Robert LaPenta Coal Play, best known for nearly shocking Big Brown in last year’s Haskell Invitational (gr. I), will look for his fourth win over the Monmouth Park main track when he takes on six rivals in the $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (gr. III) Aug. 22.
A 4 year-old son of Mineshaft, Coal Play has been on a roll lately, winning his last two starts in convincing fashion. The bay colt romped by more than seven lengths in an optional claimer June 10 at Belmont, then rolled to a three-length score in the July 4 Salvatore Mile Handicap (gr. III) at Monmouth while upsetting multiple graded stakes winner Smooth Air. It was the first graded stakes triumph for Coal Play.
Trained by Nick Zito, Coal Play used his brilliant early speed to take a clear lead into the stretch in the 2008 Haskell before yielding late to champion 3-year-old Big Brown. Later that season, Coal Play came back to win the Majestic Prince Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths at Monmouth.
Bred in Kentucky by Emory Hamilton and out of the Kris S. mare Wiscasset, Coal Play will break from post 5 under Monmouth’s top rider, Joe Bravo. He will carry top weight of 121 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile contest for older horses.
The probable favorite, Coal Play will have to take down another horse who has had success at Monmouth, 5-year-old Actin Good. A gelding by Yes It's True, Actin Good enters off a win in the Aug. 2 Majestic Light Stakes on the sloppy Monmouth going, his fourth victory at his home track. One of those wins came in the 2007 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) when he garnered his lone graded stakes score.
Actin Good has been training very well up to the Iselin, including a bullet half-mile move in :47-flat Aug. 16, the best of 89 works that day.
“He was the first good horse I ever had,” said trainer Bobby Dibona. “But he was rough to train as a young horse. Now that he’s matured he has a nice frame of mind. He’s actually a push-button kind of horse. And he’s coming into the race just great. We’ve been pointing for the Iselin all year, so now we’ll see what happens.
“I know one thing, we won’t be far away from Coal Play early. We’ll see what happens after that.”
Channing Hill will have the mount on Actin Good, who will break from post 7.
Also capable of showing early speed is Rutledge Farm’s Researcher, who has gone wire-to-wire four times in his career. The 5-year-old gelding used that speed in March to set the nine-furlong track record (1:49.76) at Charles Town Races & Slots March 28 when rolling to an eye-catching 22 1/4-length allowance score in the mud. One start later, Researcher took down a solid field that included Commentator and Dry Martini when winning the Charles Town Classic on April 18.
Trained by Jeff Runco, Researcher enters the Iselin off a runner-up stakes effort at Delaware Park last month. He will break from the rail under Kendrick Carmouche.
$300,000 Philip Iselin (gr. III, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Researcher (VA), K Carmouche, 117, J C Runco
2. Chirac (FL), E Trujillo, 117, J Cibelli
3. Solar Flare (ARG), G Saez, 117, J L Jones
4. You and I Forever (KY), E Castro, 117, M D Wolfson
5. Coal Play (KY), J Bravo, 121, N P Zito
6. Pampered Sir (FL), C H Marquez Jr., 117, J A Frangella, Jr.
7. Actin Good (FL), C Hill, 119, B S Dibona