07/26/2013 12:36PM

Monmouth Cup rebound spot for Take Charge Indy


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Take Charge Indy and Hymn Book, a pair of Grade 1 winners, try to recapture past glory on Sunday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Cup, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race at Monmouth Park formerly known as the Meadowlands Cup.

Take Charge Indy earned his Grade 1 stripes in last year’s Florida Derby. A 4-year-old trained by Patrick Byrne, Take Charge Indy will try to rebound from an inexplicable 20 1/4-length loss last month in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs as the 19-10 favorite.

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He was coming off a bang-up win at Churchill, romping by six lengths in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes while ringing up a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure.

The Foster was a dud for Take Charge Indy. While Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned rolled to victory, Take Charge Indy finished last of six. And Byrne walked away scratching his head. Perhaps it was a just a bounce, a regression following the huge effort.

“My horse was training fantastic going into the Stephen Foster,” Byrne said. “I couldn’t see any excuse. I do know one thing: Fort Larned ran out of his shoes that night.”

Since then, Take Charge Indy has, to Byrne’s eye, shaken off the loss.

“We’ve got a nice horse for this race,” Byrne said. “Hopefully, we’ll get back on track with him.”

Gary Stevens picks up the mount.

This will be a homecoming for Byrne, who spent a lot of time here earlier in his career. He captured Monmouth’s Grade 2 Molly Pitcher with Relaxing Rhythm in 1998 but has not run a horse here in over a decade.

Hymn Book has also been away from the Jersey Shore for a long time. A 7-year-old gelding trained by Shug McGaughey, Hymn Book makes his first start here since winning a maiden-claiming race in the slop for a $30,000 tag in 2009.

He’s come a long way since then, picking up seven more wins, including the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in 2012.

John Velazquez will ride.

Pants On Fire is one of the local hopes in the Monmouth Cup. Winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes in 2011, Pants On Fire was third most recently in the Mountainview Handicap at Penn National.

“We’re hoping to have a little home-field advantage over some of these horses shipping in,” said trainer Kelly Breen.

Small Town Talk, Big Sur, Norman Asbjornson, and Ponzi Scheme complete the field.