06/29/2008 11:00PM

U.N. tops seven stakes in three days


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Monmouth Park is heading into one of the biggest weekends of the season with seven stakes on tap, including the Grade 1 United Nations.

It starts Friday, July 4, with the Grade 3, $150,000 Jersey Shore Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters.

Silver Edition, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, will be one of the top contenders in the Independence Day feature.

Silver Edition finished second in his last two races, both graded stakes. He was beaten a neck by Lantana Mob in the Grade 3 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes on the Preakness undercard. He came back three weeks later to finish 5 1/2 lengths behind J Be K in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"That other horse got away from us and our horse got a little intimidated on the inside," Lukas said of the Woody Stephens. "We weren't going to beat him but we might have been a little closer. We're not making any excuses. We were happy to be second and we'll come back and see if we can't win the next one."

J Be K and Lantana Mob are both trained by Steve Asmussen and are nominated to the Jersey Shore. Monmouth stakes coordinator Mike Melendez said he expects one of them to run.

Lantana Mob might be the one, based on his Monmouth record last season. He captured the Tyro and Grade 3 Sapling Stakes here and was second in the Favorite Trick Stakes on Breeders' Cup weekend.

Go Go Shoot, Indy Joe, and True Quality are also considered probable for the Jersey Shore.

The supporting event Friday is the $65,000 Choice Stakes, also for 3-year-olds, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Saturday is the centerpiece of the weekend with the $750,000 United Nations, the Grade 3, $300,000 Salvator Mile, and the $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes for sprinters.

Both the United Nations and the Salvator are Breeders' Cup Challenge Win and You're In races for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in October.

The United Nations winner secures a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf; the Salvator winner is guaranteed a berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

The field for the United Nations remains in flux because the race faces heavy competition from the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont Park on July 12.

The Man o' War lured away Better Talk Now, the 9-year-old gelding who has earned more than $4 million. He ran in the United Nations the last three years, winning in 2005.

Trainer Graham Motion wants to give Better Talk Now an extra week following a fifth-place finish in the June 7 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont, where he was in tight traffic in the deep stretch.

"It's a little quick for him and when the ground gets firm there, he tends to hit himself," Motion said. "We ended up missing the Sword Dancer [at Saratoga] last year because he rapped himself pretty good in the United Nations."

Motion will be represented in the U.N. by Independent George, winner of the Sussex Stakes at Delaware Park in his season debut on May 28.

Buddy's Humor, Distorted Reality, Equitable, and Presious Passion are also considered probable. Melendez said he is hopeful that one of Bobby Frankel's nominees, Champs Elysees or Sudan, will make the race.

In the Salvator, Gottcha Gold will go for a repeat victory. Better Than Bonds, Honest Man, Indy Wind, and Timber Reserve are considered probable.

The holiday weekend concludes Sunday with the $70,000 Miss Liberty Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf and the $60,000 Colts Neck Handicap for New Jersey- breds.

Touch My Soul in softer spot for 2008 debut

Touch My Soul debuts for Motion in Wednesday's feature, a second-level optional $32,000 claimer.

The 4-year-old Touch My Soul faces seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares on the turf.

A Group 3 winner in Germany, Touch My Soul made three starts in the United States last fall, all for Team Valor International and in graded stakes. Her best result was a rallying second in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park. She last ran in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs on Nov. 10, finishing eighth.

"This will be the easiest spot she's run in for a while," Motion said. "We were looking to bring her back in a conservative spot off the layoff. She seems to be training well and she's a little bit of a handful in the morning. I think that's why Team Valor felt having her at Fair Hill would probably suit her. I think she's handled it well. It was a good idea."