Most of the week we focus on the Iowa Festival of Racing, with previews of stakes action at Prairie Meadows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. However, the grass division gets their day in the sun with the Grade I United Nations Stakes.
The United Nations Stakes has been run since 1953. Inaugurated at Atlantic City Race Course, it began its life as a 1 3/16 mile race over the grass. It remained at Atlantic City until 1997, though was called the Caesars International (after Caesars casino) from 1990 through 1997. Not run in 1998, the United Nations was resurrected in its current form – 1 3/8 mile over the turf at Monmouth – in 1999.
The United Nations offers a $500,000 purse this year. Unlike last year, however, the race has lost its Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In status. Still, three horses have won the United Nations and the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same year: Manila (1996), English Channel (2007), and Main Sequence (2014). However, the most accomplished winner of the United Nations predated the Breeders’ Cup era: Dr. Fager (1968). A Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. Fager swept awards for champion grass horse, handicap horse, sprinter, and horse of the year the year he won the UN, and had won both the grass horse and sprinter titles the year before.
Main Sequence, in his American debut, runs down Twilight Eclipse to win the 2014 United Nations Stakes.
This race, just like all races at Monmouth Park, live-streams for free on their website.
Morning line odds were unavailable at original publish time.
Race 9: United Nations Stakes (GI), three-year-olds and up, one and three eighths miles on the turf, post time 4:52pm EDT
When it comes to a jockey to pick up a mount on a big race day, Joe Bravo sits at the top of this space’s list. He seems to pop up at just about any track, pick up mounts in big stakes races, and get the most out of them.
The United Nations Stakes is a little different. Joe Bravo rides CAN’THELPBELIEVING for the first time — but instead of turning up at “any track”, this is Monmouth. This is Bravo’s home turf. Sure, aside from the rider, CAN’THELPBELIEVING would be live here no matter what. The Graham Motion trainee finished a solid third behind WAKE FOREST and MONEY MULTIPLIER at this same distance in the Man o’ War (GI), and has a win at eleven furlongs as well. He has a solid worktab leading into this start, and speed figures that match up with this set. He also has the right tactical running style for this.
The pace scenario is a bit murky: CEMENT CLEMENT needs the lead, and though others (WORLD APPROVAL, TRIPLE THREAT, NOBLE ROAD, BIGGER PICTURE) have shown some early speed, they do not have to be on the front end. NOBLE ROAD would make sense to send, and TRIPLE THREAT would be the classiest of the ones to try and take it to CEMENT CLEMENT. But, leave it to Joe Bravo to get CAN’THELPBELIEVING tracking in a good place, and leave it to his steed to have enough gas to get home at a nice price.
WORLD APPROVAL and WAKE FOREST are the ones to beat in this field, and for good reason. Between the two, WORLD APPROVAL gets the slight nod just because he tends to be a bit more tactical. He can close if he needs, but can also stalk or set the fractions. Last out, he was left to his own devices on the front end, and only run down late by Flintshire and Ironicus. There is no Flintshire-calibre horse in today’s field, and this space would argue that there’s no Ironicus, either. However, with CEMENT CLEMENT around, WORLD APPROVAL will be more likely to track off the pace. That is a style he can do just as well. He does lose regular rider Julien Leparoux to Queen’s Plate Day at Woodbine, but gets an excellent turf route rider in Florent Geroux. The biggest question is whether WORLD APPROVAL stays the eleven furlongs. But, with so many from Chad Brown’s barn here to take money, the price may well be right to bet he does.
Still, WAKE FOREST cannot be counted out. Even though he is a dedicated closer, he rallied into a slow pace last out to get top honours over stablemate MONEY MULTIPLIER in the Man o’ War. That came with John Velazquez aboard, and Velazquez returns today. That also came at the same eleven-furlong distance as the United Nations. WAKE FOREST is in the right form, and anything vaguely resembling his recent form should get him a share in this.
#1 CAN’THELPBELIEVING (8/1)
#4 WORLD APPROVAL (3/1)
#3 WAKE FOREST (5/2)
Longshot: #8 MONEY MULTIPLIER (8/1) may not go off 18/1 like he did last time in the Man o’ War, but he is the “Chad Brown C” entry here behind WAKE FOREST and MR. MAYBE. Though he loses Irad Ortiz to MR. MAYBE (a good horse who likely needs a start), he gets perfectly capable turf rider Javier Castellano back aboard. They have some back form together, as Castellano booted MONEY MULTIPLIER home to his maiden victory last year. He stretched to this eleven-furlong distance for the first time last out in the aforementioned Man o’ War, digging in to finish a game second behind stablemate WAKE FOREST. He is as tactical as he needs to be to do well in this race; though he does not carve out fractions, he can run a good race from right up on the front end or from well off. With questions as to whether CEMENT CLEMENT will get competition on the front end or not, Castellano can make a game-time decision about whether to put MONEY MULTIPLIER in a stalking spot like last out, or farther back. This aptly-named son of Lookin At Lucky frequently outruns his odds, and he could do so once again in the United Nations.
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