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OCEANPORT, NJ – In what was essentially a well-paid workout, Gelfenstein Farm’s Sharp Azteca breezed to an easy win in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Monmouth Cup.
The final time for the 8 1/2-furlong race was 1:40.19, just topping the previous track record of 1:40.20 for that distance that Formal Gold set in 1997.
Jockey Paco Lopez put Sharp Azteca to a relaxed position just outside of the early pacesetter Classy Class through early fractions of :23.92 and :47.13. Entering the far turn, Sharp Azteca began to move and put away Classy Class with ease.
Exiting onto the stretch, Lopez kept the Jorge Navarro trainee under a hand ride through final fractions of 1:10.69 and 1:34.17 before crossing the wire 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Donegal Moon, Just Call Kenny, and Classy Class. Scuba was scratched.
“He was sitting very relaxed in second early on,” Lopez said. “I waited and waited, then pushed him a little at the 3/8 pole, and he started to pick it up. I only asked him a little and he took off. He’s a really great horse.”
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It was the third career graded stakes victory for the 4-year-old son of Freud, whose resume also includes wins in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile and the Grade 2 Hardacre Mile. The winner’s share of $60,000 increased his career earnings to $956,740.
The win was a relief for Navarro, whose goal was for the colt to win a two-turn stakes race in advance of his scheduled run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, which will be a two-turn race at Del Mar.
“Mission accomplished,” said Navarro. “We put the mile and 1/16 away and it was a relief to get him back in great shape. He almost got loose in the barn last night and cut his head. Then, on the way over to the paddock today, he flipped. He was okay, but it was another worry. It was fantastic to see him run so well after all that.”
Sharp Azteca returned $2.60 to win and $2.10 to place, while Donegal Moon brought back $3 to place. There was no show betting.
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