06/08/2011 12:28PM

Monmouth Park: Pace could be problem for Nacho Friend again


Nacho Friend, a game second on opening day when compromised by a lack of speed in the field, returns in Friday’s featured eighth race at Monmouth Park, a second-level optional $32,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. But will he again have to contend with a controlled pace?

In his first start of the season, Nacho Friend finished second behind Dueling Alex, beaten only a half-length at this same level. Nacho Friend usually closes, but the pace scenario enabled jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. to keep the chestnut colt much closer to the pace than he had been in recent tries, which was just fine with trainer Kelly Breen.

“We wanted to put him into the race a little earlier,” said Breen.

Due to the lack of pace, Dueling Alex, a confirmed closer, was on the lead from the start, and he was able to stave off Nacho Friend after a stretch-long duel. It wasn’t an easy race for Nacho Friend, and “bounce” theorists might expect him to regress Friday in his second start off the layoff, but Breen is expecting another big effort.

“He’s run better races than that in the past and come back well,” said Breen, who noted that Nacho Friend turned in a sharp five-furlong work on May 27. “He seems to be on track, going forward.”

Breen named Valdivia to ride Nacho Friend again but expects the jockey to be at Belmont on Friday, so Angel Serpa will take the mount.

The main concern for Nacho Friend, who breaks from the rail, is once again the expected race flow, as there’s not a whole lot of speed in this seven-horse field, either. In fact, Breen said, “I think he’ll be up closer to the pace again.”

The role of pacesetter may fall to New Adventure, who was claimed for $20,000 two back by trainer Scott Volk and owner Jim Riccio. New Adventure wasn’t beaten badly in a sprint at Aqueduct in his first start off the claim, and the resulting 84 Beyer and the likely race flow make him a contender from post 7 Friday under Mike Luzzi.

Secret Getaway drops in class off a sixth-place finish in the Elkwood Stakes. Secret Getaway figures to fare better on Friday, especially since he has a hint of early speed, which should help him work out a favorable trip from post 3. Elvis Trujillo rides for trainer Skip Einhorn.

Day of Destiny, Middle Bank, Primary Witness, and Biohazard round out the field.

Post time for Friday’s 11-race card is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.