(From track report)
Led by the $1 million Haskell Invitational Handicap on August 3, Monmouth Park will offer $3.25 million in graded stakes during its upcoming meeting, which opens May 24. However, the Monmouth Oaks (gr. II), which previously has produced Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Spain and Unbridled Elaine, has been eliminated.
The Haskell serves as a major goal for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown. Last year, Bob Baffert won with Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem..
The other Grade 1 race on the schedule, the United Nations Handicap on July 5, receives a purse boost of $250,000 to $750,000. The U.N. was first contested in 1953 at Atlantic City Racecourse and has been won by such prominent horses as Manila, Fort Marcy and Dr. Fager.
With Anticipation won last year's contest.
"Historically, the U.N. has been one of the great races and we felt the purse increase will preserve it as one of the premier turf races in the country," said Bob Kulina, vice president of Thoroughbred racing.
The Memorial Day weekend opening starts the stakes season with the $100,000 Red Bank Handicap (gr. III) and the $100,000 Jersey Derby (gr. III), known as the oldest Derby in the nation, first contested in 1864. The $100,000 Oceanport Handicap (gr. III) for three-year-olds and up on turf follows on Saturday, June 14.
The Molly Pitcher Handicap (gr. II), for fillies and mares has received a $100,000 purse increase to $400,000 and will be run Saturday, June 28. Last year the Shug McGaughey-trained Atelier bested two Grade 1-winning mares, Summer Colony and Spain.
The July 4th weekend annually hosts the $100,000 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup (gr. III) for 3-year-olds sprinting six furlongs, followed Saturday, July 12 with the 3-year olds stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth in the $100,000 Long Branch Handicap (gr. III), a prep for the $1 million Haskell.
Moving from last year's Haskell Day undercard, the $100,000 Eatontown Handicap (gr. III) will be run Saturday, July 19 for fillies and mares three years old and up on turf. The following Saturday, July 26, the $100,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) returns for three-year olds and up going a mile.
The graded stakes for 2-year-olds begin on Saturday, August 9 with the $100,000 Sapling Stakes (gr. III). The promising colt Valid Video impressively captured the 2002 running by two and a quarter lengths. Two-year-old fillies get their chance during closing weekend on Saturday, August 30 in the $100,000 Sorority Stakes (gr. III).
Rounding out the stakes schedule is the $100,000 Matchmaker Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares on turf and the $100,000 Iselin Handicap (gr. III) for older horses at a mile and an eighth.