07/16/2009 12:00AM

Stage set for replay of tight finish

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Saturday's feature race at Monmouth Park, the $70,000 Dearly Precious Stakes, reunites On the Menu and Bold Union, the first- and third-place finishers of the May 16 Just Smashing Stakes. And if their reunion is anything like their first meeting, we're in for another very good horse race.

On the Menu and Bold Union were just a half-length apart when they met in the Just Smashing, with On the Menu posting a narrow decision over Mary's Follies, subsequent winner of the Grade 3 Boiling Springs Stakes on the turf. Bold Union was another neck back in third. On the Menu won the heated stretch battle after stalking the fast pace, set in part by Bold Union, who was very game right to the wire despite the tough trip.

On the Menu and Bold Union both went out of town for their next starts. The Grade 1 Prioress proved to be a tough spot for On the Menu, while Bold Union faded after pressing a quick pace in the Jostle Stakes at Philadelphia Park. Both fillies, however, should appreciate the return to Oceanport for the Dearly Precious, a six-furlong sprint.

"She didn't handle the track very well," trainer Larry Jones said of On the Menu's race in the Prioress, where she finished seventh, 8 1/2 lengths behind race winner Cat Move. "Jeremy [Rose] said she was spinning her wheels, that it just wasn't working for her."

On the Menu also struggled in the Grade 2 Matron Stakes at Belmont last year, and her two races in New York were easily the two worst efforts of her short career. In addition to her dislike for the surface, On the Menu may have been overmatched in those graded stakes, but Jones does expect On the Menu to rebound in the Dearly Precious, which drew a field of eight.

"She's been training well at Delaware Park and she certainly ran well at Monmouth the only other time she was there," he said.

Bold Union, part of an entry along with All of Her Twist in the Dearly Precious, won her maiden by nearly 11 lengths in her career debut at Monmouth and went on to capture a pair of overnight stakes in New York. She figures to be prominent from the start in the Dearly Precious.

Pretty Prolific, Gemswick Park, Onearmedbandit, Wild Shiner, and Frolic's Dream complete the field.