07/01/2010 11:00PM

Munnings tops Salvator Mile


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Grade 3, $250,000 Salvator Mile on Saturday at Monmouth Park has a decidedly Grade 2 feel.

The Salvator is the supporting feature to the Grade 1 United Nations. While the field is small, the quality of the runners is undeniable. Four of the five runners own Grade 2 victories.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Munnings and Le Grand Cru. Munnings returns to Monmouth for the first time since he set the pace in the slop in last year's Haskell Invitational and finished third to Rachel Alexandra.

"He didn't run bad in the Haskell, and without the Tom Fool at Belmont this year, it leaves you with limited options," Pletcher said.

Le Grand Cru, fifth most recently in the Grade 1 Met Mile, makes his debut for Pletcher.

"This seems like the right distance," Pletcher said. "He came in in good shape and has trained well since then.''

The Pletcher duo, uncoupled in the wagering, will face You And I Forever, Gone Astray, and Duke of Mischief. Last time out, Duke of Mischief finished eighth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"He didn't get a great trip," trainer David Fawkes said. "He was trapped on the inside the whole way, and he didn't care for that."

Two races back, Duke of Mischief earned a career-best 107 Beyer when he won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

"I was hoping that was a breakthrough to the next level," Fawkes said. "Every time I go to the next level up, I run into trouble."

Duke of Mischief's other two Grade 1 experiences resulted in an eighth-place finish to Quality Road in the Donn Handicap and a fifth in last year's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth.

The class relief following a Grade 1 race and a one-furlong cutback from the Foster should put Duke of Mischief in the mix.

"I think the one mile will suit him better," Fawkes said. "If I had to guess his best distance, I would say this."

You and I Forever, eighth in the Met Mile, also moves to new barn. Tom Bush now trains the winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Gone Astray was third most recently here in the Skip Away Stakes.

− additional reporting by David Grening