Racing in the colors of George and Lori Hall, Pants On Fire sat off early fractions of :23 2/5 for the quarter and :47 for the half-mile before assuming command at the head of the stretch and holding off the late challenge of Norman Asbjornson.
Pants On Fire, returned $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 and topped the $6.60 exacta. Norman Asbjornson returned $2.80, $2.20. It was another 4 ½ lengths back to Cactus Charlie, who paid $6.60 to show.
“It wasn’t as easy a race as the 2-5 odds showed,” said winning trainer Kelly John Breen. “I did not give much in the way of instructions to Paco, I just told him to ride his race. On paper, and the way the race unfolded he had to earn it. It was a good race for him. We’ll look at the Monmouth Cup (Grade 2 on July 7 at one mile here). It’s our home track and the Halls support Monmouth Park, so that’s likely our next start.”
Pants On Fire stepped the mile and a sixteenth over the fast main track in 1:43.56 as he earned his second victory of the year. The 4-year-old colt by Jump Start from the Cape Town mare Cabo de Noche has now banked $933,060 for his connections.
In the $60,000 Lamplighter Stakes, Lael Stable’s Malibu Way overcame a pedestrian pace on a turf course rated “good” and made a bold run through the stretch to wear down Heavy Breathing right before the wire and prevailed by a neck.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, the Christophe Clement-trainee was making only his third career start and his first try in stakes company. Dispatched as the 2-1 second choice in the field of seven 3-year-olds, Malibu Way covered the mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.1 and returned $6.60, $3 and $2.60. Heavy Breathing, the odds-on favorite, paid $2.60 and $2.20 and completed the $14.80 exacta. It was another length and a half back to Crafty Unicorn, who paid $3.40 to show.
“They were pretty confident with this horse when he ran at Gulfstream this year,” said Bravo. “I rode him with that confidence knowing he’s had a little more experience today. Turning for home, I was saying to myself, ‘Thank God I’m sitting on this horse.’ He’s very talented and it looks like he’s got a bright future.”
Malibu Way, by First Samurai out of the Red Ransom mare Redmond, now has two wins and one second from three lifetime starts. The stakes win was the second in two tries for Clement-trained horses so far this meet.
Live racing continues at Monmouth on Sunday, May 27 – gates open 11:30 a.m., first post 12:50 p.m.