Trained by Edward Plesa, the Centaur Farms homebred figures to be the favorite while carrying top weight of 121 pounds. His biggest challenger could be Indy Wind, who was a distant third in last year's Salvator Mile, but has drawn more attention this time around after an ultra-impressive 7 1/2-length triumph in the June 7 Frisk Me Now Stakes over the Monmouth main track.
The $300,000 Salvator Mile, along with the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT), highlight the "NTRA Summer Racing" series this weekend. Both races also are part of Breeders' Cup Challenge Day at Monmouth, meaning the winners will each receive an automatic starting berth in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Oct. 25. The show will air over ESPN2 from 6 to 7 p.m. (EDT).
The speedy Gottcha Gold used last year's neck victory over Lawyer Ron in the Salvator Mile, his first of back-to-back graded wins on the Monmouth main track, as a springboard to a runner-up finish behind Corinthian in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
So far this season, the 5-year-old Coronado's Quest horse has a 3 1/2-length win in Gulfstream Park's Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) and his outstanding runner-up effort in the Pimlico Special in his last race May 16. Gottcha Gold led all the way at muddy Pimlico that day, opening up by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch. But he was caught late by Student Council and finished a half-length behind.
Gottcha Gold has been a handful at Monmouth, where he has won five of nine starts with three seconds. Overall, the bay has captured eight of 26 races and earned $827,420.
After a promising start to his career, Amy Tarrant's Indy Wind, a 6-year-old son of A.P. Indy, was blown off course by injury. But the chestnut appears to be at the top of his game once more following his repeat victory in the Frisk Me Now, in which he negotiated the one mile and 70 yards in an outstanding time of 1:39 2/5.
“That looked like the old Indy, the real Indy,” Tarrant said. “He’s such a talented horse, and he’s coming up to this race feeling better than ever, knock on wood.”
Indy Wind has had just 19 starts in four seasons. When he’s on his game, he’s been a dominating presence, with eight victories. He's been especially tough at Monmouth, where he has won six of 10 races and has never been out of the money.
“He missed his glory days, when he didn’t run as a 3-year-old,” Tarrant said, “but this could be his glory year.”
Better Than Bonds, who has earned $500,587, ran second in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs May 2 for trainer Graham Motion, then came back with a runner-up showing as the 11-10 choice in an optional claiming event at Delaware Park one month later. He has not won in more than a year while finishing second six times over that span.
J. Paul Reddam's Notional, making his first start for trainer Mark Hennig, and Flaxman Holdings' Rathor, conditioned by Bobby Frankel, are both looking to recapture lost form. Honest Man tries graded stakes company for the first time after back-to-back optional claiming wins for trainer Larry Jones.
$300,000 Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III, Race 11, 6:13 p.m.), 3 & Up
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Notional (CA), 117, Joe Bravo
2. Rathor (IRE), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux
3. Better Than Bonds (FL), 117, Ramon A. Dominguez
4. Indy Wind (KY), 119, Stewart Elliott
5. Gottcha Gold (FL), 121, Eddie Castro
6. Honest Man (KY), 117, Gabriel Saez