Updated on 09/16/2011 8:02AM

Include all ready for 'ideal spot'

Bob Denver/Equiphotos
Include heads the field for Sunday's $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Include enters Sunday's Grade 2, $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth off an 11-week layoff, but don't expect him to be vulnerable. The lone Grade 1 winner in the seven-horse field, Include is fresh and ever dangerous heading into the nine-furlong Iselin, the first stop on his road to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park Oct. 26.

Include, trained by recent Hall of Fame inductee Bud Delp and owned by Robert Meyerhoff, has been given ample time to recover from a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap June 1 at Suffolk Downs and a minor lung infection following the race. The Breeders' Cup Classic, in which Include ran seventh last year, has been part of his plans since his victorious 2002 debut in the Jennings Handicap at Pimlico April 20.

With the freshening, and a bullet four-furlong final drill in 46.60 seconds at Laurel Park Wednesday, Delp expects his star handicap horse to be on the top of his game Sunday in the Iselin, an "ideal spot for him to come back in," according to Delp. The nation's top rider, Jerry Bailey, retains the mount.

"The layoff is not going to hurt my horse," Delp said. "He's ready. He would have been ready three weeks ago. But I wanted to give him every benefit to get over his lung infection and he's coming in real fresh."

Include, the 120-pound highweight, has only started the twice this year. With a solid performance in the Iselin, Include will likely start once more before the Breeders' Cup Classic - in the Woodward at Belmont Sept. 7 or the Jockey Club Gold Cup Sept. 28. "We have to get by this hurdle first, though," he said. "I'm just going to take it one race at a time."

After winning the Jennings Handicap for Maryland-breds by nine lengths, Include was given more than a month off before starting in the Mass Cap. He took a one-length lead with one furlong remaining before being caught by Macho Uno and Evening Attire. Although Delp said he was pleased with Include's race, he said the track that day took its toll on his horse.

"We didn't have a favorable racetrack, but I don't think anybody liked it," Delp said. "It rained the night before and they scraped it to get it fast, but it was a little too fast. It was stinging the horses."

The Iselin is a key race for Bowman's Band, who finished second in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap April 6. He has been unable to break through for his first graded stakes victory, but an equipment change, used first for a win in the Carpenter Memorial at Delaware July 20, may be what he needs to reach the next level.

Trainer Michael Matz switched Bowman Band's nose band to a figure eight one and tied his tongue down after he ran fifth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap June 15. Bowman's Band, a 4-year-old, had not finished well in his previous races, possibly because of an entrapped epiglottis, Matz said. Yet he finished strongly in the Carpenter, with a 2 1/4-length win going away.

"If he was entrapping the last part of the race, to do as well as he did doing that, who knows what kind of horse he might be?" Matz said. "This is a telling point for him. Include is a real good horse. This race will tell us where we fit in."

First Lieutenant, one of the top handicap horses on the grounds, is searching for his first stakes victory despite winning three races here and battling in graded stakes. He is the lone holdover from last year's Iselin, in which he ran second to Broken Vow. In his first start of the year July 27, the Phil Oliver-trained First Lieutenant crossed the wire first in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, but was disqualified for interference and placed third.

Post time for the Iselin, the 10th race, is 5:45 p.m. The race will be televised live on ESPN from 5-6 p.m. Eastern.

Multiple Grade 3 winner Cat's at Home, Gerosa, Really Irish, and Runspastum complete the field.

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