08/16/2013 3:45PM

Monmouth Park: San Pablo in peak form for Iselin title defense


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Defending champion San Pablo returns to Monmouth Park on Sunday to find a well-balanced, competitive field awaiting him in the Grade 3, $150,000 Phillip H. Iselin Stakes.

The 1 1/8-mile race drew a field of eight, including the duo of San Pablo and Percussion from trainer Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher indicated Friday that only San Pablo will go.

Chad Brown also entered a pair and is leaning toward running both: Last Gunfighter and Jaguar Paw.

All runners are separate betting interests.

For San Pablo, the Iselin victory last year was the high point of an excellent campaign in which he won five stakes.

After starting this year with a pair of loses at Oaklawn Park, San Pablo bounced back with a dominant win in the Criminal Type overnight stakes at Belmont Park. After that victory, Pletcher considered the Suburban Handicap, but the spacing (June 14 to July 6) was too close.

[PHILLIP H. ISELIN STAKES: Get PPs, watch Sunday's full card live]

“He’s shown on days that he’s capable of running some big ones,” Pletcher said. “It took us a while to round him back into form, but he acts likes he’s at the top of his game at the moment.”

Chris DeCarlo, aboard for last year’s Iselin win, reunites with San Pablo.

Both Pletcher and DeCarlo are seeking their third Iselin victories. Pletcher won with West Virginia in 2005; DeCarlo rode Park Avenue Ball in 2006.

Last Gunfighter has been in top form since joining Brown’s barn last year. He proceeded to reel off six straight wins, culminating with Grade 3 triumphs in the Excelsior at Aqueduct and the Pimlico Special.

His last effort was perhaps the best, even though it snapped the winning streak when Last Gunfighter finished second to multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out in the Suburban.

“He’s a nice horse to train, a consistent, reliable horse,” Brown said. “He was second best in the Suburban. He ran really, really well. We’ve very proud of the way he ran.”

Jaguar Paw could be the speed of the Iselin. At age 6, he has finally settled into the best form of his career.

Jaguar Paw won his last two at Belmont, including the off-the-turf Three Coins Up overnight stakes.

“He’s a little bit of a nervous-type horse,” Brown said. “We’ve been able to find things that work for him. Horses change at different stages in their lives, and he’s probably at an age where he’s naturally settled down.”

Pants On Fire and Raging Daoust, the two locally based runners, both pulled upsets here in their latest outings.

Pants On Fire was the 7-1 winner of the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup after Take Charge Indy, the 3-5 favorite, sustained an injury and was pulled up.

Raging Daoust won the head bob at the finish of the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at 33-1.

Margano bids for his first graded win to round out the lineup of likely starters.

Whatthecatdrugin was cross-entered in an allowance race Sunday evening at Presque Isle Downs.

◗ The card also features the $40,000 second leg of the Malouf Auto Group starter handicap series.

Dr. Goldfarb, winner of the one-mile series opener, returns for this round at 1 1/8 miles. He has won three of his last five for trainer Pat McBurney.

– additional reporting by David Grening