OCEANPORT, N.J. – Trainer Michael Trombetta heads into Saturday’s $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park with a colt who has only hinted at wanting to belong with the top 3-year-olds. Now, he says, it’s time to see if Mr Jefferson will be movin’ on up.
Third in his last start in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard on May 21 after a near-miss in the Federico Tesio Stakes, Mr Jefferson will be one of nine 3-year-olds looking to jumpstart their campaigns in the mile and a sixteenth Pegasus Stakes, one of four stakes races on Monmouth Park’s inaugural TVG.com Haskell Stakes Preview Day.
The 14-race card will be headlined by the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf; the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth on the turf, and the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, where Hot Rod Charlie will make his first start back since finishing second in the Dubai World Cup on March 26.
Though the Pegasus is the only one of the four stakes races not graded, it serves as the local prep for the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes on July 23. The winner receives free entry and start fees to Monmouth Park’s showcase race next month.
“We’re trying to see how good of a horse he is,” said Trombetta. “He’s painted himself into a corner as a 3-year-old that has to run in stakes races. We’re trying to find a way where he can take that next step from being stakes placed to winning stakes races.”
Mr Jefferson’s situation is like that of his competition. Trainer Ken McPeek is back with Dash Attack, who won the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park at May 14 after three off-the-board finishes in graded stakes company. Trainer Brad Cox, who is planning to send Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife to the Haskell Stakes, will look to add another starter in the $1 million race with Home Brew. He won the Oaklawn Stakes in his last start on April 23.
Chad Brown will be represented in the race by Electability, who was third in the Grade 3 Peter Pan in his most recent start.
Mr Jefferson, owned by R. Larry Johnson, fits in with the group, having been competitive in stakes company.
“I hope this race is the start of something for him,” said Trombetta. “I don’t know if he will get to any major league stuff but we’re going to keep trying and go wherever it takes us.”
Mr Jefferson showed signs of promise in his last start at 2 when he was fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct behind future Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal and Zandon.
“He ran pretty good in the Remsen. He just didn’t have continuity after that,” said Trombetta. “He caught two off tracks in New York after that race and went off form but now he has circled back around, and he is running the way I think he is capable of running.”
Though third in the Sir Barton, Trombetta said that race was better than it looked on paper for the Maryland-bred son of Constitution-Clockstrucktwelve by Malibu Moon.
“I think it was a good race considering the bias that day that was speed favoring,” said Trombetta. “For him to close and get third was pretty good. His last two races have been solid and we’re pretty happy with him.
“But these are the type of races he has to prove he can win so he can get a chance at bigger ones.”
The four stakes will go as the final four races on the card and will be part of an all-stakes Pick 4. First race post time is 12:15 p.m.
Tom Lucci/Monmouth Park
A gritty-looking Mr. Jefferson #6 under Victor Carrasco came from 6 back at 3/4 to challenge the leader, Joe #4 with Jaime Rodriguez in the irons, all the way to the finish line to be beaten by a head. (Jim McCue/MJC)