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Monmouth Park: Bob and the Gang will try to regroup in turf attempt
By Mike Farrell
OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Friday card at Monmouth Park came up surprisingly strong, with four allowances topping the 10-race program.
Surprise stems from the fact that the race office was able to marshal a quartet of solid contests (races 6 through 9) in the aftermath of the Haskell Invitational last Sunday.
The allowance cupboard is often bare after the biggest and best-attended day of racing in New Jersey, as Monmouth pulls out the stops to produce a quality show.
This time, there was something in reserve.
Of the four, the eighth race is the most interesting as Bob and the Gang makes his grass debut in this $44,000 second-level allowance with a $32,000 claiming option.
In mid-June, trainer Pat McBurney and everyone connected with Bob and the Gang caught a mild case of Haskell fever after the 3-year-old stretched out to win a first-level allowance immediately following his maiden win.
"Being here at Monmouth Park, our home track, you get some dreams of the Haskell in your eyes," McBurney said.
The fever quickly broke in the Long Branch Stakes, the final local prep for the Haskell.
Bob and the Gang, ridden by Paco Lopez, dictated the pace for three-quarters of a mile before fading, finishing 24 lengths behind Micromanage.
"He threw a clunker," McBurney said. "And maybe he was just due to bounce. We did throw a lot at him. Paco said that at no time did he have the horse under him that he had in the allowance race."
So the regrouping starts here, at 1 1/16 miles on grass.
At an early stage, especially at Gulfstream Park over the winter when Bob and the Gang ran poorly on dirt, McBurney thought the gray colt might have a future on turf
"Hopefully, it will be an easy race, and we'll see what he thinks of the turf course," McBurney said. "From there, we'll plan the last half of the season for him."
Joe Bravo picks up the mount as Lopez sticks with Big John B, a winner of three of his last five races.
Special Skills steps up following a first-level allowance victory. He was a pace factor in his previous race, the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont Park, before finishing ninth.
Space Race, the only other last-out winner in the field, is also the only horse running for the claiming price.
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