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2023 Philip H. Iselin Contenders at Monmouth Park

Trademark Seeks Elusive Graded Stakes Victory In 88th Philip H. Iselin

As solid as Trademark has been for trainer Vicki Oliver throughout his career, earning $546,290 while racing at seven different racetracks, the 4-year-old gelding has one glaring void on his resume.

He has yet to win a graded stakes race, going 0-for-8 in those opportunities.

That could finally change Saturday when the Kentucky-bred son of Upstart returns to Monmouth Park for the Grade 3 Iselin Stakes, one of the Breeders’ Cup designated “Dirt Dozen” races for the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

The 88th edition of the Iselin Stakes, which offers a $250,000 purse, will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt.

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Weyburn 5-2 Paco Lopez
122 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
2 Steal Sunshine 6-1 Hector Diaz, Jr.
118 Lbs
Bobby Dibona
3 Far Mo Power 10-1 Dexter Haddock
118 Lbs
Louis Linder, Jr.
4 Zozos 6-5 Florent Geroux
122 Lbs
Brad Cox
5 Trademark 9-2 Samy Camacho
122 Lbs
Victoria Oliver
6 Whelen Springs 6-1 Jose Ferrer
118 Lbs
Lindsay Schultz

“I think he has the ability to be a graded stakes winner if things go his way,” said Oliver. “Obviously I thought by now he would’ve have won a graded stakes. But they’re hard to win. We’ve seen in many of those graded stakes races that he has beaten some good horses, so we know the ability is there.”

Trademark comes off a win on July 8 in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis. A race prior he was a late-running third in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park on June 17. That marked the first time he hit the board in a graded stakes race,

“He had a pretty rough trip that race,” said Oliver. “He got shuffled back and checked a couple of times. I think if he had a clean trip he probably could have won.”

Oliver thought enough of Trademark a year ago to put the BBN Racing-owned charge on the Kentucky Derby trail, sending him in the Sam Davis, the Tampa Bay Derby and then the Blue Grass Stakes.

But the breakthrough performance that Oliver was looking for never materialized.

“We might have tired him out,” she said. “That’s why he had a little lull last summer. We gave him about a two-month break and he bounced back to remind us that he is still a nice horse.”

Horse Racing Rebates

Trademark, 5-for-18 lifetime, lost a chance at a graded stakes win last November when the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes at Churchill Downs was taken off the grass, losing its graded status for that day. Trademark won that race by four lengths.

“I don’t think he’s had the opportunity to be in a graded stakes where he is going the right way and he gets things his way,” said Oliver. “Hopefully that will happen this weekend.”

The Brad Cox-trained Zozos, 6-for-9 lifetime and 3-for-4 this year, looms as the likely favorite for the Iselin, which gives credit toward entry fees into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for the top three finishers.

Oliver’s focus, though, is only on Saturday.

“When he shows up he shows up so I am optimistic, though Zozos is the horse to beat,” said Oliver. “The Breeders’ Cup would be a big reach for him right now. I’m not sure that’s in the cards for him at the moment unless he ran big Saturday and continued to progress and win some this big races leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Right now that really isn’t on our radar.”

Zozos carries three-race winning streak into Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes

There’s no doubt that some class relief has been a contributor to the three-race winning streak that Zozos will carry into Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park, but Blake Cox says there’s another key factor to the colt’s recent success.

“I think part of the reason for him being in such good form now is we started putting him into the game a little more,” said Cox, an assistant to his father, Brad Cox. “This winter he was dropping out of his races early and we found out that we’ve got to get him more involved early.

“I think he got some confidence with it and he has been able to roll off three wins in a row because of that.”

Zozos heads a field of six 3-year-olds and up for the 88th edition of the Iselin Stakes, which will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt.

Florent Geroux is listed to ride the Kentucky-bred son of Munnings. Barry and Joni Butzow own and bred Zozos, who is named after a restaurant in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the couple have a home.

Zozos, a 4-year-old colt, enters Saturday 6-for-9 lifetime, with his only three losses in graded stakes races. He was second to Epicenter in the 2022 Louisiana Derby, then was 10th in the Kentucky Derby. He started his current campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes on Jan. 21.

He has yet to win a graded stakes, though he has reeled off two straight stakes victories.

“Talent-wise he has graded stakes ability,” said Cox. “I think he will have a graded stakes next to his name eventually. Hopefully it will be Saturday.”

Zozos showed immediate ability, Cox said, winning at first asking last year after being unraced at 2. He followed his debut win with a 10¼-length romp in a $100,000 optional claimer in his next start at Oaklawn Park.

“He was pretty good from the start,” said Cox. “He came to us in New Orleans as a 2-year-old and he showed some real ability. He worked with (2022 Haskell Stakes winner) Cyberknife before he ever ran a race and he was hanging with him in the mornings.

“He has proven to be a very nice horse.”

With his three-race winning streak all occurring in front-running fashion, Cox doesn’t expect much to change Saturday.

“We’ll see how he breaks and where Florent wants to put him but he should be on or near the lead early,” Cox said.

Though the focus is on the Iselin for now, Cox is looking at the $300,000 Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 30 as the pivotal spot in Zozos’ campaign. That race is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.

Zozos has won his last two starts at a mile. He is 2-for-3 at the Iselin distance of a mile and a sixteenth. – US Legal Monmouth Park OTB is a great way to bet horse racing at Monmouth Park. Available to customers across the United States, OTB features both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing from major racing venues in the US as well as top international racing from Europe, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.

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