09/01/2011 1:28PM

Monmouth Park: Week's delay helps add depth to Molly Pitcher field

Kim Pratt
Trainer Larry Jones says he expects a big effort from probable favorite Payton d'Oro in the Molly Pitcher.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Thanks to Hurricane Irene, the Saturday card at Monmouth Park wound up with a pair of graded stakes.

The Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling, the top event of the meet for 2-year-olds, was the scheduled feature. The washout of the Saturday and Sunday cards last weekend postponed the Grade 2, $250,000 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares, creating this graded double.

The postponement helped improve the field size for the 1 1/16-mile Molly Pitcher. The original lineup had only six runners. It is now up to eight with the additions of Blind Date and Arena Elvira. It could be nine as Debonair Darling could also run. She is sitting on the also-eligible list for a second-level allowance race on Friday.

Payton d’Oro was the favorite in the original program and figures to assume that same role in the redrawn field.

A 5-year-old trained by Larry Jones, Payton d’Oro has two seconds and two thirds while facing top-level company in four races this season. She was the 2-1 favorite last time out in the Grade 1 Ruffian Invitational at Saratoga when she was elevated one position to third after Tiz Miz Sue was taken down for interfering with her in the stretch.

Prior to that, Payton d’Oro picked up a pair of seconds in the Grade 1 Odgen Phipps at Belmont Park and the Grade 3 Allaire duPont Distaff at Pimlico.

Like every horseman on the Eastern seaboard, Jones scrambled as the hurricane approached. He evacuated his Delaware Park horses, including Payton d’Oro, to a nearby training center. As a result, Payton d’Oro galloped Monday while Delaware Park was closed for training.

She was back at her home base Tuesday for a three-furlong blowout in 34.60 seconds that looks better on paper than it did in the flesh, according to Jones.

“The track was really hard,” he said. “They had graded it, trying to get everything cut and re-leveled. It wasn’t a bad work by any means, but it wasn’t as good as it looks on paper. The track was lightning quick.”

Jones said he feels Payton d’Oro is still sitting on a big effort, even with the delay.

“She thought she was ready last weekend,” Jones said. “She’s pretty sharp right now.”

Jones is looking to defend his Molly Pitcher title, having won last year with Just Jenda.

Quiet Giant was certainly sharp last time, winning the Lady’s Secret, the Molly Pitcher prep, by 6 3/4 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher who took this race in 2005 with Capeside Lady.

Check Point, Absinthe Minded, Champagne d’Oro and Tesoro de Amor complete the field.

Hill ‘N Dale Farms, the Molly Pitcher sponsor, will offer stallion breedings to Midnight Lute, Roman Ruler, and Zensational to the connections of the first three finishers.