Saturday's $150,000 Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT), the final graded turf event of the season at Monmouth, could be a showdown between Live Oak Plantation's Miesque's Approval, who's won his last two in Kentucky, and Runnin Horse Farm's Hotstufanthensome, a five-time winner at Monmouth.
However the race's turf status is being held captive by weather, namely tropical storm Ernesto, which was churning up the Eastern seaboard Thursday and expected to make its presence felt Friday night into Saturday.
Miesque's Approval, who has a 10-10-5 mark in 36 starts on the grass, has never run on the dirt. Trainer Marty Wolfson says flatly, "no turf, no go," for the 7-year-old who has won three stakes this season, including the Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap and Maker's Mark Stakes, both grade II events.
Norman Pointer has no such reservations about Hotstufanthensome, a 6-year-old son of Awesome Again who has never been worse than second in nine starts on the Monmouth turf. He's still looking for his first win of the year at Monmouth after seconds in the Oceanport (gr. IIIT) and Elkwood Stakes. Pointer thinks Saturday is the day.
"We're going no matter what," the trainer said. "He'll run on anything. He broke his maiden on the dirt (at Gulfstream Park in 2004), and he won the Cliff Hanger (gr. IIIT at the Meadowlands in October 2004) in the mud. It was on the turf, but it was green mud that night."
Hotstufanthensome has also won at the one-mile distance of the Red Bank, although Pointer thinks it's a bit short for the gelding, who has won stakes up to 11 furlongs.
"He's a handy horse," Pointer said. "You can put him anywhere. He can handle any surface because he's sure-footed and he's got a good turn of foot."
Both of Hotstufanthensome's seconds this year came against major horses. Ashkal Way, who beat him a half-length in the Elkwood on July 15, went on to win the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga August 26. Three Valleys, who topped him by a neck in the Oceanport, was group I-placed in England and grade I-placed in the U.S., and won the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) last year.
$150,000 Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 4:52 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Touched by Madness (FL), 117, Jose Lezcano
2. Hotstufanthensome (KY), 117, Rajiv Maragh
3. Tune of the Spirit (FL), 117, Charles C. Lopez
4. Miesque's Approval (FL), 119, Eddie Castro
5. Key Event (NY), 117, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
6. Senor Swinger (KY), 117, Christopher P. DeCarlo
7. Pulpit Talk (KY), 117, Alan Garcia
8. Patrol (KY), 117, Joe Bravo
Main Track Only
9. Calabria Bella (NJ), 117, Jose Lezcano
10. Phish (KY), 117, Mario Madrid
11. Halos Sailing Sain (FL), 117, Joe Bravo
12. Miracle Man (KY), 117, Jose A. Velez, Jr.