OCEANSIDE, NJ – Colts Neck Stable’s homebred Name Changer took charge in the far turn and drew off in the final stages to take Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Monmouth Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Breaking well from post 5 under Jose Ortiz, Name Changer brushed briefly with the 8-5 favorite Zanotti before settling in mid-pack behind Phat Man through opening splits of :23.48 and :47.86. Entering the far turn, Remembering Rita took the lead for a brief moment, but Name Changer and Zanotti quickly took that honor away and straightened for home heads apart. Battling closely until the final 1/16 of a mile, Name Changer inched away before hitting the wire with a 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:49.56 for the 9-furlong main track event.
“It was important for me to break him sharp and keep him in a forwardly-placed position,” Ortiz said. “When I saw the horses in front of me battling for the lead, I knew I had a good chance of winning the race. The horse showed how much heart he had to fend off the horse on my outside.”
Zanotti continued his string of near-misses in 2018 after finishing second for the fifth time in six starts this year. Page McKenney couldn’t keep pace with the top pair and had to settle for third ahead of Remembering Rita, while Let Me Go First and Phat Man completed the order of finish.
Name Changer’s win was his first in a graded stakes event and improved his overall record to 15-7-1-3. The 5-year-old intact son of Uncle Mo increased his career earnings to $412,550.
“I don’t what happened in his last race (when he finished third in a small stakes race at Delaware Park),” Goldberg said. “I was a little surprised, other than he ran in fractions that were too fast early. It was a real clunker. It was head-scratcher and he was close, so we said we’ll try it because he was going really good before that last race. Today, I thought we’d be a little farther back, but I thought that with the horses in first (Phat Man) and second (Remembering Rita) early, he’d be out there going with them. This horse has been breaking better than he did in the past. He broke good, maintained his position, and everything was cool from there.”
Name Changer returned $10.40 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3 to show. Zanotti brought back $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show, while Page McKenney paid $2.60 to show.