Red Knight seemingly found the cutback to 1 1/4 miles for the Manhattan (G1) in early June too sharp, but the ageless wonder is a likely danger stepping back up to a three-turn, 1 3/8 miles on Saturday in the $600,000 United Nations (G1) over the Monmouth Park turf.
In career-best form at the ripe age of nine, the New York-bred Red Knight preceded his fourth in the Manhattan with victories in the W.L. McKnight (G3) and Man o’ War (G1), with a head loss in the Elkhorn (G2) sandwiched in between.
The United Nations field also includes Foreign Relations and Limited Liability, one-two in the Louisville (G3) at Churchill Downs in May; recent San Juan Capistrano (G3) winner Planetario; Pan American (G2) hero Therapist; and Catnip, who captured the nine-furlong Monmouth (G3) last out.
Grade 1 veteran Search Results is the one to beat in her title defense of the $500,000 Molly Pitcher (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Winner of the event by three lengths last year, she seeks to become only the third two-time winner of the race, following Politely (1967-68) and Hystericalady (2007-08).
Trained by Chad Brown, Search Results missed by less than a length in both the La Troienne (G1) and Ogden Phipps (G1) to start her five-year-old campaign. She’s joined in the field by stablemate Distinctlypossible, a Grade 1-placed daughter of Curlin who notched her first stakes win in the May 14 Serena’s Song S. over the Monmouth strip.
An interesting stakes newcomer is the Godolphin homebred Loved, who’s won her last three starts by a combined margin of 27 1/2 lengths. Loved is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Maxfield.
The $300,000 Matchmaker (G3) for fillies and mares features a third meeting this year between Consumer Spending and Surprisingly. Consumer Spending has narrowly finished ahead of that rival in both prior showdowns, coming out on top by three parts of a length in the Eatontown (G3) most recently.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Gam’s Mission makes her first outing since an allowance score over Bubble Rock at Keeneland in April, while longer-distance specialist Personal Best looks to halt a two-race losing skid for trainer Shug McGaughey.
The Matchmaker, in which the top three will vie for seasons to the stallions Global Campaign, Independence Hall, and Improbable, will be run over nine furlongs on the turf.
Clark (G1) and Oaklawn H. (G2) winner Proxy is the standout on class in the $400,000 Monmouth Cup (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. However, his tendency to throw in an unexpected clunker, a last-place finish earlier this month in the Stephen Foster (G1) being one example, suggests an upset by one of his six rivals isn’t an impossibility.