OCEANPORT, NJ – G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s homebred filly Skeptic sat the perfect stalking trip early before making her bid and then gamely holding off the 2-1 favorite Sassy Sienna in the stretch to earn her first career graded score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park.
Breaking from the rail under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Skeptic soon moved off the rail to ride just off of the early leader Starcloud and kept that foe honest through opening splits of :23.67 and :47.58. Taking command midway through the far turn, Skeptic emerged onto the stretch with a slight lead but had Sassy Sienna and Gio Game looming large. Though the bettors’ top choice put in a strong bid, Skeptic was too tough and dug in to repel her late. The Rusty Arnold trainee hit the line with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:43.84 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“She wasn’t quite ready for her last race at that time (the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks),” said Hernandez, Jr. “She found out when you go into a graded stakes for the first time, the water gets a little deeper. It may have been a little deep for her then. But she got a lot of experience out of that race and she showed it today. Coming into this race, we were hoping our filly would show up like she can – and she did. She’s a big filly and she is going to get better as she gets older. It was kind of a perfect trip today. Coming from post 1, I thought a couple of horses would go, but when (Starcloud) was the only one to go, we went with her, and she gave us a nice little target until I asked my filly to go.”
Gio Game faded in the stretch and was over 3 lengths behind the top two, but she was strong enough to hold third by 4 lengths over a three-way photo that went to Blue Union Rags over the noses of Starcloud and Vente to Go. The remaining runners were stretched out behind them, with Chauncey, Mo Shopping, and Stakes On a Plane completing the order of finish.
Skeptic’s win was her third of the year and of her career, with her record improved to 7-3-1-1. The 3-year-old daughter of Tiznow increased her earnings to $166,139 for co-owners Humphrey, Jr. and Ashbrook Farm.
“We really liked her going into the Indiana Oaks and we knew that beating Rodolphe Brisset’s filly (Talk Veuve To Me) was going to be hard,” said Arnold. “She found out stepping up like she did can be tougher than her previous two races were. But she gained a lot of experience. She has been training great at Saratoga leading up to this, so I felt really good about her chances, but you never know until they get it done. We were hoping to be right behind a horse or two, and it worked out just right. It was one of those days she had a good day. She’s got a pedigree. She’s going to get better as she goes on. I think she has a chance to be a good one.”
Skeptic returned $10.60 to win, $5.20 to place, and $3.20 to show. Sassy Sienna brought back $4 to place and $3 to show, while Gio Game paid $2.40 to show.