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Valid wins Monmouth’s Iselin Stakes

Victor Espinoza, Victor Espinoza, Ahmed Zayat, Bob Baffert, Chris Christie

Jockey Victor Espinoza, on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, poses with others, including owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after winning the Haskell Invitational horse race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)


OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Valid won the $150,000 Iselin Stakes, beating archrival Bradester by 3 1/2 lengths Sunday in their third and final meeting this season at Monmouth Park.

Bradester, the 6/5 favorite, was aiming for a sweep of the trio of major stakes here for older horses. He had posted pacesetting wins in the Salvator Mile and the Monmouth Cup.

After watching Valid chase the leader to get third in the Salvator and second in the Monmouth Cup, trainer Marcus Vitali decided a different strategy and a new jockey were needed.

Vitali wanted to take the fight to Bradester immediately, and he entrusted the job to Nik Juarez.

“We got caught in a few rough trips and made a few calls that probably weren’t the right calls for the style of Valid,” Vitali said. “I told Nik `Don’t let him get away’.”

It worked perfectly as Valid pressed the early pace set by Albano, forcing Bradester into a three-wide stalking trip after he surprisingly failed to fire to the front.

Valid took the lead at the top of the final turn and this time it was Bradester in the role of pursuer. They dueled until midstretch when Valid started to pull away.

“We had to be aggressive today,” Vitali said. “My horse is a fighter.”

Bradester held second by only a neck over Matterhorn.

Valid, a 5-year-old gelding, got his ninth win in 30 starts. He paid $8.80, $3.60 and $2.40 as the 3-1 second choice.

With closing day less than a month away on Sept. 27, Valid and the rest of Vitali barn at Monmouth will soon be heading south to Gulfstream Park. Vitali, who won three races on Sunday, said Valid will get a brief vacation - 30 to 45 days - before the trainer looks for another stakes engagement.

Bradester returned $3 and $2.20 while Matterhorn paid $2.40 to show.

The time was 1:50.14 for the 1 1/8 miles on the fast track.

Albano was fourth followed by Anchor Down and Matrooh.

It was the first stakes victory for Juarez.