06/10/2010 12:00AM

Monmouth roundup



It's probably true that with a clean trip Christine Daae would have won last Saturday's $100,000 Red Cross Stakes. She was forced to take up off the rail and swing outside on the turn, losing several lengths in the process, and she was closing nicely before missing by a nose. But lost in all of that was the courageous effort by the winner, Lady Alexander, who seemed about ready to pack it in more than once in deep stretch. She was passed at one point by the pace-pressing Rated Fiesty, and it seemed Christine Daae also got in front of her very late. But Lady Alexander somehow kept it together under jockey C. H. Marquez Jr. and came back to win the photo.

Trainer Bruce Alexander called it one of the most exciting races he has ever been part of. "We were riding the hell out of her from our seats," he said.

Marquez never lost faith in Lady Alexander, especially after she dispatched Rated Fiesty in the lane. Still, Marquez said he knew he had to keep an eye out for Christine Daae.

"Lady Alexander is a very game filly, but even though she put away [Rated Fiesty], I knew I had to watch for the favorite," he said. "That filly had some trouble on the turn, and my horse has a lot of class, and that was the difference."

A 4-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate, Lady Alexander normally bounces right back after a race, but the effort in the Red Cross took a lot out of her. Asked how she was doing after the race, Alexander said, "Tired." Still, her next start could be in the June 27 Blue Sparkler, although her versatility gives Alexander a lot of options.

"She ran well on the turf, she's run well going long, and of course she runs well here," said Alexander, alluding to her four wins on the Monmouth main track. That, of course, is a huge plus, considering this year's inflated purses.

"She likes the track," Alexander said, "and we like the money."

Alexander is third in the trainer standings, behind Todd Pletcher and Richard Dutrow Jr., with four wins from 14 starters.


A few surprisingly fast races last weekend, including three in a row Sunday, are likely to produce several next-out winners. The winner of race 4, Jackie Oh, earned a 65 Beyer, when the average winning figure for female $12,500 maiden claimers going a mile here is 43. The next race, Powdered Sugar earned an 89 Beyer, and the average winning figure for female $5,000 claimers going six furlongs is 64. Chipshot won the sixth, a deep maiden special weight for 2-year-olds at five furlongs, and earned an 83; the average winning figure for such races is 71.

Looking for a negative race? Look no further than Sunday's second, won by Billy Mar N Mr. S in 1:16 for six furlongs. That translated to a 22 Beyer, no surprise if you handicapped the race beforehand.


Perhaps the most impressive effort of the weekend came from Southern Ridge, another horse who earned a Beyer well above the norm Saturday. A 3-year-old colt, Southern Ridge was making his second start of the meet after finishing third in his career debut opening day. He made a sharp move on the turn and decisively drew off late despite racing in hand under Marquez. The 95 Beyer he earned was much better than the 77 par for maiden special weight runners going two turns.

"He was very impressive, and he has a lot of room to improve," Marquez said. "I worked him before this last race, and I knew he could run. He has the potential to be a special horse."

Trainer Pat McBurney, who runs the barn along with John Forbes, was pleasantly surprised to see Southern Ridge beat that deep field so easily.

"Before his first start, John and I were actually training him up to a race at three-quarters of a mile, because we had another horse, Marine Major, for that route race on opening day," McBurney said.

But when Marine Major wasn't ready, McBurney sent Southern Ridge to pinch hit, and he ran a nice race for third at 46-1.

"He was caught inside, eating some dirt," McBurney said. "Then he made a little move at the eighth pole and flattened out. This week, he settled in real nice. I didn't think he'd win like he did − that was a nice field."

McBurney is being cautious with Southern Ridge, but an ideal scenario would be to get him in an entry-level allowance race in the coming weeks. That hopefully would earn him a try in the July 10 Long Branch, the local prep for the $1 million Haskell.


Naturally, everyone was surprised when Mandurah set a world record of 1:31.23 or a mile in Sunday's ninth race, a starter handicap and Mandurah's first start on turf. Does this mean we have a new turf superstar on the grounds? Probably not. In fact, Mandurah looks like a prime bet-against in his return.

It's not often that the Jersey Shore goes through a prolonged drought, and there have been short periods of rain. But the turf course here has not gotten much precipitation since the meet started May 22. That has led to extraordinarily fast times, and for the first time in recent memory the course's condition was listed as hard on Sunday. In addition to helping to produce records, these conditions also greatly favored horses inside and on the lead − all three of Sunday's turf races were won in wire-to-wire fashion despite above-average fractions. Given any conditions other than what we had on Sunday, Mandurah − and, for that manner, Two Notch Road, who won the 11th as the main speed in a grass race − is a horse to try to beat next time.


Two Jersey boys, Marquez and Joe Bravo. The presence of some of the best jockeys in the country was supposed to keep some of the usual suspects out of the winner's circle, but no one told Bravo and Marquez, two mainstays here who tied for third in the standings here last year. Bravo, the 13-time leading rider at this track, won four Saturday, and Marquez won three. Through Sunday, Bravo led all jockeys with 12 wins from 68 mounts, and Marquez had 11 wins from 54.


California shippers. The enhanced purses this year helped lure outfits from across the country, including several from the West Coast, but although several such horses have seemed to fit races nicely, they have had trouble running to their California form. Trainers Peter Miller, Mike Mitchell, and Bob Hess are a combined 0 for 17, and Mike Machowsky, the other conditioner expected to make an impact at the meet, has yet to run a horse. Some horses have had bad luck, including the Mitchell-trained Manhattan Beach, who stumbled and unseated Garrett Gomez, but the fact is that bettors backing these horses have struggled. Of the 17 starters, 14 have been 4-1 or less, including 10 who have gone off at 5-2 or less.


The stakes action really picks up this weekend, with five stakes over the next two days, including Saturday's Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Expect more quick times on the grass, unless one of these "scattered storms" we keep hearing about finally hit the mark.


Narbona Pass

Trainer: Joe Pierce Jr.

Last race: June 5, 12th

Finish: 3rd by 7 3/4

Far off the early pace, he had a strong late rally that nearly enabled him to catch Brother Bird for the place in a very fast race won by Southern Ridge. If he can stay a little closer early on next time, he may be able to make the last run.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: June 6, 6th

Finish: 3rd by 4

He loomed large coming into the lane, and while he was unable to run down the top two, he was well clear for the show in this deep maiden race won by Chipshot, who posted an 83 Beyer Speed Figure that was well above average.

Osceola Prince

Trainer: Dominic Giglio Jr.

Last race: June 6, 9th

Finish: 5th by 11 3/4

He was racing on a speed-favoring course and well off a controlled pace in a race that was run in world-record time; so this is an easy performance to excuse. This gelding actually closed fairly well, and he will fare better next time given more favorable conditions.