08/04/2010 12:25PM

Suffolk shipper Shoppers Return shoots for big money at Monmouth


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Charlie Assimakopoulos is the private trainer for his family’s Yasou Stable Trust, perennially one of the most successful outfits at Suffolk Downs.

Assimakopoulos will be leaving home base Friday with the unbeaten Shoppers Return. They will hit the road for a second-level optional $40,000 claimer for fillies and mares, the $82,000 feature at Monmouth Park.

A 4-year-old, Shoppers Return did not debut until June 19 at Suffolk, where she rallied to score a two-length victory.

“She had some ankle problems,” Assimakopoulos said. “We had to work on her and it took a long time to get her ready.”

Some horses struggle with the transition from the maiden ranks to facing winners for the first time. Not Shoppers Return, a commanding 7 1/2- length winner in a first-level allowance at Suffolk on July 5 with Hector G. Ramos aboard once again.

“She went right through the next level easy,” Assimakopoulos said. “The first race, she had a few problems because she never had dirt in her face and never got started until real late in the race. The next race, the rider said was a 100 percent improvement.”

After two wins in New England, it’s on to the Jersey Shore and the big purses this summer at Monmouth. The first-level allowance was worth $16,586 at Suffolk. At $82,000, the Monmouth allowance feels like a jump into a stakes.

“She’s doing real good right now and deserves a shot with the big girls down there,” Assimakopoulos said. “She showed she deserves a shot.”

Shoppers Return landed the rail in the nine-horse field.

“I would have rather come out of the five-hole and stalked the horses in front of her,” Assimakopoulos said. “The rider will have to come out of there and see if he can get position, and then just ride her.”

Ramos has the return call.

“He’s been on the horse since Day One,” Assimakopoulos said. “He likes the horse so much, he gets on even to gallop her.”

In keeping with the New England theme, Tim Hills also sends out Catch a Thief, a 3-year-old who has won 2 of 3 starts.

A native of Nashua, N.H., Hills left New England for Monmouth in the mid 1990s.

Five Grand Girl owns the top Beyer Speed Figure in the field, a 94 rung up most recently in a first-level allowance here for trainer Rick Dutrow.