07/31/2015 10:27AM

Casual Smile goes for first graded stakes win in Matchmaker

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Casual Smile wins a July 5 allowance; she will try for her first graded stakes win in the Matchmaker.

The British-bred Casual Smile began her career in her native country but more recently has found a successful niche on the Jersey Shore. With the eyes of the racing world at Monmouth Park on Sunday, she’ll get a chance to score her first graded stakes victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Matchmaker Stakes for fillies and mares on turf.

Casual Smile, a homebred for W.S. Farish, went winless in five starts in England for trainer Andrew Balding, although she did place in all but one of those outings. Transferred to trainer Chad Brown in the U.S., she turned in creditable efforts in her first three starts this year before breaking through when Brown sent her to Monmouth Park. She won her maiden in May and most recently romped in a July 5 allowance by 5 3/4 lengths.

Casual Smile drew post 2 in the field of eight for the Matchmaker, and Abel Castellano Jr. will ride.

Along with Casual Smile, Brown has a proven commodity for the Matchmaker in the French-bred Testa Rossi, who drew post 6 with the locally popular Joe Bravo in the irons. The filly, a three-time Grade 3 winner, comes in off a runner-up effort behind Coffee Clique in the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap last month at Parx.


I’m Already Sexy is the most accomplished runner in the group with six stakes victories – three graded – and two additional graded stakes placings to her credit. The well-traveled mare made her first trip to Monmouth recently for trainer Wayne Catalano and captured the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes, the local prep for the Matchmaker, on June 27.

Monmouth’s leading rider, Paco Lopez, was aboard I’m Already Sexy for the Eatontown and retains the mount Sunday. They leave from post 5.

The Matchmaker, as indicated by its name, offers added value for the top finishers. Race sponsor WinStar Farm has put up seasons to three of its young stallions, with the connections of the top three finishers in the Matchmaker each awarded one, selecting in order of finish. The stallions with seasons up for grabs this year are Grade 1 winners Paynter and Take Charge Indy, both of whom had their first foals arrive in 2015, and Grade 2 winner Fed Biz, who entered stud this year.

The Matchmaker is one of three graded stakes on the Haskell Invitational undercard. Two other listed events round out Sunday’s stakes lineup – the $100,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes for fillies and mares and the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes for sprinters.

The lone graded stakes winner in the Lady’s Secret field of seven is Got Lucky, who will face familiar competitors Sunday. The filly, trained by Todd Pletcher, made her first trip to New Jersey in May and finished second to Stiffed in the Monmouth Beach Stakes, her first start in three months. She turned the tables on her rival next out with a 5 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes on July 3.

Lopez, who was aboard Got Lucky for her two Monmouth outings, retains the mount. They drew post 4.

Stiffed is back for more Sunday, as is Oasis at Midnight, fifth in the Molly Pitcher. Oasis at Midnight was the runner-up to Blue Violet, who also is in Sunday’s lineup, in the 2014 Lady’s Secret. Blue Violet is winless since, although she was a close third in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland in April.

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The gritty Wildcat Red, who headlines the Teddy Drone, has 10 stakes wins or placings to his credit and has successfully stretched his speed in two-turn efforts, including a victory in last year’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and a third behind Bayern in the Haskell. For the remainder of this season, however, he is expected to focus on one-turn races. He returned from an injury to finish third in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint on July 5 behind Favorite Tale and champion Work All Week.

Wildcat Red, based in Florida with Jose Garoffalo, drew post 3 with Lopez aboard.

Also in the field of nine for the Teddy Drone is Stallwalkin’ Dude, who won the Diablo Stakes at Belmont in May, defeating Palace Malice in the classic winner’s first start of 2015. Since then, Stallwalkin’ Dude has placed in three other stakes, including a second in the Grade 2 True North and a third in the Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship.