10/09/2010 5:53PM

Etched outbattles Musket Man in stretch of Monmouth Cup

Deja Puglisi/EQUI-PHOTO
Etched, on the inside with Eddie Castro, barely holds off Musket Man and Eddie Castro in the Monmouth Cup.

The connections of both Etched and Musket Man, who finished a close one-two in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park have to give serious consideration to giving their horses a shot in next month’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

Etched ($16.20), making just his second start this season after more than nine months on the sidelines, gamely battled back after odds-on favorite Musket Man put his head in front inside the sixteenth pole to prevail by a neck. Ridden by Eddie Castro, Etched is now 2 for 2 in 2010 after winning last month’s Formal Gold at Monmouth.

“I was nervous when Musket Man came running at him in the stretch because he’s a very good horse,” said Andrew St. Lawrence, the assistant trainer to New York-based Kiaran McLaughlin. “He really showed up to run today. I think after today, we have to consider the Breeders’ Cup.”

Castro agreed that Etched showed a lot of heart.

 “This horse seems like he’s getting better and better,” Castro said.  “He put in a nice kick when I asked him. When that horse came along side, I switched to the left-handed whip and he really dug in. He fought back and didn’t want to let the horse go by us.”



Musket Man, favored at 1-2 on the basis of the classy company he has kept all season, was at a tactical disadvantage after pacesetter Chirac got away with slow fractions of 49.96 seconds and 1:14.39 in the 1 1/8-mile race. But he ran well enough that his jockey, Eibar Coa, said it would be worthwhile to take a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“I actually think he put in his run too soon and we got to the horse in front a little early,” said Coa, referring to Etched.” He’s always been a horse who gets a little confused when he doesn’t have a target. I told the connections I wouldn’t be afraid to go to the Breeders’ Cup. All he needs is a horse to run at.”

The 5-year-old Etched, now 7 for 9 lifetime, completed the nine furlongs in 1:50.31.

Musket Man, no worse than third in his last five outings – all Grade 1 or Grade 2 events – remains winless since taking a minor stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February. He was five lengths clear of the third-place finisher, Chirac.