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Monmouth trying to lure American Pharoah with $1-million race in September

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah with Jorge Alvarez

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah with Jorge Alvarez up jogs on the track at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., Thursday, July 30, 2015. Credit: AP

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Don't rule out a return trip by American Pharoah to Monmouth Park.

The track plans to create a 11/8-mile race for 3-year-olds in mid- or late September with a $1-million purse, possibly including a bonus for a horse that wins it and the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

Dennis Drazin is the adviser to Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. Drazin made the announcement on Thursday at the draw for Sunday's Haskell Invitational. The Triple Crown champion, the 1-5 morning-line favorite, will start from post 4 in a field of eight.

On Wednesday, Monmouth issued a release saying the Haskell purse had been raised from $1 million to $1.75 million. Excluding Monmouth's 2007 Breeders' Cup, it will be the richest race in New Jersey history.

Drazin said Pharoah's owner, Ahmed Zayat, and trainer, Bob Baffert, had no previous knowledge of the $750,000 boost. Justin Zayat, his father's 23-year-old racing manager, said he learned about it on Twitter.

"I found out when everybody else did," Justin Zayat said. "It was great news. My family lives in New Jersey, I was born and bred here, and the Haskell was on our radar for Pharoah even before the Triple Crown bid."

Drazin said Ahmed Zayat and Baffert had been told there might be a higher purse but not the amount.

According to Drazin, Monmouth had tried to interest four tracks -- Saratoga, Parx, Santa Anita and Del Mar -- in a proposed three-race series with a $5-million bonus for sweeping. The idea didn't work out.

Drazin said Monmouth had set aside $750,000 for the series. "We made the final decision Wednesday to put the money into the Haskell purse to enhance the prestige of the race and honor American Pharoah," he said. "It's a historic day for Monmouth Park and New Jersey. This has been a dream for us to get a Triple Crown winner here."

The 75-percent rise drew three extra horses -- Fountain of Youth winner Upstart, the 6-1 second choice; along with two 30-1 shots trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Nassau County resident Mike Repole, Nonna's Boy and Dontbetwithbruno.

In an email to Newsday, Repole wrote: "The raised purse, the small field and that both horses are stabled at Monmouth all played into my decision."

Multiple-stakes winner Competitive Edge, another Pletcher runner, is at 8-1, with Keen Ice, third in the Belmont, next at 12-1. Completing the field are long shots Top Clearance and Mr. Jordan.

Trainer Dallas Stewart told the Louisville Courier-Journal that with a few more days of lead time, he would have considered entering Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve in the Haskell instead of in Saturday's West Virginia Derby.

American Pharoah looks unbeatable, but even if he dominates as expected, second is worth $350,000 and third pays $175,000. Wayne Catalano, who trains Top Clearance, said: "You've got to take a shot. They've got to get them all in the gate and run the race, and then they tell the tale."

Pharoah jogs.American Pharoah "jogged lightly" once around the mile main track for exercise rider Georgie Alvarez. "He had a very high energy level this morning," assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. Pharoah will gallop 1½ miles on Friday at 7:30 a.m. . . . Barnes said Baffert is expected to arrive Saturday afternoon.


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