06/29/2009 11:00PM

Breeze gets Well Monied tight for American Oaks

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Benoit & Associates
Well Monied is a prime threat among 14 for the American Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. - So far, so good with Well Monied this season at Hollywood Park, but will be that good enough to win Sunday's $700,000 American Oaks?

Well Monied won an optional claimer on May 2 and the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on May 31 in her stakes debut. In the American Oaks, she will start at 1 1/4 miles on turf for the first time, and must beat a field that includes invaders from across the United States, Ireland, England, and New Zealand.

"It's a wide-open race in my mind," trainer Howard Zucker said. "My filly has to prove herself."

Zucker may be playing it too cautiously. After all, his filly does have a home course advantage. In the Honeymoon, over 1 1/8 miles on turf, Well Monied rallied from seventh in a field of nine to win by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths. The longer distance on Sunday should not be a major issue.

Tuesday at Santa Anita, Well Monied worked five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Joel Rosario. Well Monied needed the exercise to be ready for Sunday's race, Zucker said.

"I liked the way she did it," Zucker said. "I didn't want her to go as fast as she went."

The American Oaks is expected to draw a large field, perhaps as many as 14. Well Monied is one of three California stakes winners expected to run. The others are Acting Lady, winner of the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April, and Mrs Kipling, who captured the Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park in May.

Zucker respects Apple Charlotte, the English invader who will be making her graded stakes debut. Trained by Henry Cecil, Apple Charlotte has won 3 of 4 starts, and was beaten a nose in her only loss, the Weinstock Stakes at Newbury, England, on June 11.

"She gets better as it gets firmer," Zucker said. "That's scary."

Papa Clem eyes Long Branch, Haskell

Papa Clem, the winner of the Arkansas Derby in April but unplaced in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will make his next start in the $175,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park July 11, trainer Gary Stute said.

Papa Clem was shipped from California to New Jersey on Tuesday, and will have a workout at Monmouth Park next Monday. Stute and owner Bo Hirsch have the $1omillion Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Aug. 2 as a long-term goal for Papa Clem.

"I want to get a race into him before the big one, make sure he likes the track," Stute said.

Stute said that Elvis Trujillo will ride Papa Clem.

Papa Clem finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, a nose and a head behind runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, and was sixth in the Preakness, 7 3/4 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra.

Nashoba Express developing slowly

A few years ago, Nashoba's Key won her first seven races to take a prominent role in the nation's older female division. This year, her 3-year-old half-brother, Nashoba Express, may need more experience to reach his best.

Thursday, Nashoba Express starts in the fifth race at Hollywood Park, an optional claimer on turf for statebreds.

After finishing 10th in his debut at Santa Anita on April 9, Nashoba Express rebounded to win a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on turf for statebreds at Hollywood Park on May 24.

"I want to see how he progresses," said trainer Carla Gaines said. "He's training well, but he's a horse that may take time to develop. I have good hopes for him improving with every start."

Nashoba Express is by In Excess and was bred by Warren Williamson, who also campaigned Nashoba's Key, a winner of 8 of 10 starts, $1,252,020, and six stakes. Nashoba's Key was euthanized after suffering a stall accident at Hollywood in May 2008.

Gaines said that Nashoba Express is more inquisitive than Nashoba's Key was.

"He's a thinker," Gaines said. "He's always busy, always watching."

Nashoba Express is part of a nine-horse field that includes Enriched, a half-brother to the millionaire California-bred Lava Man. Owned by breeder Carol Lingenfelter and trained by Craig Dollase, Enriched needed four races to beat maidens, finally doing so in an $80,000 claiming race on May 8.

Williamson and Gaines also have Nashoba's Excess, a 4-year-old half-sister to Nashoba's Key. Nashoba's Excess was scheduled to make her debut at Hollywood Park last Friday but was withdrawn because of soreness, Gaines said.

Apprentice gets off to good start

The apprentice jockey Christian Santiago Reyes is off to a fast start in California, winning two races during his first four days of riding at Hollywood Park.

Reyes, 19, claims seven pounds. A native of Puerto Rico, he previously rode at Churchill Downs before arriving in Southern California in mid-June.

"I love everything here," he said through an interpreter at Santa Anita on Tuesday. "I'm in awe. This is another world. A lot of the riders have given me some good advice, Victor Espinoza, Joel Rosario, and Mike Smith."

Reyes is represented by agent Tony Matos, who said that retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens has assisted Reyes with further tips.

Moon de French may go in A Gleam

Shaking off any effects of a 22-month layoff, Moon de French remained unbeaten after two starts with a five-length win in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Sunday.

The win has trainer Bob Baffert believing the 4-year-old Moon de French will start in a stakes in coming months.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Moon de French beat maidens at Saratoga in August 2007, but did not start again until Sunday. Sent off favored, she led throughout and finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.75.

The layoff did not concern Baffert.

"You can do it if they're good," he said.

Baffert said Moon de French will be nominated for the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 18.

"I'll see how she works back," he said. "She could be really nice."