By Bill Finley
As the field for the sixth race at Monmouth Park on June 3, a maiden special weight race for open company, hit the sixteenth-pole, it was obvious that the race was going to be won by trainer Eddie Owens Jr., by a New Jersey-bred owned and bred by Holly Crest Farm and by a son of Sea Wizard. The only question: which one?
The answer was Ship to Shore, who led stablemate Dont Rock the Boat across the wire to win by a half-length. As for the rest of the field, the other four were nowhere close. The third-place finisher was Bingo Was His Name, a Kentucky-bred by Frosted. He was 10 ¼ lengths behind Dont Rock the Boat at the wire.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Owens said. “Not with the way they were training. You could tell by the toteboard, by the way they were bet.”
Ship to Shore was the even-money favorite. Dont Rock the Boat went off at 5-2. The winning time for the 4 ½ furlongs was 52.70. The Beyer figure for the race was a 49.
The two started off their 2-year-old season at the Webb Carroll Training Center in Saint Matthews, South Carolina before arriving at Owens’ barn at Monmouth. They arrived ready and Owens put on the finishing touches, working the two in company at Monmouth as he prepared for the first maiden race for males of the year at Monmouth.
Ship to Shore was beating his stablemate in the mornings.
“I had liked Dont Rock the Boat better but when they trained Ship to Shore was outworking him,” Owens said. “They had been breezing together. No one had ever been in front of him in the mornings.”
Ship to Shore’s natural speed showed up in the race. Ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., he jumped out of the gate and immediately opened up on the field. Meanwhile, Dont Rock the Boat was off a bit slowly, but quickly settled into second. Ship to Shore was 2 ½ lengths in front at the eighth-pole and it looked like he was on his way to an easy win, but Dont Rock the Boat kept coming and made it close.
“It was quite an accomplishment for us,” said Rosemary Shockley, the racing manager for Holly Crest. “We could tell by the way they had been working in the morning that they were pretty good horses. I know there were only six horses in the race, but they were well ahead of the rest of the field.”
Considering the distance of the race and the way it developed, you can argue that Dont Rock the Boat will prove to be the better of the two when the races stretch out. Owens isn’t sure.
“Ship to Shore didn’t get tired,” he said. “He was just looking around and waiting for the other one. I don’t know how far he’ll go, but he hasn’t shown me anything in the morning to show me he won’t be able to stretch out. Dont Rock the Boat will need a little more distance. He’s a much bigger horse than the other one.”
The win was still another reason to keep an eye on Sea Wizard, who stands at Pegasus Stud in Colts Neck. The farm was formerly known as Colonial Farms before being purchased by Carmine Spinella. Sea Wizard, who is by Uncle Mo and was trained by the late John Mazza, was represented by Great Navigator in his first crop. Great Navigator also broke his maiden in his first start before finishing second in the Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. Ship to Shore and Dont Rock the Boat are from his second crop.
“We have put all our eggs in one basket with Sea Wizard for the next two, three years,” Owens said of the Holly Crest operation. “Every mare we have has been bred to him. I have nothing but good things to say about him. The majority of his horses are a little small but they do grow.”
As pleased as he was by the one-two finish from his pair, Owens is not ready just yet to put them in the same category as Great Navigator.
“It’s night and day,” he said. “I know Great Navigator hasn’t won since he broke his maiden, but there’s been an excuse in every race. He was entered the same day as these other two but I had to scratch him because he had a skin irritation. He’ll run back soon. Maybe it will change down the road, but when comparing these horses as 2-year-olds, Great Navigator is better.”
Dont Rock the Boat will return in a maiden race at Monmouth. As for Ship to Shore, Owens said he hasn’t picked out a spot, but speculated that the gelding will, like Great Navigator, make his second career start at Saratoga. This year’s Sanford, which will be run on July 15, could be next.