International Intrigue in Matchmaker Stakes

International Intrigue in Matchmaker Stakes
Photo: EQUI-PHOTO
Laughing won the Matchmaker in 2012.

An international field of fillies and mares is set for the 47th running of the $150,000 Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up at Monmouth Park July 28.

Laughing will seek to defend her Matchmaker title for owner Richard Santulli, going out as the co-highweight (with Todd Pletcher trainee Channel Lady), toting 123 pounds in the field of eight for the 1 1/8 miles turf test.

The Matchmaker is scheduled as race 5 on the undercard for the William Hill Haskell Invitational, and has an approximate post time of 1:52 p.m. EDT.

Alan Goldberg-trained Laughing comes into the Matchmaker off a win in the June 29 Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth. In 12 starts the the 5-year-old Dansili mare has been out of the money only three times.

In addition to her previous Matchmaker triumph, Laughing counts a win in the Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown to her credit, plus a pair of thirds in the 2012 Athenia Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park and Galorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Pimlico Race Course. Gary Stevens rides Laughing for the first time as they break from post 7.

Laughing may not start as she is also entered in the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

Dual grade III winner Channel Lady also comes in off a win with her June 22 score in the Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs, picked up after a pair of fourth-place finishes in the May 4 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs and the Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park in March.

Right before that the English Channel   filly captured Gulfstream's Suwannee River Stakes (gr. IIIT) at the Matchmaker distance. New rider John Velasquez has the mount on Channel Lady, breaking from post 8.

The other graded stakes victress in the field is Naples Bay, a 5-year-old mare owned by Edward A. Cox Jr. Winless in two starts this year, the daughter of Giant's Causeway   recorded a runner-up finish in the My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) in November at Calder Casino & Race Course.

Her last triumph came Sept. 15 in the Noble Damsel Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the turf at Belmont. Trainer Christophe Clement sends out Naples Bay from post 4. Jockey Joe Bravo, who rode the dark bay mare to victory at the Oceanport, N.J. oval last August, will be in the irons.

Runner-up by a length last time out to rival Channel Lady in the All Along, Patrick Kelley's veteran mare Idle Talk will be making her fourth start of her 7-year-old-campaign, which includes a starter allowance win in May at Atlantic City. The gray Olmodavor mare, trained by Mary Eppler, captured Pimlico's Dahlia Stakes in 2012 and in is 7-2-0 for 18 starts over the last two years. Horacio Karamanos, who has seen the winners circle with Idle Talk four times and had the mount in the All Along, has the call from post 2.

British import Julie's Love was 1-5-3 in 12 European starts in France and Germany, including a group II-placed finish, before moving stateside for her 2012 season. A blacktype winner in the U.S., she scored in the Owsley Stakes on the Belmont grass three starts back and in the 2012 De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga Race Course for owners Bobby Flay, Irving Cowan, and Barry Weisbord.

In her most recent start, the 5-year-old Ad Valorem mare placed behind Solid Appeal in the Dance Smartly Stakes (gr. IIT) at Woodbine. Among her other graded stakes efforts over the last year are a runner-up finish to Daisy Devine in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) in November and a third behind Gitchee Goomie and Hessonite in the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx Racing last summer. Alan Garcia will ride Julie's Love from the rail.

Michael Matz trains the French mare Minakshi, who will make her third U.S. start in the Matchmaker. First time out on this side of the pond the 5-year-old Footstepsinthesand mare placed behind rival Julie's Love in the Owsley before finishing third in Belmont's May 25 Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT). Her average winning distance is 9.32 furlongs, putting the Matchmaker in her comfort zone. Angel Serpa will ride Minakshi from post 3 for owner Northern Bloodstock.

Calumet Farm sends out Irish filly Starstruck for her fourth U.S. start. After capturing a handicap over the synthetic track at Dundalk last fall, the Galileo daughter came west and scored in her first start, an allowance at Churchill in May at the Matchmaker distance. Since then she's placed second and third in optional claiming turf tests at the Louisville oval. Larry Jones sends Starstruck out with blinkers on and Rosie Napravnik will ride for the third time, breaking from post 5.

Lone Stable's Parranda comes in off an allowance win at Monmouth July 4. The 4-year-old English Channel filly has three other victories under her girth, including a 1 1/8-mile allowance score at Calder this April. Gabriel Saez has the call on Parranda. The pair will break from post 6 for trainer Rodolfo Garcia.

Main track only contender Welcome Guest is a 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song. The LNJ Foxwoods' filly counts one runner-up finish in the 2012 Comely Stakes (gr. III). Frankie Pennington is listed to ride on the main track for trainer Tony Dutrow.

$150,000 Matchmaker Stakes (Grade IIIT, Race 5, Approximate post time 1:52 p.m. EDT), Fillies & Mares, 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (Turf)

PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Julie's Love (GB), A Garcia, 118, H G Motion
2. Idle Talk (KY), H Karamanos, 116, M E Eppler
3. Minakshi (FR), A Serpa, 116, M R Matz
4. Naples Bay (KY), J Bravo, 116, C Clement
5. Starstruck (IRE), R Napravnik, 116, J L Jones
6. Parranda (FL), G Saez, 116, R Garcia
7. Laughing (IRE), G L Stevens, 123, A E Goldberg
8. Channel Lady (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher
9. Welcome Guest (KY), F Pennington 116, A W Dutrow  (MTO)
Equipment Changes: 5 - Starstruck (IRE) - Blinkers On

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