Lopez gives St Anthony strong ride in Red Bank Stakes victory

Paco Lopez is Monmouth Park’s perennial leading rider and often has his pick of live mounts in races for good reason. Yes, Lopez had a very live horse beneath him in the $106,000 Red Bank Stakes on Monday, but Lopez gave St Anthony a beautiful ride on the way to a 2 1/4-length win in this one-mile grass race.

Despite breaking from the outside post in a seven-horse field, Lopez had St Anthony glued to the rail well before the first turn, saving ground while sitting behind the dueling leaders, Megacity and Principled Stand, around the first turn, down the backstretch, and into the far turn. St Anthony was full of run at the five-sixteenths pole but had nowhere to run at the quarter pole. Lopez appeared to know exactly what was going to happen. Principled Stand had faded away, and Lopez ever so slightly feinted a rail move coming into the homestretch. Megacity held his spot close enough to the fence that St Anthony couldn’t come through, but Lopez had been planning to go outside Megacity all along. There Are No Words had made an outside move and was nearly head and head with Megacity, but Lopez and St Anthony threaded the needle, splitting the two horses, and coasting to an easy win.

“It got a little tight there for a while and I had to split horses coming out of the turn, but we had room, and he was really wanting to run at that point,” Lopez told Monmouth Park publicity.

Wicked Finn took advantage of a fast half-mile split, 45.98 seconds, to come from last and nab second from There Are No Words by a neck.

St Anthony was timed in 1:34.50 over firm turf and paid $5.80 as the tepid favorite, though he might not have been favored at all without Lopez on his back.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, who has a handful of horses stabled in New York, St Anthony notched his first stakes win while making his 17th start. The 4-year-old Alice Bamford-owned homebred, by Noble Mission out of Amnesia, by Invincible Spirit, came back from a layoff in May a faster horse than he’d been at 3. Lopez guided him to a third-level allowance victory July 28 at Monmouth and the Red Bank came just as easily.

* Turns out Great Navigator can get two turns. A fading third facing New Jersey-bred allowance foes July 23 in his first try over a route of ground, Great Navigator routed six rivals Monday in the Charles Hesse Handicap, winning by 10 lengths. Great Navigator carried 116 pounds, including Jairo Rendon, to victory for owner-breeder Holly Crest Farm and trainer Eddie Owens. He ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.25 and paid $7.80 – a gift, given the winning margin. Three-year-old Great Navigator is by Sea Wizard out of All Even, by Stephen Got Even.