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Coming off a nine-length romp in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 6, Jaywalk tops the field for Saturday's 95th running of the Monmouth Oaks, with the Grade 3 race headlining the card on Fan Appreciation Day at Monmouth Park.
Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel with his training regimen in an effort to get Jaywalk back on track this year, John Servis simply went back to what worked during the filly's 2018 championship season.
The early results are impressive.
Race 5 at Monmouth Park on Saturday, August 17 - Post 2:40 PM
"She'd been training really good all year. We just hadn't seen it on race days," said Servis. "So we switched up her training a little bit and she started to respond and she seemed happier. We were hoping that would mean she would run much better - and she did."
Last year's juvenile champion filly, who notched Grade 1 victories in the Frizette and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2018, had been 0-for-3 to start her 3-year-old campaign.
Part of that was the competition, since she opened this year against Grade 1 company twice (including the Kentucky Oaks) and Grade 2 company once. But to Servis it was more that the daughter of Cross Traffic-Lady Prewitt by Orientate wasn't herself.
"I backtracked and started comparing what we did last year with her in training to what we were doing this year," Servis said. "It seemed like we were putting her on the fence more often with breezes this year than we did last year.
"Last year we did a lot more two-minute licks and put a breeze in here and that. So we went back and started doing that."
The initial result was the romp in the Delaware Oaks, though Servis isn't ready yet to declare that Jaywalk is all the way back.
"I'll let you know for sure after Saturday, but I think she is," he said. "She sure is acting like it."
Owned by Leonard Green's D J Stable LLC and Cash is King LLC, Jaywalk has banked $1,623,500 during her nine race career (five of them victories), with much more to come if she has regained her championship form. Servis hopes the $150,000 Monmouth Oaks is the next step toward that.
"I'd love to see her jump up on Saturday and run big again like she did at Delaware," he said. "It would be nice to go with that momentum into the ($1 million) Cotillion at Parx (on Sept. 21. That's where she will go next as long as she runs good on Saturday.
"After that we'll take it one step at a time. But Saturday is the next big step for her."
John Mazza knows exactly what he's up against in sending out his nice Jersey-bred filly Horologist against the likes of 2018 Juvenile filly champion Jaywalk.
But with a horse that's fresh, and who seems to run better that way, and one that's also riding a three-race winning streak, the veteran trainer sees this as a risk worth taking.
"She deserves this chance," Mazza said of Horologist. "This is the best she has been since she was born. The timing is right to try this.
"I don't think we've reached the bottom with her yet. But I think this will tell me what kind of filly she is. I already know she is very game, very competitive and she has a lot of heart."
Ever since her dazzling debut at 2, when she beat state-bred colts by 20¾ lengths, Horologist has hinted at being a good one. But it wasn't until her last start on June 9 in the Smart and Classy Handicap at Monmouth Park that she finally notched her first stakes victory.
Her only previous try against graded stakes company resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.
"When she broke her maiden by 20 3/4 lengths I kept telling people that doesn't mean she is special," said Mazza, now in his 63rd year as a trainer. "You had to see her against better competition. So I didn't get too high on her then because it was a matter of `we've got to see.'
"She has run well this year. She has gotten better and better and she has filled out. You don't get a lot of opportunities like this and the timing is right so we're going to give it a shot."
Owned by Cameron Beatty's Theres A Chance Stable, Horologist boasts a 4-1-2 line from nine career starts with earnings of $173,105. Two races ago, off a 68-day layoff, she romped by five lengths in an optional claimer against open company at Monmouth Park, recording a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
Mazza knows it will take a similar effort for him to notch his first graded stakes victory since the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in 1992 with Great Navigator.
"Jaywalk is the horse to beat. I know that," Mazza said. "My filly hasn't run in a long time now and when I don't run her for a while she seems to run better. She loves to run fresh and she has not missed one day of training since her last start on June 9. That means a lot."
The daughter of Gemologist-Cinderella Time by Stephen Got Even will get a new rider in Angel Suarez, with Joe Bravo - aboard for all three victories during her current form spree - opting to ride Jaywalk.
"In the Grade 3 race at Gulfstream she got in trouble. She got bounced around and she was wide the whole race. So she had an excuse," said Mazza. "Hopefully she gets a clean trip and we get to see her at her best."
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