07/18/2012 12:18PM

Monmouth: Ima Jersey Girl gets class relief in Friday allowance feature


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Ima Jersey Girl ends a string of five straight stakes appearances when she drops to the $46,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares on Friday at Monmouth Park.

A 4-year-old gray New Jersey-bred, Ima Jersey Girl cuts back to six furlongs while facing five rivals in the third-level race. None of the runners carries the optional $60,000 claiming tag.

Ima Jersey Girl, a homebred for John Brunetti’s Red Oak Stable, can be her own worst enemy.

“She has a little problem in the gate sometimes where she gets a little anxious,” said trainer Greg Sacco.

That proved costly last time. Ima Jersey Girl is most effective on or near the pace, and that was the game plan for the Lighthouse Stakes here on June 30.

Except she got away poorly.

“She just broke horrible to the right and hit her head on the gate,” Sacco said. “We intended to be on the lead, or near the pace. She took a lot of the track, inside, outside. It was a tough trip. It was a nice effort to get fourth.”

This will be the fourth start for Ima Jersey Girl in New Jersey this season. She closed from ninth to get third in the comeback, a turf sprint at the Meadowlands.

In her next race at Monmouth, the Open Mind Handicap against statebreds at six furlongs, she led turning for home before finishing fourth.

Sacco said Ima Jersey Girl flipped her palate in the Open Mind and underwent minor surgery to correct the problem.

Then came the stretch-out to a 1 1/16 miles for the Lighthouse, and the trip that didn’t pan out.

Sacco is hoping for a cleaner break on Friday with a rider change to Joe Bravo.

“Joe is in a zone right now,” Sacco said. “He had a terrific Gulfstream meet and it carried over to Monmouth. He’s riding with a ton of confidence and we’ve had a lot of success with him in the past.”

Daddy’s Honor and Winnie Dixie are a pair of up-and-coming 4-year-olds with wins in their two most recent starts.

Daddy’s Honor is also cutting back in distance following a pair of allowance routes here and at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Jorge Navarro.

Winnie Dixie, from the Kiaran McLaughlin barn, won over the inner track at Aqueduct before scoring by 5 1/2 lengths here last month.