By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
We all known how successful trainer Chad Brown has been
at conditioning top-class turf horses. Just check out his extraordinary record in
graded stakes races on grass—he's won a staggering 154 such races since 2008
while maintaining an eye-catching 24% win rate, and this despite the fact that
he often runs multiple horses in a single race, keeping him from achieving an
even higher win percentage.
So it's not really surprising to see that Brown will send
out four of the nine starters in the $300,000
United Nations Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday at Monmouth Park, a race he's
already won twice in the past. It would be even less surprising to see a member
of Brown's quartet in the winner's circle following the 1 3/8-mile event; the
tricky part is determining which one is the most likely winner.
Much of the attention will likely be focused on Money Multiplier, runner-up in this
race two years ago. The son of Lookin at Lucky isn't exactly a winning machine
with just five victories from 22 starts, but take note, he seems to be a
different horse at Monmouth Park, where he's won the last two renewals of the 1
1/8-mile Monmouth Stakes (gr. II). His win in the 2018 edition was noteworthy in
that he ended a lengthy losing streak while defeating a small but quality field
that included the graded stakes winners Divisidero and Projected. Throw in the
fact that he'll be ridden by top local jockey Joe Bravo—who has won four of the
last six editions of the United Nations—and you have a logical favorite bound
to attract a lot of wagering support.
My only knock on Money Multiplier is that he's getting
older and seems to have a lost a bit of his old consistency. He finished out of
the exacta in four straight races prior to winning the Monmouth Stakes, so
while he must be respected, I don't necessarily want to play him on top as the
Instead, I'm going to side with one of Money Multiplier's
three stablemates, Kurilov, who is
likewise a son of Lookin at Lucky. The Chilean-bred runner was a Group 1 winner
in his native country, prevailing by 5 ¼ lengths in the Gran Premio Hipodromo
Chile (Chi-I) going 1 3/8 miles on dirt. After being brought to the U.S. and
transferred to the care of Chad Brown, Kurilov ran reasonably well in his first
two starts on dirt, but rose to an entirely different level when switched to
turf for the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (gr. I), splitting the
proven Grade 1 winners Heart to Heart and Hi Happy in a close finish while
beaten just a neck for victory.
Kurilov subsequently failed to fire over a very yielding
turf course in the Old Forrester Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, but
rebounded sharply in a 1 ¼-mile allowance race at Belmont last month, rating
off the pace before unleashing a strong late rally to finish in a dead-heat for
victory with fellow United Nations entrant Profiteer.
Notably, Kurilov ran the final quarter-mile a quick :22.62 seconds per Trakus,
and the third-place finisher—Highland Sky—came right back to win a similar race
at Belmont Park.
Kurilov may have needed a little time to adapt to U.S.
racing and find his ideal surface, but he's clearly in good form now and
shouldn't have any trouble with the distance of the United Nations. He's drawn
well in post position four, will have top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle,
and meets a field that might be a little easier than some of the ones he's
faced in the recent past. At 9-2, I think he offers value and is the best play
in the race.
The other two Brown runners, Funtastic and Silverwave,
would need to step up a bit off their recent efforts, though Silverwave was a
Group 1 winner in France and was beaten less than a length by Kurilov last time
out in what was only his second U.S. start. He's got the back class to shine in
this spot if he takes a step forward now that he has a couple of runs in the
U.S. under his belt.
The above-mentioned Profiteer,
trained by Shug McGaughey, also warrants respect off his determined dead-heat
win against Kurilov. The son of War Front rarely finishes out of the trifecta
and took a noteworthy step forward in the Belmont allowance race, which was his
first start beyond 1 1/8 miles. It's possible that this well-bred four-year-old
is just finding his best stride while stretching out in distance, and I'm eager
to see what he can do while running another furlong farther in the United
Nations. At 8-1 on the morning line, he's definitely worth including in the
Nominated has been more of a Grade 2/Grade 3 type in the past, but
the son of Kitten's Joy seems to be improving with maturity and certainly wasn't
disgraced when beaten just 4 ½ lengths in this race last year while facing a
very deep field. This year's United Nations doesn't seem to be the toughest
Grade 1 on the calendar, and Oscar Nominated's runner-up effort in the 1 ½-mile
Elkhorn Stakes (gr. II) last time out was a game run considering that he raced
wide while trying to rally into a slow pace. He's another that could contend
for the exotics.
The seven-year-old gelding Bigger Picture posted a 10-1 upset in this race one year ago, but while
he did win the John B. Connally Stakes (gr. III) at Sam Houston back in January,
his last couple of races have been disappointing compared to the lofty form he
showcased last year. It's fair to wonder if he's lost a step or two this season,
in which case he's rather hard to support at his morning line price of 6-1.
The same can arguably be said of One Go All Go, who has run nine times in the last seven months. He's
been productive during this busy schedule, most notably beating Oscar Nominated
in the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. II) before finishing a close third in the Man o' War
Stakes (gr. I) going 1 3/8 miles at Belmont, but One Go All Go bled when
winning the Elkhorn and lacked his usual sparkle when finishing eleventh in the
Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) last time out, so although his overall form lines are
eye-catching, I wonder if he might be starting to regress.
Rounding out the field is Vettori Kin, who ended a five-race losing streak when prevailing in
the 1 ½-mile Louisville Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs last month. That
was a nice step in the right direction, though the former Brazilian runner will
be facing a much tougher field in the United Nations and might find the waters
a bit too deep.
At 9-2, Kurilov
strikes me as not only the most likely winner of the United Nations, but also
an attractive overlay in the wagering. He's my clear choice to win, with
respect to his stablemates Money
Multiplier and Silverwave as
candidates to hit the board. Profiteer
is a must-include as well, while Oscar Nominated
has the potential to round out the trifecta or superfecta.
Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the United Nations
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.