OCEANPORT, N.J. – For I’m Listening, one year has made all the difference.
A listless seventh in last year’s Smart N Classy Handicap at Monmouth Park, the 8-year-old mare made amends by holding on for a half-length victory in Sunday’s edition of the $85,000 feature race for Jersey-bred fillies and mares going a mile.
Claimed by Magic Stable for $15,000 for trainer Claudio Gonzalez two races after that clunker a year ago, I’m Listening recorded the first stakes victory of her 38-race career.
The winning time was 1:41.84.
“We claimed her first because she is a Jersey-bred and there are a lot of opportunities for Jersey-breds at Monmouth Park, but also because I saw she had back class,” said Gonzalez. “We got her started at Gulfstream (this year) knowing these Monmouth Park Jersey-bred races were coming up.
“In her last race (a second-place finish in the Spruce Fir for Jersey-breds on May 14) I knew six furlongs was a little short for her but she is so sharp now I decided to run her there. She proved she is doing well with that race (finishing second). This was the perfect race for her. She loves two turns and she proved that today.”
Ridden by Angel A. Rodriguez, I’m Listening sat just off the flanks of the early duel between Mia’s Crusade and Ask Around, with the opening quarter going in :23.88 and the half reached in :47.64.
Rodriguez nudged I’m Listening after the front-running Mia’s Crusade entering the final turn and she sprinted to a quick advantage. Mia’s Crusade proved stubborn, but I’m Listening eventually surged past her late in the stretch, with Beatubyachubinose flying home late on the outside.
For Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Panamanian riding at Monmouth Park for the first summer, it marked his second stakes victory of the meet. He won the Get Serious Stakes earlier in the meet.
“I used her early to get in good position, especially since I was on the outside (post nine) and I needed to get over fast,” said Rodriguez. “Claudio Gonzalez told me to keep her close to the leaders and then at the three-eighths to go. She took the lead quickly when I asked her. I liked her for this race after riding her last race. I knew she was sharp. They told me she likes two turns much better than sprinting. That’s why I was confident coming into this race.”
Dantastic, the 3-2 favorite, was fourth.
Earlier on the nine-race card, leading rider Paco Lopez won the first five races, with an all-Lopez early Pick 5 returning $14.40 for 50 cents.
Tom Lucci/Monmouth Park
Photo: I’m Listening #9 with Angel A. Rodriguez up winning the Smart N Classy Handicap. Second was #7 Mia’s Crusade and third was #3 Beatubyachubinose. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO