06/10/2011 1:31PM

Monmouth a more suitable spot for Get Stormy

Photos by Z/Keeneland
Trainer Tom Bush bypassed Saturday's Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park in order to bring Get Stormy to Monmouth Park for Sunday's Monmouth Stakes.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Trainer Tom Bush hopes he made the right call for Get Stormy when he opted to skip the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park, his home track, in favor of the Grade 3, $250,000 Monmouth Stakes on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

The Monmouth Stakes is the prep for the meet’s premier grass stakes: the Grade 1 United Nations on July 2.

Bush considered several factors, and distance was a key concern. The Manhattan on Saturday was 1 1/4 miles; the Monmouth Stakes is 1 1/8 miles and appears a better fit for Get Stormy.

“It was not an easy decision,” Bush said at his Belmont barn. “I would have loved to run here, and obviously, it’s a Grade 1.”

Then there is a question of style. Get Stormy comes into the race having won consecutive Grade 1’s: the Makers Mark at one mile at Keeneland and the Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs. In both races, he dictated the pace.

“The ground in Kentucky for both of his races was pretty much on the soft side,” Bush said. “With his style, that probably helped him. It’s hard to close on that kind of ground. You get on firm ground, regardless of pace, horses will come at you at the finish. That concerned me, firm going at a mile and a quarter.”

Get Stormy heads to Monmouth in the best form of his career. A 5-year-old who has won 10 of 22 races, he will have Ramon Dominguez aboard as he looks to extend his two-race winning streak.

“He ran exceptionally well in those two races,” Bush said. “He had a nice break in Florida. He trained very, very well, and he didn’t miss a beat. He thrived on the weather. He thrived on the shipping. Hopefully, he can keep it going. In the five weeks since the last race, he’s trained beautifully.”

One factor that gives Bush pause in this spot is Get Serious, who won three Grade 3 stakes here last summer and is 10 for 13 over the Monmouth course.

“We’ve got to deal with him,” Bush said. “He was a very special horse there last year.”

This will be the second start of the campaign for Get Serious. A 7-year-old gelding, he ran poorly in his season debut, never factoring in the rained-off Elkwood Stakes on May 21.

While Get Serious has been highly effective coming off the turf onto sloppy, sealed tracks, he balks at a harrowed main track like the one he caught in the Elkwood.

“He seems to hate the dirt a lot more than he used to,” trainer John Forbes said. “We thought about scratching him, but he hadn’t been out since September. He’s not a good work horse and what we would have needed to do with him was just too pounding. He got something out of it.”

Get Serious has had two breezes over Monmouth’s grass course since the Elkwood.

“He’s training great,” Forbes said. “We just have to see how he is. He’s a year older, but we are looking for a good race from him. It’s not an easy spot.”

A true statement, on several levels.Get Stormy and Get Serious, the defending Monmouth Stakes champion, have identical running styles and could wind up compromising each other. And there is a very strong lineup of challengers for a Grade 3 race.

If the speed horses falter, Teaks North could pick up the pieces. A rallying winner of the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at 25-1, he is 2 for 2 over Monmouth’s turf course.

Nownownow can also close. He came with a big rush and just missed catching Get Serious by a neck in Grade 3 Red Bank last September.

Roman Tiger was the runner-up to Get Serious in the last year’s Monmouth and finished third to him in the Grade 3 Oceanport.

Sleepless Knight, winner of the 2009 Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth, and an uncoupled entry from trainer Christophe Clement of Sal the Barber and Voodoo Swinge complete the field.

Turf sprinters meet in McSorley

The $65,000 John McSorley Stakes, Sunday’s supporting feature, shifts to the other end of the turf distance spectrum for a 5 1/2 furlong sprint.

The breadth of experience is quite vast, ranging from Varsity, a 4-year-old trained by Clement making only his fifth start, to General Perfect who will saddle up for the 42nd time in his career.

Several of the New York based riders down for the Monmouth Stakes picked up McSorley mounts. Cornelio Velasquez will ride Lady Rizzi, the lone mare in the 10-horse field, for trainer Linda Rice.

Dominguez has the mount on Fiddlers Patriot, a winner of three of his last four since making the transition to the turf for trainer George Weaver.