The Grade 1 United Nations is a staple of the Independence Day racing weekend at Monmouth Park. Set for 1 3/8 miles on the turf, and carrying a purse of $500k, it has pulled a field of nine, five of them prior winners at the Grade 1 level, and it is led by defending champ #6 Main Sequence.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that the longshot #4 Shining Copper will be out on the early lead. He’s first off the claim for Mike Maker, and he is in awfully tough. Todd Pletcher’s #9, Divine Oath, will be within tracking range on the outside early. He is a multiple winner at the Grade 3 level but is facing legit Grade 1 competition here.
The emerging #2 Sycamore Lane projects for a cozy trip rating along the inside. We like the way this 4yo colt is heading for his Hall of Fame trainer, and we never mind a horse taking a shot while in top form, but Sycamore Lane has never been this far before, and he needs to improve again to be a factor here. Whatever happens with him in this race, keep an eye on him going forward.
Just behind Sycamore Lane will be the talented and dangerous trio of #1 Twilight Eclipse, #5 Slumber and #8 Ashleyluvssugar.
Twilight Eclipse is a good horse, and he finally picked up a long overdue Grade 1 win in the Man O’ War two starts back. It was uncharacteristic to see him bomb the way he did last time in the Manhattan, as he had been a gem of consistency over a long series of races prior to that. We have no problem with giving him a chance to bounce back to a good race here, but it is worth noting that Main Sequence and, to a lesser extent, #7 Imagining have had his number over the past year or so.
Trainer Chad Brown does everything well, so it was no surprise to see him in the winner’s circle following the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day. The surprising thing was the name of the horse he was leading in there. #5 Slumber had been a disappointing horse for Bill Mott over the past couple of years. He would always run well, he just wouldn’t win, and he took down plenty of money with him. Privately purchased and turned over to Brown at the end of last year, he lost two more races as the favorite in graded stakes company. Brown added blinkers for the Manhattan, and suddenly Slumber figured out how to finish a race off. We found the 2015 Manhattan to be a subpar edition of that race, but he earned a TFUS Speed Figure of 120 for the win, and he has faster races to get back to.
We are very interested in Ashleyluvssugar in the U. N. He is a horse who has gotten very good this year for trainer Peter Eurton. His last 3 races have resulted in consecutive TFUS Speed Figure tops of 115-120-123, and he has been more impressive from one start to the next. He has won his last two starts over 1 1/2 miles. He has proven unfazed by pace, fast or slow. He is ridden by an all-time great. And he owns a TFUS Spotlight Figure that is on par with that of Main Sequence.
Imagining and Big Blue Kitten both project to be back off the pace early, though we will point out that Imagining is quite a bit handier than he may be given credit for and was so far back last time due to severe early trouble in the race. He has bounced back from disappointing performances before, however. He had a tough time dealing with Main Sequence last year, but all three times they met, it was over 1 1/2 miles, and we think that distance is pushing it for Imagining. This distance is better, and we think there is a chance that Imagining gets himself more forwardly placed on Sunday. He should be a fair price, and he will be our pick in the United Nations.
We love Big Blue Kitten as a racehorse. He does nothing but show up and run, without fail, no matter the distance, class-level, track, or course condition. He is a closer of the one-run variety, with a big Late Pace Rating of 127 that tops even that of Main Sequence (122), and he is going to have some good horses to close down in this race. But he will be running at the end of this race. Count on it.
#6 Main Sequence is a deep closer, and as such, he does not appear on the Pace Projector. There is no denying that he is the horse to beat in this race, and we hold no illusions that he is not a likely winner should he show up with the kind of race we have become accustomed to from him since arriving stateside. He began his big run through the second half of 2014 with a win in this very race. He would then go on to win the Sword Dancer, the Turf Classic, the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and multiple Eclipse Awards. He went to Dubai to run in the rich Sheema Classic in March, and while he failed to deliver his big late kick for the first time, we thought he got the wrong ride that day. He looked a bit rank early in that race, and he wound up moving out into the clear, which left him racing without cover for a long way. In contention at the top of the stretch, he had no punch and was soundly beaten at the end. That is not the Main Sequence we have come to know in North America, but he will have lasix back on at Monmouth on Sunday, and he is the most likely winner of the race.
We aren’t way against Main Sequence, but we will bet Imagining to win should he be available at 7/1 odds or better. We will use Main Sequence, Imagining, and Ashleyluvssugar in multi-race wagers.