From a Monmouth Park release

Valid inches past Bradester in the Monmouth Cup. Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Valid inches past Bradester in the Monmouth Cup. Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Only hours remain until the 79th renewal of the $150,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes, one of the highlights of Monmouth Park’s summer racing season. Originally known as the Monmouth Handicap, the Iselin was first contested in 1884, and renamed in honor of the former president and chairman of the board of Monmouth Park in 1986. A field of eight will run in this year’s renewal, including the Marcus Vitali trained Valid.

The Iselin will be Valid’s third consecutive stakes try in Oceanport after placing a close third to 2013 Preakness (G1) and 2014 Whitney (G1) runner up Itsmyluckyday in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 6, and claiming victory by a half length in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup on Haskell Day, July 27.

Valid is ranked number 3 among older horses  on the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred/The Racing Biz Top Midlantic-bred Poll.

“He likes the track here,” said Vitali. “He ran a really big race against Itsmyluckyday and came back in his next race to win. I thought his last race was superior. I thought he was going to run really well in there and he was very impressive. Everything we’re doing evidently is going forward. He came out good, and has been doing everything right since the race.”

A 4-year-old gelding by top stallion Medaglia d’Oro out of the Grand Slam mare Grand Prayer, Valid was bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans.  Though he has only one stakes victory on his record, he has placed in multiple graded stakes, good for $324,282 in lifetime earnings in his 17 career races to date. Vitali says that he’s been pointing toward this race, and believes that a victory here could be a sign of great things to come for his horse.

“This is the direction we’ve been heading after his last race,” said Vitali. “I think it’s the next logical move. We figured we’d go here and make a decision after this race if he’s what we think he is. I think it’ll be a competitive race and if he runs well in there we maybe can look for bigger and better things.”

A Crossed Sabres Farm color-bearer, Valid is the morning line favorite in the Iselin at 5-2, but will face a solid field in the Grade 3 event. Multiple graded stakes winner and 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner Pants On Fire is second on the line at 3-1, with the Chad Brown trained Integrity third choice at 7-2.

As for strategy in the Iselin, Vitali believes that Valid’s best option is to stalk the pace in the mile and one eighth contest as his horse and jockey Orlando Bocachica break from post three.

“He’ll be laying up close,” Vitali said. “I think he’ll come out of there and lay second or third, get two or three lengths off the lead and let him try to relax in position. Hopefully it backs up a little bit and he can take advantage of a pace. I think the three-hole’s a good spot. I’ll leave it up to Bocachica (Jockey Orlando) to kind of guide him around and put him where he wants to be, but I feel if he’s close he should be in good shape.”

The Phillip H. Iselin Stakes will go as race 10 on Sunday’s 11-race card.