The 74th running of the six-furlong Sapling was the final graded event of Monmouth's summer season.
Lantana Mob, a 2-year-old Posse colt, was the only entrant coming into the Sapling off a stakes win. That victory came in the traditional Monmouth prep for the Sapling, the Tyro Stakes, which Lantana Mob won by 1 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite. Owned by Vinery Stables, Lantana Mob won for the third time in five lifetime starts.
Jockey Stewart Elliott had Lantana Mob well spotted in third while racing off the rail as Evenings End blitzed to the front in an opening quarter-mile of :21 4/5. Preachin Man, who pressed the pace under Eddie Castro, took the lead from Evenings End on the turn after a half-mile in :45, but was collared at the head of the stretch by Lantana Mob and a patient Elliott. The two colts vied through the lane before Lantana Mob exerted his dominance approaching the eighth pole. Lantana Mob was a bit erratic driving for the wire but was clearly best, winning by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:09 4/5.
Elliott won his third race on the Monmouth card.
“He broke sharp and relaxed very well,” Elliott said. “We were able to sit just off the pace and behind a couple of horses. Once I eased him out, he knew exactly what to do and just took off.”
Preachin Man held second by three lengths. The 11-10 favorite Z Humor, coming off an impressive debut maiden victory at Saratoga Aug. 8 for Bill Mott, lost contact with the field after a slow break. Coming under heavy pressure from jockey Joe Bravo on the turn, Z Humor managed to rally for a non-threatening third.
Lantana Mob's payday of $90,000 pushed the bay colt's earnings to $171,548. He began his career at Keeneland in April, running second in a maiden special weight. After breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs in his second start nearly two months later, Lantana Mob had his only out-of-the-money performance when fourth in Belmont Park's Tremont Stakes July 1. He won the Tyro on July 28.
Out of the Copelan mare Lantana, Lantana Mob was bred in Kentucky by Thomas/Burleson/Visagie.
Sent off as the second choice, the winner paid $8.60, $5.60 and $2.60 while topping a $60.80 exacta. Preachin Man returned $9.20 and $3.40. Z Humor was $2.40 to show.
Tide Dancer was next, followed by Ginas Wonder, Dazzling Derek and Evenings End. Haddenfield, part of a Tim Kelly-trained entry with Evenings End, was scratched.
In the $120,000 Sorority Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Martin L. Cherry’s A Little Gem was content to race off the pace for a half-mile, and then rolled into command rounding the turn. She drew out through the stretch to score a 2 1/4-length victory over Bold Child.
Reata’s Quik Punch finished nearly four lengths farther back in third, with New York City Girl, the 3-2 favorite, ending up fourth in the field of seven.
A Little Gem, trained by Steve Margolis and ridden by Jose Lezcano, stopped the timer in 1:11 3/5 for the six furlongs on a fast main track, and paid $10, $5.40 and $4.20 across the board as third choice. Bold Child, a 14-1 chance, completed the $105.20 exacta.
This was the second straight victory at Monmouth for A Little Gem. The daughter of Yonaguska broke her maiden at Monmouth on Aug. 2 in her second career start.
A Little Gem earned $72,000 for her first stakes score, bringing her earnings to $98,400. She finished second in her career debut at Churchill Downs.