Jockey Paco Lopez booted home a Monmouth Park record seven winners May 17, although the $103,000 Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT) eluded him when Hard Enough scored a 9-1 upset on the turf (VIDEO).
Peace Sign Stable's Hard Enough moved into contention three-wide around the far turn for jockey Eddie Castro before grabbing the lead approaching the eighth pole and holding off the late-charging Winning Cause by three-quarters of length Saturday. Lopez finished third aboard 5-2 favorite Slim Shadey, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths.
Hard Enough covered the mile over good turf in 1:36.68 and paid $20.40, $8.60 and $4.20. Winning Cause completed the $81.20 exacta and returned $4.80 and $2.80. Slim Shady paid $3 to show. Following were Rose Brier, Two Notch Road, Midnight Cello, and School House.
"I spoke with Eddie (Castro) before the race and he rode him perfectly," said winning trainer Bobby Dibona. "I knew there were speed horses in there, so I told him if they go, just get him to relax, and that's how it worked out.
"He showed good versatility and what we saw today was what I've been teaching him to do. We'll take it one thing at a time, but we're looking at the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) here for his next start."
The $200,000 Monmouth Stakes, contested at 1 1/8 miles, is June 8.
A 4-year-old colt by Hard Spun out of the Mr. Greeley mare Grecian Wings, Hard Enough has won six of his 20 career starts, including the Jersey Derby and the Restoration Stakes on the Monmouth lawn last summer. The chestnut colt boosted his lifetime bankroll to $247,050.
The winner tracked the pacesetters Two Notch Road and Slim Shadey into the stretch and rallied three wide, overtaking Slim Shadey and then digging in as Winning Cause made his move. Fractions for the race were :23.56, :47.42, and 1:11.71.
Hard Enough was bred in Virginia by Larry Johnson.
Lopez, a 28-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, kicked off his record-setting day by piloting odds-on favorite Ground Force ($3.60) in the first. He then won the third race atop Mary N' Ellen ($3.80), the fifth with Speightscity ($4), the sixth with Rainbow at Midnite ($4.80), the seventh with Precious Mem ($6), the 10th with More Than a Party ($6.80), and the finale atop Tycoon Cat ($5.40).
"I'm really excited to have broken the record," said Lopez. "It was a great day and I'm fortunate to have ridden so many nice horses."
The previous record of six wins on a card was set by Walter Blum on June 9, 1961 and equaled by Chris Antley (July 30, 1984), Julie Krone (Aug. 19, 1987), Joe Bravo (Aug. 31, 1994, May 18, 2002, Sept. 18, 2005, and Sept. 4, 2006), Jose Lezcano (June 22, 2008) and Eddie Castro (June 21, 2009).