Highly Motivated en route to winning the Monmouth Cup in track record time
Klaravich Stables’ homebred Highly Motivated spurted away from stablemate Pipeline in the stretch and blazed to a track record-setting win in the $400,000 Monmouth Cup (G3) Saturday at Monmouth Park.
Ridden by Flavien Prat for trainer Chad Brown, Highly Motivated covered the 1 1/8 miles 1:46.53, eclipsing the previous record of 1:46.80 set 37 years ago by Spend a Buck in the Monmouth Handicap (G1) in August 1985.
The triumph marked the first graded stakes win for the son of Into Mischief who was runner-up by a neck in the Blue Grass (G1) following a hard-fought stretch duel with winner Essential Quality after setting the pace. He subsequently finished unplaced in the Kentucky Derby (G1) then went to the sidelines for almost a year. He returned May 16, finishing fourth in allowance company at Keeneland then took a second-level allowance with a claiming option at Belmont Park on May 28 before his record-breaking win.
Anitgravity set the early pace Saturday, laying down fractions of :23.63 and :47.47 for a half mile while Prat positioned Highly Motivated three wide in sixth then fifth in the field of seven. Pipeline stalked from third then moved to press Antigravity before the half, then got his head in front to clock six furlongs in 1:10.34 while Highly Motivated advanced to third.
Bidding entering the far turn, Highly Motivated engaged Pipeline approaching the quarter pole, grabbed command entering the stretch, and shook free en route to a 1¾-length win in track record time.
Pipeline held for second, 2 ¼ lengths in front of third-place finisher Informative.
The 4-5 favorite, Highly Motivated returned $3.60.
“In hindsight, the grueling stretch duel in the Blue Grass really took a toll on him,” Brown said. “Going into the (Kentucky) Derby he didn’t run at all. He went to the sidelines for quite a while. It’s really taken me this long to get the horse back from that tough, tough race against Essential Quality (Blue Grass). He’s finally — over a year later — rounding back into that good form. He required incremental steps. I let him find his legs again to find that sharpness he had.
“He needs to be a bit more forwardly placed and I saw it today. He broke good and was happy to rate, but always in hand and ready to go. That’s the Highly Motivated I’m used to, and the horse he was early on the Derby trail.”
Brown said Pipeline ran great.
“The plan was to go to the lead. It sounds like from Manny (Franco, the rider) there were a couple riders who were so intent on the inside that he didn’t feel it would be good judgment to clear him because he potentially would have been hounded. He decided to rate the horse. The horse ran very, very well. I think he probably prefers to go to the lead when the conditions are right.
“I haven’t looked beyond this race what’s next for either of them.”
Kentucky-bred Highly Motivated, who is out of the Warrior’s Reward mare Strong Incentive, improved his record to 4-2-1 from nine career starts and boosted his lifetime bankroll to $617,375 with the $240,000 winner’s share of the Monmouth Cup purse.