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 and is tied in the overall series standings with his stablemate, Page McKenney.
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.
Colts Neck Stables’ Name Changer made his MATCH Series debut a winning one in the grade III, $150,000 Monmouth Cup earlier on the program.
It was the first graded stakes win for the 5-year-old Uncle Mo horse and second stakes tally overall in 15 starts for trainer Alan Goldberg. Name Changer earned 10 points in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division and is now tied for second with Harlan Punch, winner of the grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes, second leg of the five-race division.
Division leader Page McKenney remains on top with 22 points, which includes the five he picked up for finishing third in the Monmouth Cup. He also qualified for MATCH bonus money with his third start in the division.
Ortiz rated Name Changer just off a moderate early pace before making a bid for the lead on the far turn. Name Changer was able to hold off a stubborn Zanotti, who rallied from near the back of the six-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile race. The winning margin was a half-length.
Name Changer covered the distance in 1:49.56 on a track rated fast and returned $10.40 to win. He entered the Monmouth Cup off of an even third-place finish in the July 14 Carl Hanford Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park, but Goldberg indicated he expected a better effort that afternoon.
“In his last race, I was a little surprised,” he said. “They went fast early (and he didn’t close into it), so it was a head-scratcher. But everything was good. Today, I thought he would be farther back early, but the horse has been breaking from the gate better this year.”
Page McKenney, who sat in fourth, made a bid on the far turn but couldn’t get closer than 5 1/2 lengths behind the leader. He earned $15,000 in purse money to move a bit closer to the $2 million earnings mark and is the only horse thus far to qualify for MATCH bonus cash in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Division.
The next race in the division is the $100,000 Salvatore DeBunda President’s Cup Aug. 25 at Parx. The final leg is the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile Sept. 16.