PEGASUS STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | GRADE: 3 | 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | 1 1/16 MILES
OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Another Saturday, another 3-year-old stakes win for owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen.
One week ago, they pulled off a Belmont Stakes shocker with Ruler On Ice at 24-1.
The latest victory was a 3-5 triumph by Pants On Fire in the Grade 3, $195,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
It was a solid rebound effort for Pants On Fire, the Louisiana Derby winner. He stepped up from the Fair Grounds to run ninth in the Kentucky Derby, where he bled.
Breen planned to give the colt an extended rest. That changed when Pants On Fire came around quickly with the return to Monmouth.
He trained strongly for the race, and ran to that morning sharpness.
"We felt pretty good," George Hall said. "You never know what causes a horse to bleed and when it's going to happen. It's hit or miss. We knew that if he ran his best race and he was healthy and he could breathe the whole race, it would be a real strong performance. We're pretty excited about today."
After a stumble at the break, Pants On Fire was well positioned third by Rosie Napravnik as Turbo Compressor and Harlan's Hello set the pace.
Pants On Fire launched his bid three-wide entering the final turn, shook clear turning for home, and went on to a two-length win over Concealed Identity.
"I think the horses that were in front of him were kind of running out of steam, so we took the lead pretty easily and he finished strong," Napravnik said. "He's obviously a very special horse. He took me to the Kentucky Derby, which is, hopefully, not a once in a lifetime experience. So he's very special to me. He's a very talented horse, so I'm very appreciative to George and Lori Hall and to Kelly for keeping me on him. Now we're looking forward to the next one."
That next one could be right back here.
The $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 31 is the meet's premier stakes for 3-year-olds. Both Pants On Fire and Ruler On Ice could make the race.
"It's something we obviously have to discuss with Kelly," George Hall said.
"He'll have views on that. We're big supporters of Monmouth and we want to win the Haskell, so we're going to do whatever we can. It could be Pants On Fire or Ruler On Ice. Maybe both of them. We'll see how the horses are feeling. They'll tell us when they want to run."
Turbo Compressor held on for third in the Pegasus with Harlan's Hello fourth. Clarke Lane raced erratically and was pulled up on the second turn.
The time was 1:42.89 for the 1 1/16 miles on the fast track.
Love That Dance deals Ever Always first defeat
Love That Dance dueled the previously unbeaten Ever Always into submission and went on to a 3 1/2 length win in the $65,000 Open Mind Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares.
A multiple stakes winner against open company, Love That Dance got her ninth career victory by taking it to Ever Always right from the start.
The fragile but talented Ever Always was 4 for 4 coming in. The 5-year-old returned from a layoff of almost two years to win a first-level allowance by 11 3/4 lengths last month.
This time she had company, as Love That Dance and jockey Pablo Fragoso forced the issue.
"We couldn't let her have an easy lead," said winning trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "I told Pablo to get right on her."
Ever Always, the 2-5 favorite, eventually faded to last in the five-horse field. Eased across the finish wire, Ever Always was vanned off.
Karmageddon got second with Lil Kiara third.
The time was 1:09.74 for the six furlongs.
Of the $81,782 in the show pool, $73,842 was bet on Ever Always. When she finished off the board, the show prices ballooned.
Love That Dance paid $8, $3.80 and $14. Karmageddon returned $5 and $20.60. Lil Kiara fetched $38 to show.