IEAH Stables asked and they shall receive. On Sept. 13, Big Brown will return to the turf and test older horses for the first time, as he faces 10 rivals in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes. The 1 1/8-mile event, which would be reduced to $200,000 if Big Brown does not go to the post, will be televised live on TVG, with coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. EDT.
Big Brown, a winner of six of seven career starts, including the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), has not raced on turf since breaking his maiden a little over a year ago at Saratoga. It was that sparkling 11 1/4-length score that prompted IEAH managing partner Mike Iavarone to buy a majority interest in the son of Boundary. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said Big Brown’s return to turf will not only help his troubled feet, but will be an ideal prep for the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) next month on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface.
“He’s had feet issues to deal with. It’s not like he’s a horse that wakes up ready to roll,” Dutrow said earlier this week. “He’s had five or six quarter cracks since I’ve had him. He has tender feet, and we want to keep him on grass as much as possible. It’s so much easier to keep him on his natural surface. We wanted to race 40 days before the Breeders’ Cup.”
Bred in Kentucky by Monticule out of the Nureyev mare Mien, Big Brown has earned more than $3.3 million and captured four grade I events, the last one coming Aug. 3 in the Haskell Invitational on the Monmouth dirt. He has been breezing steadily on the turf at Aqueduct in preparation for the Monmouth Stakes, his last work a five-furlong breeze in 1:05.35 Sept. 9. Dutrow also indicated Big Brown would go to post even if the race was moved to the main track because of weather. There is a chance of rain in New Jersey Sept. 13.
Regular rider Kent Desormeaux will get the call on Big Brown, who will break from post four carrying 120 pounds.
Although the Monmouth Stakes is an ungraded event, Big Brown will be facing a number of horses who have won graded stakes on the turf. Among them is Peter Vegso’s remarkable 8-year-old Silver Tree, who seems to be improving with age. The son of Hennessy has won or placed in eight of his last nine starts, including his most recent victory in the Aug. 3 Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth.
Trained by Bill Mott, Silver Tree has produced a 14-10-4 record from 40 starts and has earned more than $1.7 million. The Florida-bred is a six-time graded stakes winner. Eddie Castro will get the mount.
Another 8-year-old who seems to be in top form is Shadwell Stable’s Shakis. The Irish-bred son of Machiavellian enters off a thrilling score in the Aug. 23 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, where he came from well back at the quarter-pole to run down the leaders. It was the second consecutive year Shakis won that event. Monmouth's top rider Joe Bravo will be in the irons.
Another multiple graded stakes winner looking to pull an upset is Gary Tanaka’s Proudinsky. The 5-year-old German-bred son of Silvano was sixth in the Bernard Baruch, but was beaten less than two lengths. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Proudinsky won the Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Fair Grounds turf in March, and as a 3-year-old captured the nine-furlong Bay Meadows Derby (gr. IIIT). He is 4-3-1 from 12 career starts. Ramon Dominguez will ride.
Dogwood Stable’s Drum Major is also likely to improve off his seventh-place finish in the Bernard Baruch, which was his first effort since finishing third in the same event one year earlier. The George Weaver trainee had been on the board in five straight races before an injury kept him sidelined. His biggest victory to date came in the 2006 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Five Monmouth-based horses are entered, headed by Amy Tarrant’s Kiss the Kid, who drew post five with Elvis Trujillo aboard. The 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has won on both turf and dirt at Monmouth, and is coming off a third behind Honest Man and Grasshopper in the Iselin Stakes (gr. III).
The others entered are Main Street Stable’s Hotstufanthensome, who was a close-up third in the Oceanport; Dinan & Moore’s Get Serious; Salvatore Racing Stable’s Fagedaboudit Sal; Mac Fehsenfeld’s Ballonenostrikes; and Kirk P. Sheehan’s Nightscape.$500,000 Monmouth Stakes (Race 9, 4:52 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Nightscape (MD), 119, Emilio Flores
2. Hotstufanthensome (KY), 119, Jose Lezcano
3. Shakis (IRE), 121, Joe Bravo
4. Big Brown (KY), 120, Kent J. Desormeaux
5. Kiss the Kid (KY), 119, Elvis Trujillo
6. Proudinsky (GER), 119, Ramon Dominguez
7. Drum Major (KY), 119, Kendrick Carmouche
8. Get Serious (NY), 119, Pablo Fragoso
9. Fagedaboudit Sal (NJ), 121, Pedro L. Cotto, Jr.
10. Ballonenostrikes (FL), 119, Daniel Centeno
11. Silver Tree (FL), 121, Eddie Castro