The biggest race of the year at Monmouth for older horses comes up Saturday with the 75th running of the $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at a mile and an eighth.
The favorite will undoubtedly be Robert LaPenta’s Coal Play, who made Big Brown work to beat him in the 2008 Haskell Invitational, and has come back this year to take the Salvator Mile.
The 5-year-old son of Yes It’s True is coming off a nose victory in the Majestic Light Stakes here on Aug. 2, and prepped for the Iselin with a brilliant half-mile work in :47 flat here on Sunday.
“He just worked the fastest of 100 horses (actually 89),” said trainer Bobby Dibona, “so he’s ready.
“We all know Coal Play is going to the lead,” Dibona said. “We’ll track him from the start, and see what happens after that.”
Actin Good, like Coal Play, has a winning record at Monmouth. Dibona brought the Florida-bred here as a 2-year-old in 2006, and Actin Good broke his maiden in his debut over the track. He went on to run second in the Tyro Stakes, and then second, beaten less than a length by Xchanger, in the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes.
As a 3-year-old, Actin Good developed some physical problems, but overcame them to win the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes here on Breeders’ Cup Day in 2007.
Last year, Actin Good won a solid allowance race here after running sixth in the Iselin, and this season took the Majestic Light in his third start of 2009.
“He was the first good horse I ever had,” said Dibona. “But he was rough to train as a young horse.
“Now that he’s matured,” the trainer said, “he has a nice frame of mind. He’s actually a push-button kind of horse. And he’s coming into the race just great. We’ve been pointing for the Iselin all year, so now we’ll see what happens.
“I know one thing,” Dibona said, “we won’t be far away from Coal Play early. We’ll see what happens after that.”
Kent Desormeaux rode Actin Good in the Majestic Light, but cannot make it back for the Iselin because of a commitment to ride in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Channing Hill, who has been
aboard Actin Good twice this year, gets the call again Saturday.
TWO-DAY SHORE CHEF CRAB CAKE COOK-OFF STARTS SATURDAY
The Shore Chef Crab Cake Cook-Off, always a popular event at Monmouth Park, has been expanded to a two-day event for its fifth anniversary with competition on both Saturday, Aug. 22, and Sunday, Aug. 23, this year.
The Cook-Off, sponsored by The Star-Ledger and supported in part through a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism, runs from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day.
Fans get a chance to taste offerings from 11 New Jersey restaurants, with favorite dishes including crab cakes, fried catfish and clam chowder topping the fare.
Fans can purchase Food Fest Dollars ($1 equals 1 Food Fest Dollar) to purchase food at all the booths. Food prices range from $5 to $15, depending on the vendor.
Participating restaurants this year are Bahrs Landing; Bobby Chez Famous Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes; Funnibonz; Gaetano’s; Jake’s Crab Shack; Mud City Crab Cake Co.; My Two Sons Savannah Style Seafood; The Hunt Club Steak & Seafood Grill; McLoone’s Restaurants; Red, and Lagniappe Foods.
MOVIE SHOOT BRIGHTENS DARK DAY AT MONMOUTH TUESDAY
There was no racing at Monmouth Park on Tuesday, but there was plenty of action as a production company shot scenes for the Columbia motion picture “The Bounty” at the track.
The movie stars Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, and they arrived at Monmouth by helicopter for the filming. In addition, 600 extras were bused in to be part of crowd scenes.
Monmouth assisted in setting up the filming of racing scenes, providing horses and jockeys to simulate races. Jockeys who participated in the scenes were Luis Rivera Jr., Felix Ortiz, Jose Velez Jr., Pedro Cotto Jr., Francisco Maysonett and Navin Mangalee. Horses were provided by trainers Ben Perkins Jr., Tony Wilson, Patrick Bottazi, Luis Carvajal Jr., and others.
Monmouth has been the setting for films and TV shows in the past, with “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” “Law and Order” and “The Sopranos” scenes shot here.