05/24/2013 3:02PM

Monmouth Park: Bargain claim Winiliscious out to win first stakes

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Tom Keyser
Cash for Clunkers, second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last year, begins her 2013 campaign at Monmouth on Sunday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Few $7,500 claims turn into stakes winners. Winiliscious could join that select group Sunday in the $75,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park. She faces five rivals in the one mile, 70 yards race, including the comebacking Cash for Clunkers, as the holiday weekend continues on the Jersey Shore.

The 12-race card starting at 12:50 p.m. Eastern features a second distaff stakes, the $75,000 Miss Liberty on the turf.

Chuck Spina proudly proclaims Winiliscious “the claim of the meet,” a statement which draws few arguments after he scooped her out of the bargain bin last May. She went on to win five times for Spina, the trainer and co-owner of the 4-year-old, who clearly holds the home field advantage at Monmouth with a 5-for-6 record here.

After reeling off three straight wins in Monmouth starter allowances, Winiliscious proved she could handle stiffer competition. She captured a second-level allowance at Parx Racing before closing out the season with a hard-luck loss in the Crowned Stakes at Delaware Park on Nov. 3.

She has had one prep race this season, a rallying third at Atlantic City Race Course in her turf debut.

“She really didn’t care for the turf, but she was a fast-closing third,” Spina said. “We needed to get her legged up after a winter off. That was the only spot.”

Now it’s back to the main track in search of an initial stakes victory.

“We just got lucky, me and seven other guys in Top Shelf Stable. What was the risk? $1,000 each,” Spina said. “She’s got ankle issues but we patched her up and she just kept getting better and better. She’s honest. She tries all the time.”

Kendrick Carmouche has the return call.

The Monmouth Beach marks the comeback of Cash for Clunkers, a close second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last season. The 5-year-old has been on the shelf since hitting the gate at the start of the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational and finishing a distant fifth behind divisional champion Royal Delta.

Elvis Trujillo will ride for trainer Rick Violette.

Final Escrow, Clarinda, Daydreamin Gracie, and Zucchini Flower complete the field.

Miss Liberty: Ruthenia takes a drop

Ruthenia returns to Monmouth in search of her first win since taking the Grade 3 Violet Stakes here last May.

She will be a leading contender in the Miss Liberty at 1 1/16 miles with Joe Bravo aboard for trainer Christophe Clement as Ruthenia ends a string of five straight graded appearances that began with the Violet.

Clare Skies Ahead also owns a stakes win over the course in last year’s Omnibus Stakes.

Baffle Me, a third-level winner last time out at Gulfstream Park, seemed to blossom over the winter in Florida for trainer Mark Hennig.

“She has progressed forward every race this year,” said assistant Rob Rader. “She showed us she had turned the corner and was starting to get better. Now she has to show us how good she wants to be.”

This will be a solid test in a full field of 12 with Elvis Trujillo aboard.

Street Secret gets her first taste of U.S. stakes action. After winning 3 of 12 races in Europe, the 5-year-old transferred to Chad Brown’s barn and overcame a slow start to win a second-level allowance at Gulfstream in late March.

Paco Lopez picks up the mount.