LaPenta's Easter Gift Steps Up for Pegasus
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 6/14/2012 6:03:54 PM
Last Updated: 6/16/2012 2:37:55 PM

Good Morning Diva won the Calder Derby on April 14.
Photo: Coady Photography

Unbeaten Easter Gift makes his inital foray into graded stakes company for trainer Nick Zito in the $100,000 Pegasus (gr. III) at Monmouth Park June 17.

Owned by Robert LaPenta, Easter Gift is one of seven 3-year-old colts and geldings seeking a first graded victory in the 1 1/16-mile test over the main track. The Pegasus is the 11th on a 12-race program with a 5:48 p.m. EDT scheduled post.

A son of Hard Spun   out of the Allen's Prospect mare Angel Gift, Easter Gift was a $90,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2010.

Easter Gift made his debut at Gulfstream Park April 7, rallying from 11th while saving ground on a sloppy track to get up by a neck in a six-furlong event. The bay colt returned May 22 at Philadelphia's Parx Racing to tally in front-running fashion by two lengths going seven furlongs on a muddy track. He has been training at Saratoga Race Course, where he turned in a bullet half-mile in :47 flat on a good training track June 4.

Sheldon Russell, who rode Easter Gift in the Parx victory, has drawn the return engagement for the colt's first try around two turns. They break from post 5 and face four in the Pegasus with prior stakes experience. Among them are Good Morning Diva, fourth in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II), and Innocent Man, who comes off a third in the Chick Lang.

Good Morning Diva draws the far outside post and carries top weight of 120 pounds in the Pegasus. Elvis Trujillo will ride for the first time aboard George Kerr's son of Lion Heart, who was making his initial start for trainer Tim Hills when he went off at 31-1 odds in the Peter Pan May 12 at Belmont Park. Racing five wide at the top of the lane, Good Morning Diva made a belated rally to finish 7 3/4 lengths behind commanding winner Mark Valeski.

Prior to the Peter Pan, Good Morning Diva was trained in Florida by David Braddy. The dark bay/brown colt captured an off-the-turf edition of the Calder Derby at the Pegasus distance as the favorite April 14 by a neck on a good main track. He ran fifth in the seven-furlong Swale (gr. III) March 10 at Gulfstream before that, and broke his maiden in his second start a month earlier on a sloppy track also at Gulfstream.

Innocent Man, co-owned by Kona Stable and trainer Patrick Biancone, was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the Chick Lang on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico Racecourse May 19. The front-runner was unbeaten in his first two starts, both at Santa Anita Park | BloodHorse.com Track Profile">Santa Anita Park, but he stumbled at the start of the six-furlong event and after recovering to set a pressured pace, gave way while drifting out and bumping. The gelded son of Henny Hughes will be going longer than six furlongs for the first time in the Pegasus. Joe Bravo has the mount.

The second stakes winner in the field is Midnight Serenade, who captured the Seacliff at Calder by 2 3/4 lengths to highlight a three-race win streak last Aug. 27. The Bandini gelding, trained by Stephen DiMauro for owner/breeder Leanne Robbins, has lost four in a row since. He is coming off a sixth-place effort at odds of 63-1 in the Lamplighter Stakes on the Monmouth turf course May 26.

Darley's Le Bernardin was distanced in the Peter Pan, his stakes debut, giving way early after prompting the pace. Mike Luzzi, who was aboard the son of Bernardini   for back-to-back wins at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier in the spring, regains the mount for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

McLaughlin also entered Darley's Unbridled's Way, who graduated in his third start by 11 1/2 lengths at Monmouth going one mile and 70 yards May 12. The Unbridled's Song colt was second in his first two races at Gulfstream this spring.

Speeding Again, a debut maiden winner at Monmouth May 12, completes the field. The Patrick McBurney trainee ran fifth in his subsequent start against first-level allowance foes June 3 in New Jersey.

$100,000 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III, Race 11, 5:48 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Innocent Man (KY), J Bravo, 118, P L Biancone
2. Midnight Serenade (FL), P L Cotto Jr., 116, S L DiMauro
3. Le Bernardin (KY), M J Luzzi, 116, K P McLaughlin
4. Unbridled's Way (KY), A Serpa, 116, K P McLaughlin
5. Easter Gift (KY), S Russell, 116, N P Zito
6. Speeding Again (KY),  C H Marquez Jr., 116, P B McBurney
7. Good Morning Diva (KY), E Trujillo, 120, T A Hills
 



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