Ring Weekend, coming off a fifth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and Uncle Sigh, 14th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) last time out, head a lineup of seven sophomores slated for the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) June 15 at Monmouth Park.
The 1 1/16-mile event also features the return of Albano, who has not raced since finishing fourth in the March 29 Louisiana Derby (gr. II). For most of the connections in this race, a strong performance would mean a follow-up date at Monmouth in the July 27 William Hill Haskell (gr. I).
Ring Weekend, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and runner-up in the Calder Derby for St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds, is the 123-pound highweight in the Pegasus and will break from post 4 with Daniel Centeno in the irons. The son of Tapit was bumped and steadied repeatedly in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness May 17, and finished evenly in the group of 10 in his last start for trainer Graham Motion.
Uncle Sigh, runner-up in the Withers (gr. III) and Gotham Stakes (gr. III) earlier in the season, will look to recover from that May 3 Derby run in which he set the pace to the three-quarter mark before tiring. Trainer Gary Contessa sends out Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robertson's New York-bred son of Indian Charlie, who breaks from the rail under Joe Bravo while carrying 116 pounds.
"I freshened him up a little bit since the Derby," Contessa said, "and he's been maturing very forwardly. He's had some great works."
Contessa added, "I didn't want him to be on the lead in the Derby. I wanted him anywhere but on the lead, but I think the tone of this race works very well for him. I think there's enough speed in here, and breaking from the rail, he can find comfort behind the leaders. I expect him to be stalking the leaders, but ultimately he'll be wherever Bravo decides he wants him to be."
Albano, bred and raced by Brereton Jones and trained by Larry Jones, returns from the layoff in pursuit of his first graded score. Back at the beginning of the 3-year-old prep season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the Istan colt was second in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) and Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) before going to the sidelines after his Louisiana Derby fourth. Kerwin Clark rides from post 6 under a 116-pound assignment.
Another on the comeback trail is Crossed Sabres Farm's Allstar, an allowance winner by Flower Alley who was eighth in the March 29 Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) for trainer Marcus Vitali. Allstar returned from a brief vacation to finish fourth in the May 17 James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
"Encryption is a big, strong, talented colt," Breen said, "and we don't think that we're throwing him to the wolves in this race. We hope that he's a stakes horse and we think that he's a stakes horse, but we're behind the 8-ball in his 3-year-old career. Everyone has high hopes for the horse, and hopefully he fits in here."
$150,000 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III, Race 11, approximate post 5:45 p.m. EDT), 3YOs, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Uncle Sigh (NY), J. Bravo, 116, G C Contessa
2. Lynx (ON), F. Pennington, 116, C A Lynch
3. Encryption (KY), P. Lopez, 116, K J Breen
4. Ring Weekend (KY), D. Centeno, 123, H G Motion
5. Wildcatpleasures (FL), R.F. Moya, 116, L D Benson
6. Albano (KY), K.D. Clark, 116, J L Jones
7. Allstar (KY), O. Bocachica, 116, M J Vitali