08/17/2012 2:14PM

Monmouth Park: Extra distance can aid Fire Alarm


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Howe Great cruised to victory in the Jersey Derby as the 3-10 favorite.

Fire Alarm, the only horse to unleash a meaningful stretch rally behind Howe Great that afternoon, gets his chance to shine Sunday in the $60,000 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf at Monmouth Park.

Racing four wide into the stretch, Fire Alarm came on to get second, only 1 1/4 lengths behind Howe Great.

That improved effort in his first start since being gelded makes Fire Alarm a top contender in the 1 1/8-mile Restoration. He faces six rivals in the bid for his first stakes victory while going a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Jersey Derby.

“We really think the extra distance will help him,” said Tom Morgan, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “We were looking for a race from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter for him, and there was nothing in this purse range. This race came up, and it fits perfect for him. He’s a maturing horse who is steadily getting better.”

Fire Alarm started out on dirt, picking up a pair of wins before stepping up to the Louisiana Derby, where he finished ninth.

His next two starts came at Monmouth, both turf stakes. He was fourth in the Lamplighter in late May before the Jersey Derby.

“I don’t think he’s shown his true potential yet,” Morgan said.

It’s been a tough summer for owner-trainer Dennis Manning, both physically and on the racetrack. Manning is still looking for his first win of the meet while recuperating from skin cancer surgery that left him with large white bandages on both hands.

Manning hopes things finally turn his way with Crafty Unicorn, the likely pacesetter in the Restoration.

The colt has hit the board in all four starts, including third-place finishes in the Lamplighter and the Jersey Derby.

“I can’t fault my horse, he’s 4 for 4 in the money,” Manning said. “He’s training superbly and he blew out really well the other day. The only one not doing any good is me.”

Star Channel is a son of English Channel, a two-time winner of Monmouth’s Grade 1 United Nations for trainer Todd Pletcher. This will be his first start in New Jersey after a fourth-place finish in an overnight stakes at Saratoga.

Corinthian’s Jewel steps up to the stakes following a maiden win here last month.