February 27, 2024

Prince of Monaco motors past Muth in Best Pal

Prince of Monaco saved energy early to topple stablemate Muth late in the Best Pal (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Sunday’s $200,000 Best Pal (G3) at Del Mar shaped up as a battle between Bob Baffert debut winners, but the skirmish didn’t last long. While 1-2 favorite Muth expended his ammunition early, the 9-5 Prince of Monaco kept his powder dry, and accordingly had more firepower late.

Muth brought the gaudier stats, as a $2 million OBS March Sale topper who hoisted a 99 Brisnet Speed rating in his Santa Anita maiden romp. But Prince of Monaco was no slouch either.

A $950,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase for the conglomerate led by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables, Prince of Monaco galloped by eight lengths in his premiere at Los Alamitos. The Speightstown colt was off a beat slow that day and had to scramble to pass foes early, in an experience that may have redounded to his benefit here.

Away alertly, Prince of Monaco then relaxed for new rider Flavien Prat, content to rate several lengths behind the frenetic pace. Tranche sped to the lead through an opening quarter in :21.76, pressed by Muth, who took over entering the far turn. By the time Muth dispatched Tranche at the half in :44.76, Prince of Monaco was already on the march.

Muth was still traveling well, until jockey Juan Hernandez had to start asking more urgently turning for home. The son of Good Magic tried to respond in upper stretch, but he couldn’t deal with his fresh-legged stablemate.

Prince of Monaco strode past in midstretch and opened up by 4 1/4 lengths. Aside from setting a new stakes record in 1:09.19, he posted the fastest six-furlong time of the meet so far, according to Del Mar publicity. Older star The Chosen Vron had held that distinction when clocking 1:09.24 in the Bing Crosby (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Muth soldiered on in second, 4 1/2 lengths clear of the one-paced Raging Torrent. Tranche gave way in a remote fourth, beating only ever-trailing longshot Who Is Pavel.

Baffert, who was extending his record number of Best Pal wins to 10, commented that the previous race on the card was key. His even-money favorite in the third race, Elegant, was embroiled in a pace war and tired to fifth with Prat aboard.

“He rode that filly really fast,” Baffert noted, “and I said ‘That’s OK, just don’t do that on this one.’ We knew the other horse (Tranche) was really quick, and I was hoping Muth would lay off the pace, but he just engaged early.

“Prat saw what was going on, and he took back, and I like the way the horse responded, and he had a good post for it the outside post 5). You put good riders on good horses, but it was really key that he rode that filly for me in the third race.” 

Prat revealed that he made the trek to Del Mar on Baffert’s invitation.

“Mr. Baffert called me and asked me to come out and ride a horse for him. And so here I am,” Prat said. “He was very comfortable out there, felt good all the way. I saw the pace was hot, and I just waited my turn. He’s a nice colt. And yes, I think he can run farther.”

The cleverly-named Prince of Monaco could receive some stamina help from his dam, Rainier, by Medaglia d’Oro. The cross of Speightstown over Medaglia d’Oro has yielded Olympiad, last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up, as well as Competitionofideas, successful in the 2018 American Oaks (G1), in addition to sprinters like Rock Fall and Strike Power.

Prince of Monaco’s immediate family, however, is more speed-oriented. Rainier is herself a half-sister to multiple stakes-winning and Grade 2-placed sprinter Laurie’s Rocket and Greeley’s Rocket. Another of the mare’s half-siblings, Jenny’s Rocket, is the dam of multiple stakes veteran Necker Island, who placed in the 2020 Indiana Derby (G3) and Ellis Park Derby but found his niche going shorter.

We’ll learn more from the Sept. 10 Del Mar Futurity (G1), when yet another Baffert hotshot, the Justify colt Heartland, could join the fray.

Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, which retains an ownership interest, Prince of Monaco has bankrolled $147,000 from his 2-for-2 record.