“DONEGAL MOON” WINS G3 $150,000 PEGASUS
OCEANPORT, N.J. – Donegal Moon scored his first career stakes win in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park on Sunday while 1-5 favorite Unified suffered the first loss of his career in the Grade 3 race.
The 1 1/16-mile Pegasus was supposed to serve as a two-turn test for Unified, with his connections hoping he would be able to settle off the pace before mounting a bid. Everything seemed to be going according to plan early as Jose Ortiz placed Unified in third position on the outside behind front-running Saratoga Jack and Abiding Star, who was tracking the leader.
But when Ortiz called on Unified at the three-eighths pole he did not get the response he wanted. Unified tired in the final quarter-mile and finished fifth, beaten 13 1/2 lengths.
“He broke good from the gate and was sitting in good position,” Ortiz said. “He was going well for the first half-mile to five-eighths but when I asked him at the three-eighths he just didn’t have it.”
Unified, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, came into the $150,000 Pegasus 3 for 3 in his career with wins in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park, the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct, and in a Gulfstream Park maiden race.
“It looked like he was sitting fine early behind those two horses on the lead and then he backed out of there,” Jerkens said. “The track is slow here today. You don’t expect that at Monmouth. It’s faster up at home.”
It was a tough weekend for Jerkens, who on Saturday night finished sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs with Effinex, the 3-5 favorite.
Unified is owned by a Centennial Farms partnership. Don Little Jr., the head of Centennial, said he thought Unified may have been a bit revved up before the race.
“He was a little geared up in the paddock and on the way to the gate I thought,” Little said. “We’ll just have to regroup and go on from here.”
When Unified failed to fire, the Pegasus instantly turned into a wide-open race. Saratoga Jack set the pace to the stretch through fractions of 23.70 seconds, 47.63, and 1:11.78 before yielding to Awesome Slew.
Donegal Moon, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, trailed in the seven-horse field early. He advanced along the inner rail on the far turn under Joe Bravo, angled outward for the drive, took the lead in midstretch, and finished best to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Extinct Charm, a 28-1 longshot, lodged his bid four wide on the far turn and was up to beat Awesome Slew for second by a neck in deep stretch. It was seven lengths back to Saratoga Jack in fourth and then another five lengths back to Unified.
Donegal Moon paid $15 to win. He was timed in 1:44.15.
The Pegasus was Bravo’s third stakes win of the weekend. On Saturday, he won the $100,000 Donald LeVine Memorial at Park Racing with A. P. Indian and then flew to Kentucky, where he won the $500,000 Foster on Bradester.
“Todd texted me earlier and the instructions worked out perfectly,” Bravo said of the Pegasus. “There was so much early speed in the race and the race set up great for us. In the stretch, he really came running strongly. This was a fun two days.”
Donegal Moon is now 3 for 11 in his career. He had previously won a maiden race at Keeneland last fall and an allowance race at Parx in March. He has now earned $199,252.
Monmouth attendance tops 20,000
Father’s Day is one of the biggest attendance days of the Monmouth Park season, second only to the Haskell Invitational card. On Sunday, the announced crowd was 20,342.
A total of $898,243 was bet on-track Sunday, and another $2,873,220 was bet off-track. All-sources handle for the day was $3,771,463.