Kurilov Offers Value in United Nations Stakes

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 favorite.

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 exotics.

Oscar 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 Stakes?


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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.

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