By Tom LaMarra
Al and Michelle Crawford Racing’s Shaft of Light, conditioned by leading Monmouth Park trainer Jorge Navarro, hopes to parlay his romp in a $50,000 stakes at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races into a victory in the $100,000, grade III Salvator Mile May 26 at Monmouth.
The Salvator Mile is the first of five races in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division. Monmouth will host seven MATCH Series races, including another two in the division. The race also attracted Sunny Ridge, a Jason Servis trainee owned and bred in New Jersey by Dennis Drazin, Chief Executive Officer of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
Shaft of Light, a 7-year-old Smart Strike gelding, has a win and a second at Monmouth. In his last start April 21 at Charles Town, he won the seven-furlong Russell Road Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths on the lead throughout. That race was around two turns, and Shaft of Light has two wins and a third in four starts at the one-mile distance.
Navarro, who has 11 wins in 23 starts at the Monmouth meet, after the Charles Town race said Shaft of Light “goes nuts” when he doesn’t make the early lead. He drew inside of Derrick Smith’s Chip Leader, another confirmed front-runner who is one-for-one at Monmouth for trainer Todd Pletcher and last out finished second in the grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland April 14.
Sunny Ridge, a winner of $954,402 in 16 races, has two wins in three starts at Monmouth. In his last start April 20–his first start of the year–at Aqueduct Racetrack, he finished second in an allowance race at one mile. In his previous start last June, the 5-year-old Holy Bull gelding finished second in the grade II Brooklyn Stakes at Belmont Park.
Also entered in the Salvator Mile is Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney, who has earned more than $1.8 million in 55 starts. The former claimer, a Pennsylvania-bred trained by Maryland-based Mary Eppler, passed on a few stakes at Pimlico Race Course Preakness weekend and would make his Monmouth Park debut.
The Salvator Mile is the 11th race on a 13-race Monmouth program that features four stakes. First post time is 12:50 p.m. EDT.