Photo Courtesy Of: NYRA
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – None of her rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 My Charmer at Gulfstream Park have earned more purse money than Munchkin Money, but the hard-hitting mare continues chasing what many of them do have on their resume – an elusive stakes victory.
Munchkin Money picks up the chase again in the 34th running of the one-mile My Charmer for fillies and mares 3 and up on the turf, one of five stakes, four graded, worth $600,000 in purses on an 11-race program. First-race post time is noon.
Now 6, Munchkin Money was purchased privately by the partnership of Sweet Home Stables, Mark Parkinson, Brian Martin, Steven Bouchey and Tony Weintraub following her runner-up finish in the Mt. Vernon Stakes for New York-breds in May at Belmont Park.
She has run four times since for trainer Christophe Clement, debuting for her new connections by winning an open optional claiming allowance June 23. Each of Munchkin Money’s last three starts have come in state-bred stakes, beaten a neck as the favorite in the Yaddo at Saratoga and tossing her head at the gate and being pulled up soon after the break in the John Hettinger Sept. 22 at Belmont.
“She’s been a great acquisition … and she’s been training very well lately. She has her post-race antics as well as her gate antics; I believe we’re over both of those. I’m looking forward to a big performance,” Clement’s son and assistant, Miguel, said. “We would love to get her a stakes win.”
Munchkin Money was never closer than in the 1 1/16-mile Yaddo, having returned from the Hettinger to be fourth in the Ticonderoga Oct. 19 at Belmont in her most recent effort. She got swung wide for a stretch run but was unable to make up ground, finishing 4 ½ lengths behind Hettinger and 2017 Florida Oaks (G3) winner Fifty Five.
“I believe the race was against her last time out. It was a slow pace, she missed the break and we were forced to go wide and make up ground against a very good filly,” Clement said. “But, she ran a very good number and she’s run well before at Gulfstream. She’s got tactical speed. Gulfstream is very speed-favoring and I’d be disappointed if she doesn’t produce a good effort.”
Munchkin Money has won her only two previous starts at Gulfstream, both during last winter’s Championship Meet for previous trainer Brian Lynch and each coming at the My Charmer distance. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano rides from Post 7 of 10 for Team Clement, which won the My Charmer with Snowdrops in 2005.
“Some horses excel at Gulfstream. It’s no different than any other track. Some horses have preferences; I believe a faster surface would suit her and she has a very good record at Gulfstream, so it’s a no-brainer,” Miguel Clement said. “It’s a good spot for her. I know we’re going to have to go up against Mitchell Road and some other good fillies in the race, but she deserves her shot.”
The likely favorite is Mitchell Road, front-running winner of the Gallorette (G3) in May who was bred and is co-owned by Mrs. J.V. Shields along with E.J.M. McFadden Jr. The 4-year-old daughter of turf champion English Channel capped a four-race win streak in the 1 1/16-mile Gallorette on the Preakness (G1) undercard at Pimlico and has gone winless in three tries since, most recently the one-mile First Lady (G1) Oct. 5 at Keeneland.
Mitchell Road and jockey Jose Ortiz drew the rail and will carry 123 pounds, sharing topweight with Picara, winner of the Millions Filly & Mare Turf Preview Nov. 9 at Gulfstream Park West, and multiple stakes winner Hogans Holiday.
Trainer Ignacio Correas IV entered the pair of Argentinian Group 2 stakes winner Joy Nidera and Na Pali Spirit. Red Magic, Inc.’s Joy Nidera will be making her first start in North America and first anywhere since last December at San Isidro.
“She’s training very well and we are looking forward to her first start in America. She might need the start, but she was a very good filly in Argentina,” Correas said. “We gave her plenty of time to get adjusted.”
Joy Nidera, 4, won the General Luis Maria Campos (G2) and was second by a half-length in the Seleccion (G1) last summer and fall on dirt, then was beaten a neck as the favorite in her turf debut, the Enrique Acebal (G1) last November. She cuts back after running three straight races at 1 ¼ miles.
“She’s doing well,” Correas said. “She’s classy and she’s already shown that she can run, so hopefully she gets back to the form that she had in Argentina.”
M.D. Gilmore’s Na Pali Spirit is a daughter of 2011 Florida Derby (G1) winner Dialed In that has finished in the top three in 21 of 31 lifetime starts but hasn’t won since taking her 5-year-old season opener in January at Tampa Bay Downs.
Na Pali Spirit owns five wins and $242,490 in purse earnings and has placed in three of seven stakes attempts, including a third in the Arlington Matron (G3) June 1 and a second in the Mary Todd starter stakes Feb. 18 at Gulfstream.
“She needs a stakes win. She’s been knocking at the door a few times and maybe she will get it done this time. She’s training good and we look forward to trying to make her a stake winner before she is retired,” Correas said. “She is a special mare.”
Rounding out the field are Altea, twice Grade 3-placed as a 3-year-old in 2018; Beechwood Ella, second in the Sept. 14 Miss Gracie Stakes sprinting over the Gulfstream turf; Steelin Magnolias and Take These Chains.