08/07/2012 2:54PM

Monmouth: Wicked Tune favored on meet's first twilight card

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OCEANPORT, N.J. – Bill Knauf, assistant vice president of Monmouth Park, calls the four upcoming Thursday twilight cards “an experiment” by a new management group willing to try different things.

“We’re going to see if we can draw a crowd that will come out later and stick around afterward with live music and drink specials at the Lady’s Secret Café,” Knauf said.

The seven-race card starts at 4 p.m. Eastern with the last post slated for 6:46 p.m. The $44,000 feature of the initial twilight card is a second-level $32,000 turf sprint where Wicked Tune looks tough.

For the balance of August, Monmouth will operate on a four-day schedule: Thursday twilight programs followed by afternoon cards Friday through Sunday with first post at 12:45.

“We’re going to try it and see how it goes,” Knauf said. “We’re trying to capture some of the Thursday night Jersey Shore crowd that want to try something different. And it will open up us up to a little more of the California simulcast market. Going later in the day helps us there.”

A major issue with the addition of a fourth day is horse availability. At times, the race office has struggled to fill cards on the three-day schedule.

“It’s always a concern,” Knauf said. “The Thursday card may take a race away from a Friday or a Saturday. In a perfect world, if our handle is strong, we’d love to add more races. If we can do four days of racing and be successful, that’s the goal. It’s an experiment to see how it goes.”

Wicked Tune, a 5-year-old, makes his third start of the season following a loss by a head after breaking through the gate at Parx Racing on July 24.

“Everything is good, except that it’s a just a bit close,” said trainer Bruce Alexander. “Last time he crashed through the gate beforehand and had a less-than-perfect trip, and he was probably the best horse in that race.

“Third off the bench is usually your best one after an extended layoff. He should have a class edge on them. He’s been running in high-level races. Any one of his last six efforts would probably make him a winner in the race.”

Elvis Trujillo will ride Wicked Tune, who is 2-1-0 in three Monmouth grass sprints. The loss came last summer in My Frenchman Stakes where Wicked Tune’s rally missed by a neck.