07/31/2015 10:47AM

Bradester, Valid continue rivalry in Monmouth Cup

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Bradester comes into Sunday's Monmouth Cup following an impressive win in the Salvator Mile.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – The Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Cup is the richest of the five stakes on the Haskell Invitational undercard Sunday at Monmouth Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Cup has been slotted as race 10 on a 14-race card. It is first leg of a $100,000-guaranteed pick four and the second leg of an all-stakes pick four with a guaranteed pool of $400,000. The card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

The eight-horse Monmouth Cup has a solid core of four in Bradester, Pants On Fire, Protonico, and Valid.

Bradester is coming off what might be the best race of his career in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth. He ended Red Vine’s three-race winning streak that day and took a 2-1 lead over third-place Valid in their head-to-head races at Monmouth.

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The Salvator Mile was a bounce-back race for Bradester. After beginning his 5-year-old season with a 13th-place finish in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan, he tired in the stretch of an optional claimer at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day after appearing to be in command on the turn of the one-mile race.


Trainer Eddie Kenneally removed Bradester’s blinkers for the Salvator Mile, and he relaxed better and finished stronger. Although Bradester pressed the pace, the half-mile went in a manageable 47.61 seconds, much slower than his standard clip.

“I thought he was showing too much speed in his previous starts,” Kenneally said. “He needed to settle more, so we removed the blinkers. Earlier in his career, he needed the blinkers, but he doesn’t anymore.”


To Kenneally, the equipment change was less important to Bradester’s big performance in the Salvator Mile than was running over the Monmouth strip.

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“He loves the surface at Monmouth,” he said. “He ran there twice last year, and they were his best races.”

Monmouth Cup, race 10

Key contenders

Bradester (Last 3 Beyers: 109-80-NA)

◗ The 109 Beyer Speed Figure Bradester earned in the Salvator Mile tied his career best, which came when he finished second by a half-length to Valid in last summer’s Monmouth Cup.

◗ Bradester and Valid have met three times at Monmouth. Besides this year’s Salvator Mile and last year’s Monmouth Cup, Bradester finished second to Itsmyluckyday in the 2014 Salvator Mile, with Valid a nose back in third. Bradester and Valid are both fast horses and usually end up side by side at some point in their common races.

Pants On Fire (Last 3 Beyers: 81-91-104)

◗ Now 7, Pants On Fire is 3 for 7 at Monmouth. He won the 2013 Monmouth Cup, the 2012 Skip Away, and the 2011 Pegasus. Last year, he was third in the Monmouth Cup and second in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes.

◗ He finished seventh in the Met Mile last out, but the effort was better than it looks on paper.

“He was right there turning for home,” trainer Kelly Breen said.

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◗ He was entered in the Salvator Mile following the Met Mile, but Breen scratched him to await this race.

“He needed a little more time,” Breen said. “He’s doing good.”

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 Pants On Fire. Trainer Kelly Breen is 30-8-4-4 with a $2.36 ROI over the past five years in dirt routes at Monmouth Park following a layoff of 45 days or more. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Protonico (Last 3 Beyers: 103-107-NA)

◗ Protonico was being pointed to the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June when he came down with a virus that was going through trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn.

◗ He has been surprisingly close to the pace while winning his two most recent races – the Grade 2 Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs and the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland. He should come from off the pace Sunday under jockey Mike Smith.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 7 Protonico. Won the Grade 2 Alysheba last start, beating three horses that won stakes races in their next start, each posting Beyer Speed Figures of at least 105. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

Valid (Last 3 Beyers: 103-102-96)

◗ Trained by Marcus Vitali, Valid has been second or third in four of his last five races and has not won since taking the Grade 3 Fred Hooper at Gulfstream Park in February.

◗ He came from off the pace to challenge Bradester for the lead in the Salvator Mile but has the speed to go for the lead here if jockey Orlando Bocachica chooses.