Let’s try this again. After being rained out last month, steeplechasers return to Monmouth Park today for two races on the July 4 holiday card. The $30,000 maiden hurdle races will be the first (post time 1:15 p.m.) and third (2:12) races on the day, which includes the $75,000 Rumson Stakes as the fifth.
Today’s winners will set themselves up for rich allowance tries at Saratoga in July and August, and turn back time a little bit to when Monmouth was a regular stop on the National Steeplechase Association calendar. Headlined by the Midsummer Hurdle Handicap, the New Jersey track shared summer dates with Delaware Park as layovers before Saratoga. The Midsummer, run from 1951-86, counts among its previous winners the Hall of Famers Tuscalee (who won it twice) and Zaccio, plus champions Quick Pitch and Life’s Illusion and other stars Leaping Frog and Gran Kan.
Maiden races are not the Midsummer, but it’s nice to see fences on the course again.
The TIHR handicappers try to find some winners. At Parx July 1, Sean Clancy nailed both winners – Optimus Prime and Markhan – to take the early lead over Joe Clancy and Tom Law (who had Optimus Prime).
First race. $30,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/16 miles.
The Monmouth races have the same configuration as Saratoga – with the final fence in the stretch omitted the last time for eight total jumps and a long run from the backside to the wire.
Jack Fisher, whose horses have dominated all year, holds a predictably strong hand with Knockholt (second at Radnor and Fair Hill) and Not In Charge (fourth at Fair Hill) in the slightly weaker of the two races. Jump Ship has run well all year with a second at Camden and a third at Fair Hill. Archanova made the lead on the turn at Nashville, but couldn’t match Markhan late. You want bigger prices? Silver Crescent won a training flat race at Fair Hill, so is more ready than he looks. Hepcat could improve.
Tom: Knockholt, Not In Charge, Jump Ship.
Joe: Not In Charge, Knockholt, Silver Crescent.
Sean: Not In Charge, Silver Crescent, Knockholt.
Second race. $30,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/16 miles.
Another full field of 10, this one packed with quality and even some gaudy flat form. Seeking Albert placed in a Canadian Grade 2. While with Todd Pletcher, Master Plan won two stakes, finished second to Tapwrit at Gulfstream Park in 2016 and finished third to Thunder Snow in the 2017 UAE Derby. Also in 2017, Snap Decision lost an allowance race to turf star Bricks And Mortar by three-quarters of a length. Mr. Singh placed in a Group 2 and won a Group 3 in England. Gostisbehere was slugging it out against some good foes in Kentucky.
As for jump form, it’s light but good. Snap Decision has been a late-running second in his only two tries. Gostisbehere, named for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne, was second in a good effort at Radnor. Master Plan might have won that Radnor race, after finding traffic problems and getting squeezed between horses in the stretch. Mr. Singh was right there too, finishing fourth in a good effort.
Tom: Gostisbehere, Snap Decision, Snuggling.
Joe: Gostisbehere, Master Plan, Snap Decision.
Sean: Snap Decision, Gostisbehere, Snuggling.