Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and Gary Aisquith's Monongahela had 11 seconds to his name before Saturday's Grade 3 Phillip H. Iselin Stakes, but the 5-year-old son of K One King pulled away to score his first graded stakes win by more than three lengths in his fourth start for trainer Jason Servis. Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Monongahela pressured the pace and kicked away in the stretch to complete 1 1/16 miles over Monmouth's fast main track in 1:42.45.
“I wasn't the one who changed this horse's running style,” said Servis. “Jose Lezcano did. He told me `I want to be forwardly placed. I think he prefers that instead of how he has been running.' He also told me didn't like horses on the outside of him. I told him `Jose, you ride him however you want.' He learned a lot when he rode him two races ago. This horse was a private purchase. He's a big, good-looking horse. You noticed that right away. And he has always been steady. He was doing super coming into this race but it was still a nice surprise to have him win this race.”
Diamond King strode out to set the early pace with Monongahela glued to his flank on the outside, pressuring the leader through fractions of :22.88 and :46.79. Bal Harbour was a little rank early on in third position at the rail, while Runnin'toluvya hemmed that rival inside while traveling in fourth.
Rounding the far turn, the leaders pulled away from the field but it was Monongahela who was able to put away Diamond King. Bal Harbour closed to score second at the wire but Monongahela crossed the line over three lengths ahead. The 6-5 favorite Diamond King had to settle for third, and Longshot Zanotti finished fourth.
“The one time I rode him before this we were further back and I felt like he didn't want to go by horses even though I thought I had plenty of horse,” Lezcano explained. “Today I tried to put him a lot closer, that way he can finish and do the job. He's at his best at a mile, a mile and a sixteenth, so this race set up well for us. We were going a little fast but I knew I had plenty of horse.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Gunpowder Farms, Monongahela is out of the $150,000-earning Touch Gold mare Record High. Trained by Kelly Rubley through the end of 2018, the intact horse had run two seconds and a fourth for Servis before finally regaining a spot in the winner's circle. Overall, Monongahela's record now stands at 6-11-2 from 24 starts for earnings of over $380,000.
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