06/29/2012 1:27PM

Monmouth Park: Maple Forest will be tough on home strip in Blue Sparkler Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Maple Forest will be among the favorites for Sunday's Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Monmouth Park brings out the best in Maple Forest.

A 4-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher, Maple Forest is 2-2-0 in four starts at Monmouth. Her latest effort here was a career-best front-running victory in the Red Cross Stakes on Memorial Day, producing a 92 Beyer Speed Figure despite a layoff of almost three months.

“When she’s right and she has things her own way, she is tough to catch and beat,” assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta said. “Everything kind of worked out that day. Layoffs don’t worry me coming out of this barn. With Todd training them, if they’re not ready, he’s not running them.”

A repeat of the Red Cross effort will make Maple Forest very tough Sunday in the $60,000 Blue Sparkler for fillies and mares going six furlongs.

Unlike many of Pletcher’s stakes runners at Monmouth who ship down from Belmont Park on race day, Maple Forest has been stabled here with his New Jersey division all meet.

“She likes the track,” Sciametta said. “Just look at her past performances, and she does well here training. There’s an exercise rider that galloped her all last year. Some people say it helps when you keep riders and horses together. I think it shows, if you look at her record here.”

With Humberto Zamora up for the morning gallops, Maple Forest ran here twice last year. She finished second to eventual graded stakes winner Pomeroys Pistol in the Just Smashing Stakes before capturing the Dearly Precious.

Joe Bravo is another key member of the Maple Forest team. He has been aboard for the last three Monmouth starts.

“He just kind of leaves her alone,” Sciametta said. “He just lets her run her race.”

Maple Forest could be joined by Midnight Visit as an uncoupled stablemate. It would be her first start outside New York, where she is 4-0-2 in seven races.

Beat the Blues might pose the main challenge to Maple Forest. She rallied to get second most recently in the Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Valiant Passion exits a pair of stakes at Pimlico, including a runner-up finish most recently in the Skipat.

My Sunshine Gal was a game second to Maple Forest in the Red Cross. She tackled the turf in her next start and never got into the hunt in the Fort Monmouth Stakes.

Penn National-based Grand Kisses completes the field.