08/27/2010 12:05PM

Malibu Prayer concedes six pounds to Molly Pitcher rivals

Barbara D. Livingston
Malibu Prayer, with exercise rider Patti Barry, has won 4 of her last 5 starts coming into the Molly Pitcher.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Malibu Prayer, in the best form of her career, tops a field of six Sunday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park.

A winner of four of her last five starts, Malibu Prayer has the rail for the 1 1/16-mile race with Garrett Gomez set to ride for trainer Todd Pletcher.

This will be the 4-year-old Malibu Prayer’s third start at Monmouth. She ran second to Just Jenda, one of her Molly Pitcher rivals, last year in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks.

Malibu Prayer returned to the Jersey Shore in late June to handily win the Lighthouse Stakes. That victory set her up for the crowning moment of her career, a pacesetting win in the Grade 1 Ruffian Invitational Handicap at Saratoga, where she posted a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It’s a very competitive race, she’s doing very well,” Pletcher said. “We won a race there [the Lighthouse] under similar circumstances breaking from the rail. She’s carrying top weight, picking up some weight. That’s my only concern.”

Malibu Prayer will carry 123 pounds, conceding six pounds to each of her five rivals.

Malibu Prayer is the 6-5 choice on the morning line set by track oddsmaker Brad Thomas.

Queen Martha and Just Jenda are two of the leading contenders trying to knock off the favorite.

Queen Martha was a very game second most recently in the Lady’s Secret Stakes to defending Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. In her dirt debut, Queen Martha set the fractions in the Lady’s Secret before yielding in the lane to the champion.

Trainer Patrick Biancone said he believes Queen Martha, who has run only seven times, will build on that effort.

“She’s coming along,” Biancone said. “I hope she didn’t take it too hard last time.”

Since the Lady’s Secret, Queen Martha turned in a five-furlong bullet workout in 1:01.20 on Aug. 18.

“She has trained very well and we are very happy with her,” Biancone said.

The Molly Pitcher will be the final start for Just Jenda. A 4-year-old owned by Larry and Cindy Jones, Just Jenda will say good-bye at the track where she is 3 for 4. In addition to the Monmouth Oaks, Just Jenda captured the 2009 Serena’s Song and Monmouth Beach Stakes earlier this meet.

Just Jenda will try to bounce back from a shoulder injury she sustained in the third-place finish to Malibu Prayer in the Lighthouse Stakes.

“She pulled a muscle and we’ve been taking our time trying to get her back,” said Cindy Jones, who took over the training from husband Larry this year. “In the last race, she wasn’t striding out coming down the lane. She came back gimpy on her front right and we were really concerned it was an ankle injury. When she got back to the barn, she started walking better and we could tell the ankle wasn’t bothering her.

“When we got back to Delaware Park, we could tell she pulled the shoulder. Nothing serious, nothing torn.”

Just Jenda seems to have bounced back, turning in a pair of bullet works in her last two breezes.

Stage Trick, Unforgotten and Milwaukee Appeal complete the field.

◗ Pletcher tries for a Monmouth stakes double with System Ready in the $100,000 Junior Champion for 2-year-old fillies going one mile on the turf.

Arch Support has a win and a second in her two starts, both on grass for trainer Gary Contessa.

Dos Lunas heads back to the turf after finishing up the track in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on the sloppy opening day at Saratoga.

– additional reporting by David Grening