Skeedattle Stable's Just Howard made a determined bid to keep his head in front at the wire in Saturday's Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes, delayed to a 6:00 p.m. post time by Monmouth Park management due to heat advisories in the area. The 5-year-old son of English Channel and jockey Trevor McCarthy fended off the late drive of 3-5 favorite Divisidero, completing 1 1/16 miles over the firm turf course in 1:42.63. Trained by Graham Motion, Just Howard was sent off as the 8-5 second choice.
“My horse showed nice determination in the stretch,” said Motion. “He's a cool horse and he deserved a win. He's been sitting on a win for a long time. It was a nerve-wracking day but we got through it.”
Bird's Eye View strode out for the lead with pressure from Dover Cliffs, setting early fractions of :25.19 and :49.71. Just Howard rated in third and after hopping at the start Divisidero was last of the quartet down the backstretch.
Rounding the far turn, the four contenders lined up across the track with Divisidero widest of all. Dover Cliffs was the first to fold in the stretch, then Just Howard and Divisidero put away Bird's Eye View at the sixteenth pole. In the final 100 yards, Divisidero made his bid to pass Just Howard but was held at bay. Just Howard held on by a head at the wire, relegating Divisidero to second. Bird's Eye View finished third.
“The plan was to stalk today and once those two (Bird's Eye View and Dover Cliffs) went on I was able to find a good spot and save ground,” said McCarthy. “When I heard Divisidero start to make his move I came out and we were just able to outkick him. He's been keeping good company and going against tough horses, especially in the Dixie. So I'm really happy to get this win.”
Bred in Maryland by Howard Bender, Just Howard was a $37,000 yearling at the Keeneland September sale. He required several starts to break his maiden but then put together four wins in a row, culminating in the G3 Commonwealth Derby in 2017. Last year Just Howard won an allowance race at Laurel and hit the board in a pair of stakes races, but his 2019 season has been better with two thirds and a fourth before the Oceanport triumph. Overall, Just Howard's record stands at 6-2-4 from 20 starts for earnings of over $460,000.
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