He had a cannon bone fracture after the Florida Derby. I think it was in a subsequent workout. We decided to run in this race on entry day.”
WINNING JOCKEY (JOE BRAVO) * “I looked at this horse on paper and the only times he didn’t run well was on turf, polytrack or in Dubai. He’s a very nice dirt horse. I may have underestimated him going into this race, but he certainly proved me wrong. He ran tremendous.
“I was sitting way off the pace early, and when I asked him I went from about six to seven lengths back to right up with the leader. I thought I may have moved too soon, but luckily not. Gottcha Gold was battling back, but my horse put him away inside the 1/16th pole and ran on from there.”
EDDIE PLESA JR. (TRAINER OF RUNNER-UP GOTTCHA GOLD) * “ He just got a little outrun that’s all it was. I wish he could have settled down a little more early on, but it’s nobody’s fault. He just got a little outrun.”
$750,000 UNITED NATIONS STAKES (GRADE 1)
WINNER * PRESIOUS PASSION
2ND * STRIKE A DEAL ($4, $3)
3RD * EQUITABLE ($4.20)
WINNING TIME * :24 2/5, :49, 1:14 1/5, 1:38 3/5, 2:02, 2:13 4/5
WIN PRICE -- $29.60, $8.80, $5.40
WINNING EXACTA -- $109.20
WINNING TRIFECTA -- $661
WINNING TRAINER (MARY HARTMANN) * “I’m shaking. This is the best feeling in the world. I’m just enjoying the win today. I’ll talk with the owners, Pat and Frank Generazio, to see what path we’ll take to get to the Breeders’ Cup, but that’s the plan for sure.
“It didn’t bother me at all when I saw the early fractions of :24 and then :49. I thought he might sprint away a little bit from there and make them come and catch him, but it all worked out perfectly. I don’t think that the mile and three-eighths is his best distance, I think a mile and a half is.
“He’s a very easy horse to train. I think he’ll just get better from here. This is just amazing.”
WINNING JOCKEY (EDDIE CASTRO) * “Well I got the early lead pretty easily, I didn’t have to use too much horse. I was able to relax on the front-end and get soft fractions. At the three-eighth’s pole, I just let him go and he kept on going for me.”
ALAN GOLDBERG (2ND-PLACE STRIKE A DEAL) * “He lugged in at the eighth pole. Jose had to pull him off. I think that cost him (the win).”
JOSE LEZCANO (2nd-PLACE STRIKE A DEAL) * “I thought the 4 (Buddy’s Humor) would go with him (Presious Passion). When I asked my horse to run, he gave me a big kick. I wanted to move before the favorite (Champs Elysees).”
KENT DESORMEAUX (3rd PLACE EQUITABLE)- “ I feel like I was on the best horse today, we just didn’t have any racing luck. This is a big horse and he didn’t have any room until the eighth pole, but that’s racing.”
RAMON DOMINGUEZ (6TH PLACE CHAMPS ELYSEES)- The horse felt awesome and I feel we had a pretty good trip. The only thing I feel that hurt our chances was the slow early pace. We waited for the early front-runners to come back to us, but they just kept on going.”