By Tom LaMarra
Oak Bluffs, an 8-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding owned and trained by Pimlico-based Mary Eppler, is one of 12 entered in the 5 1/2-furlong Wolf Hill, the fourth leg of five in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division, at Monmouth Park July 29.
Oak Bluffs, also the leading New Jersey-bred in the series, has earned 16 points based on a third-place finish in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, a win in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup and a sixth in the grade III Parx Dash. His victory came on a course rated firm at Penn National.
The Wolf Hill marks the return of Breeze Easy’s Imprimis to the MATCH Series. Trained by Joe Orseno and based at Monmouth, Imprimis won the McKay Turf Sprint and skipped the Governor’s Cup and Parx Dash to target the Canadian grade I Highlander Stakes at Woodbine June 30. Imprimis was in the midst of a rally when he ran into traffic and had to settle for sixth.
Pewter Stable’s Dubini will make his third start in the MATCH division and thus qualify for bonus money. Based at Parx Racing and trained by Kathleen Demasi, Dubini finished second in the Governor’s Cup at Penn National and sixth in the Parx Dash on a “good” turf course. The winner of the Parx Dash, Vision Perfect, took a pass on the Wolf Hill.
Colts Neck Stables’ Pool Winner, who fell a nose short of winning the Parx Dash for trainer Alan Goldberg, like Dubini will qualify for bonus money with a start in the Wolf Hill. The 6-year-old gelding, one of the most consistent turf sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region for years, finish third, beaten a length by Oak Bluffs in the Governor’s Cup in his first MATCH Series outing.
By Tom LaMarra
Breeze Easy’s Imprimis rebounded from a troubled trip in a Canadian grade I stakes in his previous start to win the $75,000 Wolf Hill Stakes, fourth of five races in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division, at Monmouth Park July 29.
It was the 4-year-old gelding’s second win in two MATCH starts, which gives him 20 points. Though Mary Eppler Racing Stable’s Oaks Bluffs checked in ninth in the Wolf Hill for one point, he picked up another five bonus points because it marked his fourth start in the division. So he maintains his lead with 22 points.
Imprimis, winner of the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, first leg of the division, broke well from post 11 in the Wolf Hill and was third after the opening quarter-mile. He moved to second just behind front-running Ray’swarrior near the top of the stretch and was able to hold a game Pool Winner, who was in contention throughout, safe by a length at the wire.
The time for the five furlongs on a turf course rated firm was a sparkling 1:01.69. Imprimis returned $4.60 to win as the favorite in a field of 11.
Trainer Joe Orseno indicated the connections will have a choice to make in the near future given the fact the plan is to get Imprimis, who now has five wins in six starts, to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. He needs one more start in the MATCH division to qualify for bonus money, but there’s only one race left–the $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup at Laurel Park Sept. 15.
“At Woodbine (in the Highlander Stakes), that was an unfortunate trip,” Orseno said, noting Imprimis got in trouble at three points in the race. “This was a big race for him today because we wanted to get him back on track. He hasn’t been in his own stall (at Monmouth) for a while, so it’s nice to just be able to walk him over to the paddock.
“There’s nothing wrong with the MATCH bonuses for the owners or the trainers. But the owners want to get to the Breeders’ Cup, and the question is, ‘Will the Laurel race be a good enough prep to get him there?’ We’ll look at it as it gets closer.”
Another option for Imprimis is the grade III Turf Monster at Parx Racing earlier in September, Orseno said.
Jose Ortiz, who rode Imprimis, said having a clean trip in the Wolf Hill was the key.
“I watched a replay of the last race and he got into a little trouble,” said Ortiz, who earlier won the grade III Monmouth Cup, part of the MATCH Series, with Name Changer. “This horse has such a bright future ahead of him. I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Oak Bluffs won the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, second leg of the division. The third leg, the grade III Parx Dash, went to Vision Perfect, who has made only one start in the MATCH Series.