Edited from a Monmouth Park release
Monmouth Park kicks off its 58th racing season Saturday with the $100,000 Red Bank Handicap (gr. III) as the centerpiece of a 12-race card. But the vagaries of spring weather in New Jersey may put a damper on the one-mile event scheduled for the turf course. The field may fill up with 'main track only' types whose connections would be rooting for rain, and lots of it.
One of those is trainer Dennis Manning, who won the Red Bank last year with the 8-year-old Key Lory, and this year has Just Le Facts ready to roll on opening day. The 4-year-old son of Lac Ouimet has not run since he was fourth in an allowance race here last Aug. 9, but he's recovered from some problems he had last year, and he gets in the Red Bank with just 110 pounds.
"He had an immune deficiency problem last year," Manning said. "That's why we had to stop on him, but he's doing really well now, all that stuff is behind him, and he's been breezing for more than a month. He's ready to go, but I'll enter him as dirt only."
Just Le Facts won his first two starts as a 2-year-old, breaking his maiden at Monmouth in August of 2001, then winning an allowance at the Meadowlands. He was second in two juvenile stakes later that year, but was not the same horse in his 3-year-old debut last year when he ran sixth in the Crank It Up Stakes. He had one more start in August, then went to the sidelines.
"We've cleared up his problems," Manning said. "He's a really nice horse and I expect him to run well this summer."
And what about last year's winner, Key Lory, now a 9-year-old? "That's him in the first stall," Manning said. "He looks like a 3-year-old on the track. Just amazing."
Key Lory has a perfect record of four-for-four on the turf, and after he won last year's Red Bank 'Cap, Manning was pointing him for the top level, the grade I United Nations Handicap. But the old warrior developed some problems and never ran after winning the stakes on May 25.
"I sent him to Ocala, and that was going to be it. He was retired. I arranged with the owner (Mac Fehsenfeld) to have Key Lory picked up this spring and taken to Mr. Fehsenfeld's farm in Indiana, where the old horse would live out his days as a pensioner. "But early in the spring, he just came back to life. He looked great and acted great, and Mr. Fehsenfeld said if he's doing that well, to bring him back to the track.
"Key Lory is amazing. He's really doing well now. He looks and acts like a young horse, and he's been breezing right along for more than a month. If he keeps going like this, I'll get him ready to go in the Oceanport ($100,000, grade III mile and a sixteenth on turf on June 14). He'll go as long as he tells us he can. When he says he's done, we'll ship him to the farm in Indiana and he'll be retired."