Coal Play, ridden on the front end by Joe Bravo, ran his seven rivals off their feet in the $250,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Monmouth Park July 4, gaining an early berth to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
The 4-year-old son of Mineshaft went directly to the lead along the inside and set swift fractions. But Coal Play had plenty left, spurting away from favored Smooth Air in upper stretch to secure his first graded stakes win. Coal Play won by three lengths in a solid time of 1:34.54 on a fast track.
Smooth Air, who drifted out in the lane as the 7-5 choice under Paco Lopez, finished second, three lengths clear of Solar Flare and Gabriel Saez. Second choice Two Step Salsa faded to fourth after chasing Coal Play through splits of :23.67, :46.78 and 1:10.13.
Trained by Nick Zito for leading client Robert LaPenta, Coal Play has returned to top form in his past two starts. The bay colt tuned up for the Salvator Mile with a 7 1/4-length gate-to-wire win over an optional claiming allowance field on a 'good' track at Belmont Park June 10. Coal Play improved his career mark to 5-2-1 in 14 starts with earnings of $506,708. The victory was worth $150,000.
The Salvatore Mile is the first "Breeders' Cup Challenge" race in the U.S. this year and guarantees Coal Play's connections a spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.
Emory A. Hamilton bred Coal Play, a $280,000 Keeneland yearling buy in 2006, in Kentucky. Coal Play, who won the Majestic Prince Stakes at Monmouth last fall and has won three of his five starts over the track, is out of the Kris S. mare Wiscasset.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Coal Play carried 117 pounds and paid $14.40, $5.40 and $4. The multiple grade II winner Smooth Air, the 121-pound co-high weight, returned $2.80 and $2.10, completing a $2 exacta of $45.80. Solar Flare was $3.40 to show.
Two Step Salsa was followed by The Roundhouse, Runforthedoe and Keep Laughing.