06/03/2011 3:02PM

Monmouth Park: Straight Story eyes Monmouth Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Straight Story could make his next start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Monmouth Stakes on June 12.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Trainer Alan Goldberg is strongly considering the Grade 3, $250,000 Monmouth Stakes on June 12 for Straight Story.

The Monmouth, at 1 1/8 miles on turf, is the prep for the meet’s biggest grass event: the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on July 2.

“It’s a good possibility,” Goldberg said of the Monmouth.

Straight Story captured his season debut May 7 in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Belmont Park.

“He ran well,” Goldberg said. “He came back fine.”

Before committing to the Monmouth, Goldberg will study the very crowded turf stakes calendar over the next few weeks. Other options include the Manhattan at Belmont Park and the Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs.

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Longer range, a return to the United Nations could be in store for Straight Story. He was fourth last year, beaten only two lengths.

“We’ll play it by ear and see how he does in the next one,” Goldberg said. “We had a little shot for a while in the U.N. last year, until the cavalry started coming.”

Stakes coordinator Dan Duford has started rounding up runners for this year Monmouth Stakes. He expects Get Serious, last year’s winner, to return for a title defense. Roman Tiger also is a possibility.

One horse out of consideration is Beckham Bend, after he suffered a second major injury. The 6-year-old recently suffered a condylar fracture of the left hind while training at Monmouth.

“We were hoping he’d like the turf here,” trainer Diane Alvarado said.

He missed more than a year, from his 4- to 5-year-old seasons, after fracturing the other hind leg.

“He’s got some kind of bone disease,” Alvarado said. “He has three screws in the leg from the first one.”

The latest fracture was not as severe, and Alvarado hopes Beckham Bend can make another comeback.

He is currently recuperating at Dr. Patty Hogan’s clinic in nearby Cream Ridge, N.J.

“Dr. Hogan says he’s got a good prognosis,” Alvarado said. “She said he’ll be back. It’s nothing compared to the last one.”

Claim pays off with Ponzi Scheme

With the win in the $75,000 Skip Away Stakes last weekend, Ponzi Scheme has already been a productive claim for trainer Juan Serey and owner John Koenig.

Scooped up for $20,000 last August, the 4-year-old gelding has already won three times for the new barn.

The latest was a career-best effort, a front-running score that produced a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

“Sometimes you get lucky to claim a horse like him,” Serey said.

Serey made a few alterations, starting with gelding the horse immediately after the claim.

Koenig quickly gave all the credit to Serey.

“When we got that horse, we didn’t know if we’d win a race with him,” he said.

Now they are starting to dream bigger.

Fresh from Ponzi Scheme’s first stakes win, they are now targeting the Greenwood Cup, a 1 1/2-mile race at Parx Racing on July 16. It is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, giving the winner an expenses-paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

“Every time they try to catch him with an outrider after a race, they can’t pull him up,” Koenig said. “The way he runs says he’ll go longer. We think he’ll get better going longer.

“You’ve got to dream, and if you want a dream for the Breeders’ Cup, the Marathon is the easiest shot to take.”

The next likely Monmouth appearance for Ponzi Scheme could be the Grade 3 Philip Iselin Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 20.

Unbridled Essence pointed to Matchmaker

Unbridled Essence perked up with the return to Monmouth.

After suffering a couple of bleeding episodes in Gulfstream Park stakes over the winter, the 5-year-old mare responded with a big effort in the Grade 3 Violet on Monday over the firm turf course.

Rallying widest of all, Unbridled Essence missed by only a nose.

“She ran as good as we could have ever expected,” trainer Greg Sacco said. “It was a heartbreaker, but we’re happy to have her back to where she was last year. She fired fresh. She loves this track.”

She certainly did last summer, winning twice here, including the Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes.

A return to the Matchmaker is now on her calendar. Sacco said he will train her up to the race on July 31.