Monmouth Cup attracts Bradester; six entered in Molly Pitcher

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Jen Caldwell

July 28th, 2016

While the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) draws all the attention on Sunday at Monmouth Park, there will be four other graded events on the day’s undercard worth paying attention to.

Among those four two – the $200,000 Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2) and $100,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) – are sending fields of six 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.

First up will be the Monmouth Cup, which attracted defending champion and last-out Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) scorer Bradester. The Eddie Kenneally trainee earned his biggest win to date when taking the Foster by a half-length in gate-to-wire fashion under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs on June 18.

Bradester actually entered the Foster following a 2 1/4-length victory in the Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth. The six-year-old son of Lion Heart is no stranger to the Jersey Shore venue, finishing second in the Salvatore Mile Stakes (G3) and Monmouth Cup in 2014 before taking both races in 2015. He also ran second in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at the track before trying his luck in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland last fall.

Bradester closed out 2015 with a ninth-placing in the Dirt Mile, but is two-for-two thus far this season. The Kentucky-bred bay had jockey Joe Bravo aboard for both those wins and keeps him in the saddle on Sunday.

While Bradester returns to Monmouth, Blofeld tries the track for the first time in this spot. The Todd Pletcher-trained four-year-old actually only owns nine starts to date, including going three-for-three as a juvenile. He captured the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Futurity Stakes (G2) then, but was winless when making only two starts last year as a sophomore.

Blofeld just got his head in front to take the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in his second start this season and is exiting a well-beaten seventh in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park on June 11. For the first time the Quality Road colt will have a rider other than John Velazquez as Rafael Bejarano takes over piloting duties on Sunday.

Mr. Jordan ran third in the Salvatore Mile most recently and is looking for his first win since taking the Pegasus Stakes (G3) over track and 1 1/16-mile distance last year. Scuba also enters the Monmouth Cup off a third-place finish, with his coming in the Dominion Day Stakes (Can-G3) at Woodbine on July 1. Paco Lopez has the call on Mr. Jordan while Florent Geroux will be aboard Scuba.

Grade 3-placed multiple stakes winners Adirondack King and Encryption complete the Monmouth Cup field.

Two races later, Birdatthewire goes in the Molly Pitcher against five fellow distaffers. The Dale Romans-trained four-year-old ran third in the Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) last out and will be making her Monmouth debut under jockey Victor Lebron.

Eskenformoney will do her best to improve upon her runner-up finish in the 2015 Monmouth Oaks (G3) in this spot. The Pletcher charge just missed second by a nose to the re-opposing Genre when running third in the Lady’s Secret Stakes most recently. Bravo has the mount on Eskenformoney while Lopez rides Genre.

Super Majesty, victress of the 2015 Dogwood Stakes (G3), just missed the win by three parts of a length in the Iowa Distaff most recently and gets Geroux holding the reins as she tries to return to the winner’s circle.

Dual stakes winner Stiffed, second in last year’s Molly Pitcher, and Royal Jewely complete the field.

Bradester photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography