07/11/2012 2:37PM

Monmouth Park: Millennia in good spot for return to turf

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Lil Kiara wins the Open Mind Handicap against statebreds at Monmouth Park in her last start.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – The $46,000 filly and mare feature Friday at Monmouth Park could be a sweet spot for Millennia.

The return to turf at 1 1/16 miles looks like a tonic for the 5-year-old mare trained by David Fawkes.

Millennia has the outside slot against six rivals in the third-level $60,000 claimer.

She was in a 1 1/16-mile grass groove over the winter and into the spring in Florida. In a four-race span, Millennia had a pair of close seconds and finished within 2 1/2 lengths of the winner each time.

Her two most recent efforts came in Calder stakes, both on the main track. Millennia got third in the slop in the rained-off Sara’s Success.

“We left her at Calder, thinking maybe she would handle the mud there,” Fawkes said. “She ran well in the off-the-turf race.”

Emboldened, the connections took a swing in the Emergency Nurse on a fast track.

“That was a disaster,” Fawkes said.

Millennia, beaten 21 1/4 lengths in that stakes, then headed north to join the Monmouth division.

“This is one of the better spots in a while,” Fawkes said of Friday’s race. “She fits. The last two, she was in over her head a little bit. Now, we’re back on the turf, and she’s training well. She’s been doing everything right. I’m really happy with her.”

Millennia will be reunited with jockey Joe Rocco Jr., who last rode her in one of her better efforts at Gulfstream.

“He rode her excellent that day,” Fawkes said. “We’ll give him a shot back on her.”

Lil Kiara is the sharpest horse in the field, having won her last two. She also is the biggest mystery.

A 5-year-old New Jersey-bred trained by Cal Lynch, Lil Kiara makes her grass debut in her 23rd career start. Her ability on turf remains in doubt until the starting gate opens.

In her last effort, Lil Kiara got up in the final strides to win the Open Mind Handicap here against statebreds.

The very busy Marquet Madness makes her third Monmouth start in less than a month. She set the pace most recently in the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes before fading to eighth.

Crying Lightening hits the comeback trail here for trainer Jimmy Toner. An Irish-bred 4-year-old, Crying Lightening has not run since a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs in February.