An accomplished group of older horses that includes four grade I winners is set to go in the $750,000 United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) July 4 on the Monmouth Park turf.
The 1 3/8-mile United Nations, along with the Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III) that same day, are the first two stateside Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” events this season. The winner of the United Nations will receive an automatic berth into the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
A field of nine was entered for the United Nations, including last year’s winner Presious Passion. Also in the mix are a couple of veterans still in fine form – 10-year-old Better Talk Now and 9-year-old Brass Hat, who captured the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) last out. Also expected to be a contender is Court Vision, winner of the grade I Hollywood Derby a year ago.
Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion pulled a 13-1 upset in the 2008 United Nations, leading every step of the way and gamely holding off Strike a Deal in the final jump. Strike a Deal is also back for this year’s edition. A 6-year-old gelded son of Royal Anthem, Presious Passion has won twice this season, taking the Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream in February and the June 13 Monmouth Stakes last out. Regular rider Elvis Trujillo has the mount.
“I don’t breeze him between races,” trainer Mary Hartmann said, “because he gallops so aggressively every day. And it seems like it takes most of the day when we bring him out. I’ve tried to keep him relaxed and happy between races.
“(The Monmouth) set him up right for this, and I’m happy with him. He’s coming up to the race the right way.”
Bushwood Stables’ Better Talk Now has not won since taking the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) in 2007, but has hit the board four times since, including a third-place effort in this year’s Manhattan on June 6 at Belmont. The Talkin Man gelding has tried the United Nations three times, winning back in 2005 and finishing third in 2007. Jeremy Rose will ride for Graham Motion. Better Talk Now has earned more than $4.2 million from 50 lifetime starts.
Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat comes in with some momentum after notching his first grass victory in the May 23 Louisville at Churchill Downs. The Prized gelding earned his first win since September of 2007 when scoring the Massachusetts Handicap. Trained by Buff Bradley for his father, Fred Bradley, Brass Hat will make his debut at Monmouth. The earner of more than $1.8 million will be ridden by Stewart Elliott for the first time.
IEAH Stables and WinStar Farms’ Court Vision is still seeking his first win of 2009, but has been keeping some good company. The 4-year-old son of Gulch has tried four grade I events this year, his best finishes coming in the Gulfstream Park Handicap and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill when he was third each time. The Bill Mott trainee was fourth in the Manhattan last out. Garrett Gomez has the call.
Also coming out of the Manhattan are the seventh and eighth place finishers, respectively, Lauro and Wesley.
Spice Route, who won the Elkhorn (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland this fall and was runner-up as the favorite in the Louisville, is also in with a chance.