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OCEANPORT, NJ – Trainer Grant Forster’s Pirate’s Punch powered home strongly to win Sunday’s $150,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park.
Pirate’s Punch broke from post 6 under Jorge Vargas Jr. as the 2/1 favorite in the field of eight and settled into a stalking position alongside Prendimi.
Wind of Change set a fast early pace, posting fractions of :22.69 and :45.80 while holding a lengthy early lead that disappeared halfway through the race.
Pirate’s Punch made a strong three-wide bid in the far turn and took command at the 1/4 pole, then kicked clear to win the fast dirt mile route by 2 lengths in 1:37.19.
“We wanted to be on the lead because that’s the best way he has run before, but they went quick early on,” said Vargas Jr. “I didn’t panic; I just tried to keep him clean. I knew I was on the best horse in the race. After the 3/8 (pole), he just took off. I wasn’t going to challenge that fast early speed. I know this is a good horse and he will get in gear.”
Top Line Growth fought hard in the stretch to take second by a head over Bal Harbour, who finished third in the event for the second straight year.
Name Changer, Golden Brown, Wind of Change, Prendimi, and Valid Point completed the order of finish.
Pirate’s Punch crossed the wire for the second consecutive race, having initially won the local Philip Iselin Stakes (G3) before being disqualified and placed second. The 4-year-old Shanghai Bobby gelding improved his record to 17-5-3-4 with $332,751 earned for co-owners Gulliver Racing, Craig Drager, and Dan Legan.
“I’m pleased they gave me another chance to ride this horse after the Iselin,” said Vargas Jr. “I didn’t feel what happened that day was all that bad (to necessitate a DQ), but I still felt bad about it and apologized to the owners afterward. They told me I did everything right and rode a good race.”
Forster said that the next goal is the World Championships at Keeneland.
“The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) is definitely our plan, based on these last two races,” Forster said. “We were treating this as our ‘Win and You’re In.’ He won it, so I guess we have to put our money where our mouth is and give a horse the chance to show what he can do on the national stage.”
Pirate’s Punch returned $6.60 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.40 to show. Top Line Growth brought back $3.40 to place and $2.60 to show, while Bal Harbour paid $2.60 to show.
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