Jersey's Shore Thing: Monmouth Park Opens Season

Monmouth Park, the resort racetrack located not far from the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey, will kick off its 2004 meet May 29 with three stakes, including the featured $100,000 Red Bank Handicap (gr. IIIT), and a very healthy purse structure boosted by a casino subsidy.

Monmouth, which races through Sept. 26, officially begins the Thoroughbred racing season in the Garden State. Atlantic City Race Course was open for several all-turf programs earlier in May.

The 11-race program on opening day includes the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds, 3-year-olds and up, at six furlongs, and the $55,000 Gilded Time Stakes for 3-year-olds at five furlongs on the grass. The final race of the day offers proof of the strong purse structure: A maiden special weight test for Jersey-bred sprinters will go for $46,000.

The Red Bank, for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the turf, lured 13 entrants including Harold Queen's Burning Roma, who in his last start April 9 fell only a half-length shy of victory in the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in a huge effort. He's the Red Bank highweight at 120 pounds with Jesus Castanon scheduled to ride.

Trained by Heather Giglio, Burning Roma, by Rubiano out of the Overskate mare While Rome Burns, has won 12 of 32 career starts. In four starts on the turf, Burning Roma has won two starts and finished second in the other two.

Now a 6-year-old, Burning Roma won the 2000 Futurity Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, the 2001 Tampa Bay Derby, and the 2002 Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II). He won a maiden special weight test in his career debut, and since then all of his victories have come in stakes.

In the Maker's Mark Mile, Burning Roma sat just off the early leader, kicked in on the final turn and fought gamely to just miss behind Perfect Soul. The mile was covered in a sharp 1:33.54, a Keeneland course record.

The Red Bank is the 10th race on the card with a probable post time of 5:16 p.m. EDT. Here's the field, in post-position order, with jockeys and weights:

1 Navesink Julian Pimentel 115 pounds
2 Ricardo A Eddie King Jr. 110
3 Pisces Chris DeCarlo 115
4 Burning Roma Jesus Castanon 120
5 Cool N Collective Richard Bracho 114
6 Stormy Roman Eibar Coa 115
7 Tam's Terms Horacio Karamanos 116
8 Spruce Run Jose Ferrer 115
9 Chilly Rooster Shannon Uske 116
10 Wudantunoit Stewart Elliott 116
11 American Freedom Jose Velez Jr. 114
12 Remind Joe Bravo 117
13 Sardaukar Stewart Elliott 114

Wudantunoit and Sardaukar are coupled.

Monmouth races on a Wednesday-through Sunday schedule with the exception of Monday holidays. There will be live racing Monday, May 31 as part of the three-day opening weekend. First post is 12:55.