09/10/2010 12:46PM

Chirac returns in Formal Gold

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Christiana Scavuzzo/Equi-Photo
Chirac will make his first start since a victory in last year's Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes in Sunday's $75,000 Formal Gold Stakes at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Chirac is back Sunday at Monmouth Park.

A 5-year-old gelding trained by Jane Cibelli, Chirac faces four rivals in the $75,000 Formal Gold Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the prep for the top event of the fall meet, the Grade 2, $300,000 Monmouth Cup on Oct. 9.

Chirac had a banner season here in 2009, posting four wins including a 6 3/4-length romp in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes.

He suffered a soft-tissue injury following the Iselin win and has been sidelined for more than a year. It took longer to heal than expected, wiping out most of this campaign. Chirac didn’t return to Monmouth until July and has been working steadily in preparation for the comeback.

Cibelli is delighted to have her stable star back, especially after his final workout last Sunday: five furlongs in 1:01.40.

“He certainly has his game face on,” Cibelli said. “The lights went on after that last work. Now he’s saying, ‘Where’s my race?’ ”

Cibelli also is somewhat apprehensive.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Cibelli said. “He’s been working well, but it’s not an easy spot. We’re hoping he has a good trip and that everything goes well and he comes back from it good. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when they’ve been off for that length of time. Very often, they don’t come back as good as they once were. He’s been training as well as he ever has. That’s the only gauge we’ve got to go on.”

Elvis Trujillo, aboard for Chirac’s five starts here last summer, has the return call.

Chirac is not the only prominent New Jersey stakes winner launching a comeback in the Formal Gold.

Etched, a winner of 5 of 7 races in his brief career, runs for the first time since finishing 13th to Blame in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last November.

Prior to the Clark, Etched eked out a neck win in the Meadowlands Cup, the predecessor of the Monmouth Cup.

Alan Garcia will be aboard for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Secret Getaway, a $50,000 claim in August, steps up into this spot for trainer Skip Einhorn.

Sir Whimsey, no match for Duke of Mischief in last month’s Iselin, looks to rebound, while Primary Witness steps up to a stakes for the first time following a second-level allowance win.