OCEANPORT, N.J. — Trainer Jorge Navarro was relieved after Sharp Azteca won the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup on Sunday by 7 1/2 lengths.
Navarro thought Sharp Azteca could handle the two turns of the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Cup, but he was glad to see him do it so impressively. Navarro also was glad to have the race over with, because Sharp Azteca had been a handful leading up to it.
Sharp Azteca had almost gotten loose at the barn Saturday night, Navarro said. He then flipped and fell on his way from the barn to the paddock prior to the race.
“Now I can relax,” Navarro said.
The 3-10 favorite, Sharp Azteca settled nicely while pressing the early pace in the four-horse Monmouth Cup outside 5-1 second choice Classy Class.
Following relatively easy fractions of 23.94 and 47.13, Sharp Azteca took control on the far turn.
Jockey Paco Lopez shook him up in upper stretch and Sharp Azteca pulled away without need of further urging. He covered six furlongs in 1:10.69, a mile in 1:34.17 and set a track record of 1:40.19. The previous record of 1:40.20 was set by Formal Gold in the 1997 Philip Iselin Handicap in August 1997.
Navarro’s goal for Sharp Azteca is the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 3. He plans to use the Grade 2 Kelso, a mile race at Belmont Park on Sept. 23, as a prep.
“Now all I have to do is keep him healthy and happy, and make sure he doesn’t kill himself,” Navarro said.
Sharp Azteca was second-best to Mor Spirit in the Met Mile in his start prior to the Monmouth Cup. Navarro said Sharp Azteca was not at his best for that race.
“He really wasn’t ready for the Met Mile,” Navarro said. “He cut himself and missed a month before that race.”
Sharp Azteca paid $2.60 to win in the Monmouth Cup. He is now 6 for 13 in his career with four stakes wins and earnings of $956,740.
Donegal moon finished second in the Monmouth Cup, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Just Call Kenny. Classy Class was fourth.