You can’t beat perfection. At least, that’s what trainer Justin Sallusto is counting on when he sends out Teaks North to face nine rivals in Saturday’s $750,000 United Nations Stakes, one of only two Grade 1 events on the Monmouth schedule.
This year’s 58th running of the U.N. has come up a truly international event, with Chinchon returning to seek a repeat after starts in Dubai and Singapore this spring, and the French mare Stacelita making her North American debut.
Teaks North, a 4-year-old son of Northern Afleet owned by Jules Boutelle, is coming off a sharp score in the Monmouth Stakes (G3) at a mile and an eighth. That was his third start on the local grass course, and his third win.
“He loves Monmouth,” Sallusto said, “and I love the fact that I just have to walk him over there.”
Sallusto says that the distance of the U.N. – a mile and three-eighths – should suit Teaks North just fine, although he’s never been farther than nine furlongs.
“The distance should be no problem,” Sallusto said. “In fact, it might benefit him. After that last race, (Eddie) Castro couldn’t pull him up. He’ll run all day. It’s all about the ride anyway,” the trainer said. “Get the right trip, and you’re okay.”
Teaks North first scored on the Monmouth grass last Aug. 1 when he won an allowance race on Haskell Invitational Day as a 30-1 outsider. He came back at the end of the month to score his first stakes victory, taking the Restoration at a mile and a sixteenth, this time at 11-1.
In the Monmouth Stakes on June 12, he was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and started at a $4.80-1 mutuel. Castro gave him a classic ride, sitting just off the hot pace set by Get Stormy and Get Serious, and Teaks North responded with vigor when asked in the stretch, drawing off to win by nearly a length over Sleepless Knight.
“I see this as a two-horse race,” Sallusto said. “My horse and Bourbon Bay. My horse has moved forward in every race and has matured this season. He’s even learned to settle down in the morning and conserve his energy for the finish in his works.
“He’s at the top of his game right now,” Sallusto said.
Bourbon Bay, a 5-year-old son of Sligo Bay trained by Neil Drysdale, arrived at Monmouth from California earlier this week. He will be looking for his first Grade 1 win in the U.N., coming off a third in the Charlie Whittingham Handicap (G1) at Hollywood Park on June 11.
The gelding has won four Grade 2 events in his career, and probably needed his last start as he was coming off an 11th-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan In March.
Trainer Patrick Biancone will saddle an entry in the U.N. in Pulsion and Belle Watling, both owned by Flying Zee and partners.
“Pulsion will be the rabbit,” Biancone said, “to ensure a good pace.
“All the turf races these days seem to turn into a half-mile race,” the trainer said. “They go 1:16, 1:17 (for six furlongs), and then sprint home. So we’ll have a pacemaker in there to ensure a good pace.”
This will be only the second turf race for Pulsion in a career of 15 starts. He finished fifth in an allowance event on the Monmouth grass in June of 2010.
Belle Watling came to the U.S. from Chile last fall with a nearly perfect record that included 13 wins in her home country, and a big reputation. In four U.S. starts, however, the 5-year-old mare has made little impact and last out tired to be fourth in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont.
“She’s come around the last two weeks,” Biancone said.
Belle Watling has been working steadily at Monmouth, and looked sharp with a half-mile breeze in :48 flat on the main track here Tuesday.