Of the five stakes on the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational undercard
at Monmouth Park on Sunday, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated is the $100,000
Majestic Light Stakes, which marks the U.S. debut of exciting South American
miler Brujo de Olleros.
Purchased by Team Valor and Richard Santulli earlier this year, the once-beaten champion has been training sharply for Graham Motion, and appears ready to fire off a nearly seven-month layoff.
Brujo de Olleros is named after renowned Argentinean trainer Francisco Maschio, who earned that nickname ("Wizard of Olleros") in honor of his remarkable success. Formerly campaigned by his breeder, Luiz Fernando Cirne Lima, the chestnut colt has looked magical when winning four of five starts in Uruguay by a grand total of more than 35 lengths.
The Brazilian-bred son of Wild Event romped in his first two outings as a juvenile, then suffered his only loss when a close second in the Group 3 Clasico Ensayo. The winner, Boby di Job, went on to dominate the first two legs of Uruguay's Triple Crown, was later bought by Qatar's Sheikh Joann bin Hamad al Thani, and eventually wintered in Dubai without racing for Mike de Kock.
Brujo de Olleros returned four months later and ran away with the December 11 Clasico Argentina. That eight-length victory was just a warm-up act for the Group 1 Gran Premio Pedro Pineyrua on January 6, where he pulverized the field by 14 1/4 lengths. Moreover, his final time of 1:33 1/5 broke the track record for a mile at Las Maronas.
Still about a week shy of his actual fourth birthday, Brujo de Olleros steps up slightly in trip while facing older horses in the 1 1/16-mile Majestic Light. Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount on the 123-pound co-highweight, who will break from post 3 in an eight-horse field.
Also toting 123 pounds are Marilyn's Guy and Ponzi Scheme. Marilyn's Guy landed the Grade 3 Excelsior and the As Indicated over the inner track at Aqueduct this winter, and the Tony Dutrow charge was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day. Ponzi Scheme captured the 2011 Skip Away at this track and trip, as well as the six-furlong Decathlon here two starts back. Other contenders include the improving pair of Small Town Talk and Esporon, each bringing a two-race winning streak into his stakes bow, and veteran stakes performers Gourmet Dinner, Cactus Charlie and I'm Steppin' It Up.
Later in the afternoon, a competitive field of nine fillies and mares will
clash over the same 1 1/16-mile distance in the Grade 2, $200,000
Molly Pitcher Stakes. Five are coming off wins -- Derwin's Star, R Gypsy
Gold, Nefertini, Successful Song and Brushed by a Star -- while Afleeting Lady
and Absinthe Minded have solid graded form to their credit.
Derwin's Star rates as the 123-pound highweight off her good-looking tally in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont Park, defeating Molly Pitcher rival Catch a Thief by 3 1/2 lengths. That was a seven-furlong contest, however, and Derwin's Star tries this trip for only the second time in her career. Her only previous attempt wasn't bad. In the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks back in 2010, she was third to champion Blind Luck and future Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
R Gypsy Gold, third in last summer's Grade 1 Mother Goose, just rallied to a 1 3/4-length decision in the July 4 Endear at Belmont. The Todd Pletcher trainee now seeks her first graded coup. If she prevails, she would keep pace with her younger half-sister Broadway's Alibi, this year's Grade 2 Forward Gal romper and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks runner-up.
Nefertini has not raced since her victory in the May 27 Monmouth Beach Stakes over Successful Song, who paid her a compliment by coming back to score convincingly in the June 30 Lighthouse. Brushed by a Star is in the form of her life at present, and hopes to build on her smashing 11-length conquest of the June 29 Iowa Distaff.
Afleeting Lady was best of the rest behind champion Royal Delta in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap June 16 at Churchill Downs, and last fall, she just missed in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap. A half-sister to Shackleford, she is also his stablemate from the Dale Romans barn. Absinthe Minded, a distant third in the 2011 Molly Pitcher, has been freshened since a couple of disappointing efforts for Wayne Lukas this spring. The multiple stakes-winning Quiet American mare warrants respect, having placed in the last two editions of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, and would factor if at her best.
The other supporting graded stakes are on turf, the
Matchmaker. Each is a Grade 3 worth $150,000.
Course specialist Get Serious is the horse to beat in the 1 1/16-mile Oceanport. The John Forbes veteran recently regained his old form and won the Grade 3 Red Bank on July 4 for the third time. Get Serious is on the verge of a similar hat trick in the Oceanport, which he also captured in 2009 and 2010. The 123-pound co-highweight promises to flash his usual speed from the rail, but could have company up front from reformed claimers Glass Art and Crepuscolo.
A few eligible closers are hoping that Get Serious gets softened up. Among them are the Pletcher-trained Queen'splatekitten, most recently third in the one-mile Red Bank and likely happy to have an extra sixteenth here; Roman Tiger, hero of the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes earlier this season and the other 123-pound co-highweight; and the regally-bred duo of Magnifi Cat and Admiral Perry, both coming off second-level optional claiming scores. Magnifi Cat went last to first at Parx for Alan Goldberg, while Admiral Perry won over this course and distance last out for Shug McGaughey.
The Chad Brown-trained Dealbata looms large in the Matchmaker over 1 1/8 grassy miles. A useful filly in France last season, the daughter of Dubawi was purchased by Martin Schwartz for $509,390 at Arqana in December. Dealbata opened her American campaign successfully in the June 16 Mohegan Sky at Belmont Park, and with different connections, might have taken a stab at Saturday's Grade 1 Diana. Stablemate Zagora was already penciled in for a title defense at the Spa, and Dealbata has found a cozy spot on the Jersey Shore.
Silver Screamer, victress of the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap over this course
on June 30, aims to follow up. The Rudy Rodriguez filly will meet Eatontown
third Unbridled Humor on worse terms this time. Silver Screamer, who gave her
two pounds that day, must concede seven pounds as the 123-pound top weight
Sunday. Unbridled Humor has been winless, if admirably consistent, since
garnering the Grade 3 Noble Damsel last September, and is once again entitled to
make her presence felt.
Laughing, a half-sister to former Hong Kong supremo Viva Pataca, already owns a win over Silver Screamer in her 2012 debut. The Dansili filly has raced just once in the interim, finishing third to Zagora in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day, and ranks as a prime contender.
Also worth a look are Shimmering Moment, third in a three-horse photo in the Grade 3 All Along June 16 at Colonial Downs, and McGaughey's well-bred Island School. Hessonite was cross-entered here but opted to run Friday at Saratoga, where she rolled in the Irish Linnet for New York-breds.
Royal Currier tops a field of nine set for the $100,000 Teddy Drone, held at six furlongs on the main track. The seven-time stakes winner, who shattered the track record at Parx when romping in the Gallant Bob Handicap last fall, most recently took the July 8 Mr. Prospector at this track and trip.
Two of his Mr. Prospector victims are back to try again, runner-up Raging Six and the trailing J J's Lucky Train, who patently needed the race off a six-month layoff. J J's Lucky Train, one of the most notable three-year-old sprinters of 2011, was also a creditable fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.
Pletcher will send out the coupled duo of Soaring Stocks and Travelin Man, both in search of a turnaround. Soaring Stocks scored his career high in the January 28 Sunshine Millions Sprint, leaving Royal Currier back in third, but has since lost his way. Travelin Man has recorded all four career victories at Gulfstream Park, and has still to prove himself elsewhere. He will carry the co-top weight of 123 pounds, along with Royal Currier, but was no match for that rival in the May 10 Diablo at Belmont.
Social climber Secret Commander, a perfect three-for-three since being claimed for $8,000 by Jorge Navarro at Tampa, will likely blaze the early trail.