05/19/2009 11:00PM

Route sets up for pair of closers


Speed has been holding well on the main track at Monmouth Park since the track opened two weeks ago, but Friday's feature race looks like a good spot for a closer.

There is no shortage of early zip in the eighth, a third-level optional $50,000 claimer. The 1 1/16-mile race drew only six entrants but at least half of them are horses with early speed: B. B. Best, At the Disco, Mr. Madison, and Awfully Smart are all likely to at least be close-up from the start, which makes a quick, contested pace likely. That scenario, should it play out, certainly works to the benefit of Power Game and Alaazo.

Alaazo won his maiden in his career debut at Monmouth back in August 2007, then returned in last year's Haskell, where he finished a non-threatening fourth behind Big Brown. The 92 Beyer he earned for that effort was a career best, and his figures this year have been steady and solid. Alaazo was no threat in the Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct last time, but the fractions in that Grade 3 event were slow and longshot Giant Moon and pacesetter Cool Coal Man were able to dictate the tempo, completing a two-speed exacta. That was six weeks ago, and he hasn't raced since, but he put in a good work at Monmouth on Sunday.

"He only came here a couple of days before he worked," said Anthony Sciametta, who handles trainer Todd Pletcher's Monmouth Park string. "He worked okay, and he's been training okay."

Chris DeCarlo, who rides the bulk of Pletcher's Monmouth Park starters, gets the call on Alaazo.

Power Game, a winner of all three of his starts at Monmouth, hasn't won since he left Oceanport for the Indiana Derby last fall. But he has posted steady Beyers along the way, including a figure of 96 at Gulfstream Park two races back, when fourth behind Dr. Pleasure. Elvis Trujillo, who rode Power Game to all three of his wins at Monmouth last year, is back aboard for trainer Shug McGaughey.

"He's doing good," said McGaughey. "I was only disappointed in one of his races, and that was the turf race in Florida. He ran well at Gulfstream. He was less than four lengths behind Dr. Pleasure and he didn't change leads there."