07/20/2011 1:56PM

Monmouth Park: Who's the Cowboy shoots for a million

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Barbara D. Livingston
Of the 17 victories in the career of Who’s the Cowboy, 12 of them have come at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Who’s the Cowboy is sitting on a major milestone for a New Jersey-bred: $1 million in career earnings.

He needs only $4,778 more, and that target is within reach Friday in the featured $52,000 second-level claimer for state-breds at Monmouth Park.

“I don’t want him to go over the million running second or third,” said trainer Peter Walder. “We’d like to do it the right way and win.”

Winning is something Who’s the Cowboy has done frequently at Monmouth, where 12 of his 17 career wins have come. The 9-year-old gelding has post 2 against 11 rivals in the one-mile race as one of three horses running for the $15,000 claiming price.

He comes into the race off his best effort of the meet, a strong front-running bid where he lost by a neck on July 1 in a similar spot.

Walder got Who’s the Cowboy, a longtime mainstay in the Kevin Sleeter barn, just before the Monmouth season began and radically altered the game plan last time with positive results. Almost exclusively a rallying sprinter throughout his career, Who’s the Cowboy perked up

with the increased distance, the change of tactics and the removal of blinkers.

“It was something different,” Walder said. “The speed was running away from him. He’s older and a step slower. We were just trying something different.”

The experimenting isn’t over. With Paco Lopez serving a suspension, Hiroki Goto gets the mount.

A leading rider in Japan, Goto is spending two months at Monmouth at the suggestion of trainer Wesley Ward.

He will ride for Ward, both here and around the country, and agent Steve Klesaris is looking to line up additional local business.

“I have a lot of respect for Wesley,” Walder said. “He thinks enough of the guy to bring him over here. If he’s good enough for Wesley, he’s good enough for me. I’ve watched him work some horses, and he looks good. It would be great if his first win here puts the old man over the million mark.”

When he clears that barrier, Who’s the Cowboy will join a select group of New Jersey-breds that includes Joey P., Open Mind, Friendly Lover, Sewickley, and Zoffany.

The most important thing, from Walder’s perspective, is that Who’s the Cowboy still has the zest for the game.

“Mentally, he still want to run,” Walder said. “He shows he still wants to do it. Soundness-wise, he’s good. I hope he gets to the million with a win. He deserves it. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Most of the competition on Friday are familiar faces from past New Jersey-bred wars. Joe Bagadonuts is an exception, spending most of his time at Parx Racing, where he squeaked out a first-level win most recently.

Apprentice Rosario Montanez, looked in a close battle with Kendrick Carmouche for the Parx riding title, will be aboard for trainer Frank Pollara. Joe Bagadonuts makes only his second Monmouth appearance, having run seventh last October.

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