Parx Racing goes a little bit steeplechase today with two turf races restricted to winners over hurdles. The 1 ½-mile tests, worth $25,000 each, offer ideal tune-ups for jump races at Saratoga and Colonial Downs this summer – and a way to get a line on how ready some major players are.
The first of the jump double, carded as the third race with a post time of 1:49 p.m., brings the thunder with all sorts of class in the nine-horse field (Repeat Repeat scratches). Like good teachers, TIHR handicappers have wiped the chalkboard clean. Tom Law won the spring contest, followed by Joe in second and Sean third. And don’t forget, we’re back with two jump races on Monmouth Park’s Fourth of July card.
Third race. $25,000 allowance turf for hurdle winners, 1 ½ miles.
Grade 1 winner Optimus Prime has won three of four American jump starts, 10 lifetime wins and $439,439 in earnings. Rosbrian Farm’s 7-year-old French-bred won an NSA training flat race going this distance at Middleburg in April, then dominated a hurdle stakes in May. He’ll be odds-on in the A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga July 25 and shouldn’t be anywhere near his 8-1 morning-line odds when the flag drops today.
As good as Optimus Prime is, he’ll have to bring his track shoes as Belisarius figures to be a worthy foe. The 8-year-old Montjeu gelding, whose owners Gary Barber, Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable are major players in the flat game, won a race like this at Suffolk last year before adding jump wins at Monmouth Park and Far Hills to close 2018. This year. The Kate Dalton trainee finished a strong second to Moscato in the Temple Gwathmey, but bottomed out with a dull try in the novice hurdle at the Iroquois. Look for a bounce back today for the Irish-bred, whose flat career included an all-weather win at Ireland’s Dundalk, a Saratoga turf win for Bill Mott, a start in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap and a $12,500 claiming score at Golden Gate Fields.
Show Court can be competitive if he returns to form. Elucidation won going 7 furlongs in England and is 2-for-2 over jumps. Whitman’s Poetry was a neck behind Belisarius at Suffolk last year and might appreciate the wake-up call.
Tom: Optimus Prime, Belisarius, Whitman’s Poetry.
Joe: Optimus Prime, Belisarius, Whitman’s Poetry.
Sean: Optimus Prime, Elucidation, Belisarius.
Fifth race. $25,000 allowance turf for hurdle winners, 1 ½ miles.
The fifth race (2:43 p.m.) also overfilled with 10 in the body of the race, but can’t quite match the opener for depth. Cautiously, four from the first race would be favored in this one.
Nice to see the Parx-based Gotta Get Away take a shot in here for trainer Joe Taylor. The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding won over jumps last year for Ricky Hendriks, but got claimed on a return to the flat and has been claimed three more times since. Gotta Get Away is 9-5 on the morning line, but has lost 10 races this year and will get a class test.
The Hendriks-trained Markhan won a maiden hurdle at the Iroquois in May, and has five Irish flat wins to his credit. Sempre Medici will be happy to get away from Optimus Prime. Other Cheek’s flat form is good enough, but it’s also pretty far down his past-performance list. Soluble was running on the turf at Saratoga last summer. Boss Man looks live at a price, but needs to erase that Iroquois hurdle start.
Tom: Other Cheek, Markhan, Boss Man.
Joe: Boss Man, Markhan, Sempre Medici.
Sean: Markhan, Boss Man, Other Cheek.