May 21, 2019

Monomoy Girl meets Caledonia Road in Acorn; Abel Tasman seeks rebound in Phipps

Monomoy Girl with Florent Geroux up wins the 144th Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs over Wonder Gadot on Friday, May 4, 2018 (c) Bob Newell/Horsephotos.com

Monomoy Girl will look to extend her lead in the three-year-old filly race in the $700,000 Acorn (G1), while last year’s divisional champion and Acorn winner, Abel Tasman, aims to bounce back from a season opening loss in the La Troienne (G1) in the $750,000 Ogden Phipps (G1) on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Winner of the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and Ashland (G1) to kick off her campaign, Monomoy Girl turned back a late challenge from Wonder Gadot to take the Kentucky Oaks (G1) by a half-length for trainer Brad Cox

“She’s doing great. She looks like she ready to go,” Cox said.

Monomoy Girl has run a one-turn mile once, taking the $82,000 Rags to Riches at Churchill Downs last October by more than six lengths.

“Last time she ran the one-turn mile I thought it was probably the most impressive race she’s ever run,” Cox said. “She’s got speed and will probably be somewhat forwardly placed. I don’t know about being on the lead, but she’s undefeated around one turn in the only time she ever did it. I’m confident she’ll like it.”

The likely second choice is Caledonia Road, who clinched champion juvenile filly honors last season with a wide-rallying, 3 1/4-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Del Mar. Sidelined afterwards by minor surgery and other issues, Caledonia Road missed a chance at competing in the Kentucky Oaks, but made her 2018 debut a winning one with a comfortable triumph against older allowance rivals over the Acorn track and distance.

“Obviously, it’ll be her second race off the layoff and in her first race back, she wasn’t what I would call 100 percent for her best effort that day,” trainer Ralph Nicks said. “It was a building block to the Acorn and, of course, to the rest of the year. I would expect her to move forward off of the last race and if we’re good enough, we can catch them around a one-turn mile.”

Making her second start off a layoff is Moonshine Memories, heroine of the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Chandelier (G1) before running seventh as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup. She was second in the $83,000 Angel Flight at Santa Anita over seven furlongs on May 12.

Spectator captured the Sorrento (G2) at Del Mar last summer and was most recently second to Midnight Bisou in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in early April. Talk Veuve to Me stretches out beyond seven furlongs for the first time after running second in the Eight Belles (G3) in her stakes debut last month.

A dull fourth as the 3-5 choice in the La Troienne May 4, Abel Tasman looks to garner her first win since July in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps, a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race.

“I was really disappointed with the way she ran, but she came back well,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I think she just needed a race in her. She was away for a while, but I think she should get better. I wanted her to run off a bit, and I think [jockey Mike Smith] should have let her go. I think she really needed that race.”

Unbridled Mo has won three of her last four, including an upset over champion Unique Bella, who had stumbled leaving the gate, in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park last month. The five-year-old is a four-time graded stakes winner for Todd Pletcher.

“I guess my greatest concern is the one-turn aspect,” Pletcher said. “Her big wins have come in two-turn scenarios but we felt like after a Grade 1 win, it made sense to stay at the Grade 1 level, and hopefully the one-turn part will be OK.”

Unchained Melody won the track-and-distance Mother Goose (G1) by a convincing three lengths last summer, but faded to fifth behind Pacific Wind in the May 6 Ruffian (G2), her comeback from a layoff of more than eight months.

“We needed that last race. She’s worked back well in between,” trainer Brian Lynch said.

Three fillies and mares entered in the Ogden Phipps were also cross-entered in Friday’s Bed o’ Roses H. (G3), including Humana Distaff (G1) one-two American Gal and Ivy Bell. Multiple Grade 2 winner Highway Star, third in the 2017 Ogden Phipps, is the other.