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Associated Press

Monmouth Park Race Report: Major Advance

Published in the Aug. 4 issue of The Blood-Horse
Trainer David R. Vance is no stranger to the Mid-Atlantic circuit. Back in the 1970s, the Logansport, Ind., native was a dominant force both at the now-defunct Garden State Park and at Philadelphia Park, formerly known as Keystone Race Track.

Vance, 61, won two training titles at Garden State and three at Keystone, mostly with horses from the powerhouse stable of owner Dan Lasater. Vance was well respected at Monmouth Park, too, as a filly he co-trained with another Lasater conditioner, Gordon Potter, won the 1974 Monmouth Oaks (then ungraded) under jockey Walter Blum. That filly was the multiple graded stakes winner Honky Star.

A lot of stakes horses have come and gone for Vance since those whirlwind days with Lasater. He's since moved back to the Kentucky circuit where he began his career in 1966, but still has top horses in his barn, including Carl Pollard's champion Caressing, who captured the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Vance even made a cameo appearance at Monmouth Park on July 28 to saddle his second Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) winner after 27 years, Roger Davenport's Unbridled Elaine, a filly who was only making her second start under his experienced eye.

The gray daughter of Unbridled's Song, out of the Taylor's Falls mare Carols Folly, had won three of her first five starts for trainer Dallas Stewart, including the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. After a fourth-place finish in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park on June 8, Davenport transferred her to Vance, and he shipped her to Prairie Meadows to win the Iowa Oaks on July 5.

Sent to Oceanport, N.J., Unbridled Elaine was installed as the favorite in the $250,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks. She was taking on six rivals, including another filly by Unbridled, Edward P. Evans' Unrestrained, an allowance winner at Keeneland for trainer Mark Hennig, and Chestertown Farm's Indy Glory, who was recently sixth in the Mother Goose (gr. I) behind Fleet Renee. Vance tabbed Monmouth's second leading rider, Eibar Coa, to ride Unbridled Elaine, and he settled her off the early scrimmage for the lead which developed between Canadian invader Quick Blue and the undefeated Kain's Prize from Maryland.

Sensing the pace was slow (the first two splits in the 1 1/8-mile test were :24.09 and :48.42), Coa let Unbridled Elaine range up alongside the leaders shortly after a half and Kain's Prize quickly backed out of it. Quick Blue tried to stick with Unbridled Elaine but Coa let her out a notch and she spurted away, drawing off with every stride under only mild encouragement in the stretch. Unrestrained and Indy Glory made determined bids to catch the leggy gray, but had to settle for second and third, respectively. The time was 1:51.02, and the winner returned $3.60.

"I thought she ran a super race," said Vance. "She's got a lot of potential, and she was very impressive today."

"Coming to the three-eighths pole, I knew I was the winner," said Coa. "They tried me a couple of times before the quarter pole, but she just kept digging in."

Unbridled Elaine has now won five of her seven lifetime starts and earned $388,090.

Vance said a start in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 18 could be next on her schedule.

(Chart, Equibase)