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May 19, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


Racing at the Jersey Shore is back for 2006 as Monmouth Park opened doors for racing on May 13th. Through the first three weeks of the meeting Monmouth will only host racing on the weekends. During the first week of June they will conduct racing on Friday Saturday and Sunday. The following week they will go to a Thursday through Sunday schedule. In the final week of June Monmouth will finally go to a Wednesday through Sunday schedule. First post time is 12:50 p.m. each day with the exception of Haskell Day, August 6th when post time will be 12:00 p.m.

There will be three racing days in June when the Meadowlands, New Jersey’s other track that is currently holding a harness meeting, will host turf racing. Monmouth Park installed a new turf course in anticipation of the Breeders’ Cup in 2007 and this course is not supposed to be ready until the end of June. So the Meadowlands will host all turf racing cards on June 5, 12 and 19, with a post time of 1:10 p.m. These three days will give the New Jersey horsemen an opportunity to run their grass horses before grass racing kicks in at Monmouth.

There are two Grade I races that Monmouth Park will host for this meeting. The United Nations Stakes and the Haskell Invitational are the two big races of the meeting. The United Nations stakes which is 1 and 3/8ths miles on the turf with a purse of $750,000. This race usually attracts the top grass horses in the country and with the new turf course we should expect to see some top turfers at Monmouth on July 8, 2006.

The Haskell Invitational which will be held on August 6th is for three year olds to be run at 1 and 1/8th miles and carries a purse of $1 million dollars. This is another race that attracts the top of their division. There have been many champions to win this race in the past and in 2001 POINT GIVEN, who won two-thirds of the Triple Crown was named Horse of the Year. Two other Horse of the Year winners have won this race over the last 12 years with SKIP AWAY in 1996 who went on to win Horse of the Year honors in 1998 and the great HOLY BULL who won the race in 1994 along with Horse of the Year honors. Since the year 2000 we have seen two Kentucky Derby winners run in the Haskell with WAR EMBLEM in 2003 scoring in 2002. FUNNY CIDE the very popular New York bred gelding ran in this race in 2003 and checked in third.

When playing Monmouth Park the jockey and trainers have a big impact. "Jersey" Joe Bravo is the king of Monmouth Park. Bravo always has the pick of many horses in a race so he is usually on the best horse in a race. This also makes for very low priced winners and a lot of low priced losers too. Bravo is overbet a lot of the time and you can get some value if you can beat him. Some new faces that can make Bravo work for his wins this meeting are Jorge "chop chop" Chavez who was usually a mainstay in New York but his business had tailed off and he was injured over the winter so he figured that he would try his hand at Monmouth where he would be able to ride more horses. Chavez has ridden well here in the past and is trying to get his career back on track. He may offer some value early in the meet.

Eddie Castro is another that will be trying Monmouth for the 2006 meeting. Castro, who rode in Florida for the last few years is a young, up and coming rider, one who can ride any surface, speed, horses, closers and is a strong rider in the stretch. He should do very well here at Monmouth and is another that may offer some value early on in the meeting. C. C. Lopez who has been riding at Monmouth most of his career is a top speed rider who was riding well at the end of the Aqueduct meeting and can be tough if he can stay healthy. He is one to watch when riding a speed horse because he is the best around nursing a horse along.

On the trainer side of things, last year’s winner Kelly Breen will be back and his win percentage of 33.3% was very impressive. Bruce Levine, who is a top trainer in New York finished 12 winners behind Breen but he is very dangerous when shipping a horse to Monmouth Park. His winning percentage at last year’s meeting was 31.7% and his in the money percentage was 69.5%. The country’s leading trainer and Eclipse award winner, Todd Pletcher has a string at Monmouth and he usually does very well. He won at 24% clip last year clicking on 23 winners from 96 tries. When Chris Decarlo rides a Pletcher horse at Monmouth they are usually live.

Monmouth is one of the best tracks to visit, they do it right, and the atmosphere is very relaxing. If you get a chance get out to the Jersey Shore and stop by Monmouth Park. For more info go to www.monmouthpark.com. Good Luck!



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