07/04/2010 11:00PM

Pletcher eyes stakes sweep at Monmouth


OCEANPORT, N.J. -- It could be a star-spangled Monday for Todd Pletcher at Monmouth Park.

Pletcher, locked in a nip-and-tuck battle for leading trainer with Rick Dutrow, sends out seven runners on the 12-race holiday card that gets underway at 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

The program is topped by a pair of $100,000 stakes, and Pletcher has a solid contender for both. He sends out Checklist, third in the Grade 2 True North Handicap most recently, in the Mr. Prospector at six furlongs. Pletcher also runs Fantastico Roberto in the Choice for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

In addition to the stakes horses, Pletcher has Came East dropping from a second-level allowance into a $22,000 claimer. He has a pair of well-bred 2-year-olds, Masterpiece and Meistersinger, making their debuts. Pletcher has another duo in a first-level allowance for fillies and mares: Summer Humor and Sharp Instinct.

Speed is the name of the game for Checklist, who will be ridden in the Mr. Prospector by John Velazquez. As usual he was out and winging in the True North before getting passed by both Grade 1 winner and stablemate Bribon and Snapshot.

Prior to that, Checklist was second to Mannington in his season debut, and an 11 1/4-length winner in a second-level allowance at Gulfstream.

"All of his races this year have been very solid efforts," Pletcher said. "The last race was a very competitive race and I think he was running against the grain of the track that day. It wasn't a particularly speed-favoring track. Hopefully, a more speed-favoring surface will help as well."

Mr. Prospector entrant Congressional Page clearly loves this surface. He is 3 for 3 at Monmouth, including a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the Decathlon Stakes on May 22. His other glittering stat line is the record at six furlongs: a perfect 5 for 5.

Like his Monday rival Checklist, Congressional Page has faced top-level competition this season. He was third to Quality Road in the Hal's Hope Stakes and second to Munnings in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.

He has the rail with Carlos Marquez Jr. getting the return call.

Fantastico Roberto is looking for his first win in the U.S. in the Choice. An Irish-bred colt, he won his first two races in Italy before joining the Pletcher barn for the next four starts. His last two were improved efforts, seconds in an allowance race at Keeneland and in the Lamplighter Stakes here on May 29.

"He is a horse that it still learning how to run a little bit," Pletcher said. "We have experimented with some blinkers. He just needs to become a little more professional and learn how to finish a race. Hopefully, he's headed in that direction."

The Choice also attracted the winner of the Lamplighter, Thunder Brew, and third-place finisher, Houngun.

Two Notch Road took a bigger swing last time, setting the pace before getting third behind Paddy O'Prado in the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup. The Choice will be his fourth start since May 22.

"He's one tough dude," said trainer and co-owner Glenn Thompson. "I think he thrives on running every couple of weeks. Some horses are like that. He's got great bone. He's a solid, solid horse."

Two Notch Road is 3 for 3 on the Monmouth course, including last year's 107-1 stunner in the Continental Mile.