OTB Race Previews
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Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 1 United Nations Stakes takes place at Monmouth Park on the Jersey shore on Sunday, July 5. Horses three years old and upward will be featured when they go 1 3/8 miles in Monmouth's turf track looking for the winner's portion of the $500,000 purse.
A strong field of nine older entries will take to the track in the United Nations Stakes - race 11 on Monmouth Park's Saturday card. Post time is 5:46 PM. Here is a look into the past performances of all nine entries for this Grade 1 stakes - a "Win & You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge race.
Main Sequence - Eclipse Award winner as champion Male Turf Horse and champion Older Male - H Graham Motion trained gelding made his North American debut last July 6 and posted the upset win in the last year's edition of the United Nations Stakes at 8-1 odds and reeled off four straight wins after that including the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in September, the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga August 17. That makes five North American starts and four Grade 1 scores and a win in a Grade 2 stakes. Last time out was a disappointing trip to Meydan Racecourse where he finished seventh in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic March 28. Main Sequence makes his first start from that blemish looking to start a new streak with Rajiv Maragh aboard the class of the field from gate 6.
Slumber - Chad Brown pupil had two wins, a second and two third place finishes in eight starts in Great Britain before debuting in North America in November, 2011 with a fourth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He had five starts in 2014 including a third in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes in March, and a decent third in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes February 15. Slumber started 2015 with consecutive seconds - the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap in February and the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Handicap in March and followed that with a fifth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs May 2. Last time out was Slumber's first win in nearly two years - in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes June 6. That makes a win and two runner-up finishes in his last four starts overall and off a career best performance he should be in the mix Saturday. Slumber starts from post 5 with Irad Ortiz aboard.
Big Blue Kitten - two-time Grade 1 winner won the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes in 2013 and had some other decent results in that year. In 2014 he won the minor Lure Stakes at Saratoga and followed that with a second in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Stakes August 24, a fourth in the 2014 Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He also had consecutive runner up finishes to end his year - the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap in August and the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International in October. Big Blue Kitten has two starts this year- a second behind Slumber last time out in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes followed an impressive win in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes May 2. Overall he has 12 wins, seven seconds and four third place finishes in 26 career starts and has two wins and four runner-up finishes in his last seven starts overall. Joe Bravo has been tabbed to ride the ultra-competitive Big Blue Kitten from post 3.
Twilight Eclipse - is the world record holder at 1 1/2 miles on turf when he won the Grade 2 William McKnight Handicap December 28, 2013 in wire-to-wire fashion by seven lengths. He's placed in seven of eight races ahead of this weekend - a seventh last time out in the Grade 3 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park June 7 was the lone bad race over the last year. Good results over that span include his first win in 15 months - the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes May 9, a third in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes March 28, a second in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes February 21, a third behind Main Sequence in the Breeders' Cup Turf, second behind Main Sequence in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Classic at Belmont Park September 27, a third behind Main Sequence in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga August 17 and a decent second as favorite behind Main Sequence in the 2014 United Nations Stakes. He has 25 career starts with seven wins, five seconds and four third place finishes and will be looking to avenge an uncharacteristic effort last time out. Paco Lopez will be in the saddle from the rail Saturday.
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Ashleyluvssugar - has 11 career starts for trainer Peter Eurton with six wins and two third place finishes - three straight wins ahead of this weekend. Last time out was in the Grade2 Charles Whittingham Stakes May 24 and before that the win came by 2 1/4 lengths over Finnegan's Wake the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes March 21. Before that was an Allowance Optional Claiming score. Ashleyluvssugar has won four of his last five starts overall and has posted victory in both of his graded stakes tries as well. He tries to keep the roll going Saturday with Gary Stevens in the reins from gate 8.
Imagining - won two straight races in the summer of 2012 - both at Belmont Park and was out of racing for nine months. He looked good at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 - a win in the 2014 Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion May 11 followed a second in the 2014 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and a two race win streak - the 2013 Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct November 16 and the overnight Bowl Game Stakes at Belmont Park that October. He had a terrific win March 28 in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes in March but it followed an eighth in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf February 7 and a seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Last time out he finished a disappointing fifth in this year's Man o' War Stakes. Imagining has been hit and miss in his career and has placed in just one of his last four starts - that being a win two starts back. John Velazquez has been tabbed to ride as Imagining searches for a little consistency.
Divine Oath - Todd Pletcher trained colt has five wins, a second and a third place finish in 13 career starts but has failed to place in his last four - three straight fourth place finishes ahead of this weekend - the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes last time out May 24, the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park May 2 and the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap March 28. He did look good before that however - three wins in his previous five starts including the Grade 3 WL McKnight Handicap December 27 and in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes in September at Hollywood Park. He also posted a good third in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby in October and a nice win in the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington last July 12. Divine Oath has been impressive at times - all five of his career wins have come on turf (three Grade 3 scores) but he hasn't been sparkling in his last four starts overall. Elvis Trujillo will be in charge hoping to get Divine Oath back on track- from the outside post 9.
Sycamore Lane - Bill Mott trained colt will make his stakes debut Saturday but enters on a two race win streak - an Allowance Optional Claiming last time out at Belmont Park May 14 and an Allowance at Keeneland in April. He also had a two race win streak to end his 2014 campaign. Sycamore Lane has won four of his last six starts and looks ready for his step up in competition. Jose Lezcano gets the mount from gate 2.
Shining Copper - Michael Maker trained gelding enters off a pair of pedestrian fourth place finishes in Allowance Optional Claiming races at Churchill Downs this past spring after an Allowance Optional Claiming score at Fair Grounds in February. He has placed in just one of his two graded stakes tries - back in 2012 and has looked just OK against lesser company lately. Abel Castellano gets the call as Shining Copper steps into graded stakes company for the first time in two years from gate 4.