05/27/2009 12:00AM

Clean break crucial for Cherokee Gem


There are no stakes on Friday at Monmouth Park but there's at least a little sizzle, with three allowance sprints headlining the card.

The feature is an optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies, with a purse of $41,000. None of the eight fillies in the field was entered for the $40,000 tag, since all are eligible for the entry-level allowance condition.

Cherokee Gem has been favored in her last three starts, including her latest under these same conditions, but she lost her best chance immediately there and settled for third behind gate-to-wire winner Lady Alexander.

"She didn't break real good," trainer Scott Volk said of Cherokee Gem. "She wasn't going to beat the winner anyway - Lady Alexander was better than her."

Cherokee Gem did rally nicely but if she breaks with the field on Friday she figures to be right off expected pacesetter Golden Artemis, who drew the rail.

"She's one of those - she breaks well one time, she doesn't break well next time," according to Volk, already a three-time winner at the young meet.

And what can we expect from Cherokee Gem on Friday?

"We're dealing with the racing gods on that one," said Volk.

Chuck Lopez, who has ridden her in her last two starts, will be aboard Cherokee Gem.

Like the featured eighth, the other two allowance races on Friday are both at six furlongs. Race 3, a second-level allowance which carries a purse of $42,000, seems to set up well for stalker Township Cat.

Township Cat was third in a similar spot on opening day locally, his first start since last summer. Black Jack Blues was second in that same race and is one of his main rivals on Friday but figures to face early pressure from Evenings End, who comes off a front-running score against first-level allowance sprinters.

Eddie Castro, who has ridden Township Cat in each of his last four starts, including two wins at Monmouth last year, is aboard again, for trainer Ben Perkins Jr.

The fifth race, a $41,000 entry-level allowance for fillies and mares, looks like a very good spot for Eclectic, an eight-length winner vs. restricted claimers at Aqueduct in her latest. With little speed and only five rivals in the field, Eclectic figures to shake loose under jockey Paco Lopez.