Melhor Aiinda Stands Out in Boiling Springs Field

Edited press release
Sunday's 29th running of the $150,000 Boiling Springs Stakes (gr. IIIT) – just the second running at Monmouth Park – brings together an assortment of 3-year-old fillies who are just beginning their grass careers.

T N T Stable's Melhor Ainda, trained by Bobby Frankel, is unbeaten in three starts, and will be an odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Boiling Springs. Stonehaven Farm's Paddy's Daisy, a Todd Pletcher-trained graded stakes winner who was second to Melhor Ainda last out, will be the strong second choice.

So why are the other six in there?

"The last time I looked they still have to run the race, right?" said trainer Tim Hills, who saddles Sea Gull Associates' Toll Taker for her turf debut. "It looks like the perfect spot to go for some black type on grass."

Toll Taker won the Astarita Stakes (gr. III) sprinting on the main track at Belmont last year. A good showing Sunday going long on turf would enhance her value as a future broodmare.

"I'm not too crazy about starting her for the first time on soft turf," said Hills, who was Monmouth's leading trainer last year. "But she's breezed well over it, and this looks like the right spot to try her." Toll Taker, a daughter of Bernstein out of the stakes-winning Bet Big mare Tappanzee, has had an incident-filled career since hitting the track here last June. She won twice at Monmouth before taking the 6 1/2-furlong Astarita in October.

Then the Illinois-bred filly shipped to Hawthorne for the Showtime Debutante Stakes in November. She stumbled soon after the start and dumped her rider as the 4-5 favorite.

The filly's troubles continued in her 3-year-old debut, the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream.

"It was just awful," Hills said. "She hit the gate at the start, got into all kinds of traffic and just had a miserable trip."

The trainer shipped her to Tampa Bay for her next start, and Toll Taker responded with a solid score in the Suncoast Stakes. She met a tiger in R Lady Joy in the Florida Oaks, and ran second.

Last time out, in the Comely (gr. II) at Aqueduct in April, she again had some bad racing luck, as she was in heavy traffic the whole way and was never able to recover.

"If she can get a good trip, she has the talent to do well here," Hills said. "They tell me the Frankel filly can't lose. But in racing, anything can happen."

A graded stakes placing increases the value of a filly, part of the motivation for trainer Terri Pompay to enter Patrick Flavin and Seymour Cohen's longshot Ruby Martini. The gray filly by Rubiano has steadily improved in four starts this year, all on the turf at Gulfstream, and broke her maiden last out on April 24.

"They say the Frankel filly is a monster," Pompay said, "but if you have a chance to get black type on a filly, you have to take a shot."

Ruby Martini debuted on the Meadowlands turf last fall, and finished ninth in a race Pompay throws out.

"She acted like a goof," the trainer said, "just looking around at the lights and paying no attention to running."

But in Florida, Ruby made steady progress. She finished fourth in her 2005 debut, then had a third and then a second before winning last out.

"She's really a gutsy filly, and she's just been getting better and better," Pompay said. "And look how she's improved from start-to-start. It's the right time to take a shot."

Field for the Boiling Springs Handicap (gr. IIIT), 1 1/16 miles, turf:
1--Classy Charm, 116, Joe Bravo
2--Paddy's Daisy, 118, Christopher P. DeCarlo
3--Cool Spell, 118, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
4--Toll Taker, 118, Aaron T. Gryder
5--Ruby Martini, 116, Rajiv Maragh
6--Pleasant Lyrics, 116, John R. Velazquez
7--Frost Princess, 118, Stewart Elliott
8--Melhor Ainda, 120, John R. Velazquez