Pirate’s Punch, idle since the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 7, and Ny Traffic, who made his return to racing on May 2, top a field of 10 for the $150,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (G3), the headliner on Monmouth’s Saturday card.
When last seen at Monmouth, Pirate’s Punch won the 2020 edition of the Salvator Mile—a race after being disqualified from a victory in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3). Ny Traffic was second in last year’s TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1), beaten a nose by eventual 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic .
A 5-year-old gelded son of Shanghai Bobby , Pirate’s Punch needed surgery to remove a chip from one of his knees shortly after the Breeders’ Cup, in which he finished 12th. Trainer Grant Forster is eager to get Gulliver Racing, Craig Drager, and Dan Legan’s runner started on his 2021 campaign.
“After his surgery we took our time with him and did the proper rehab. Hopefully, we have a foundation in him,” said Forster. “He’s doing fantastic. He seems like he’s a bigger, stronger horse this year.
“Since we put him back in training he hasn’t missed a day of training, hasn’t missed a work, hasn’t missed a gallop. He has been ultra-consistent, and we think we have him ready to run and ready to get back in the game and get going.”
Pirate’s Punch was bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings out of the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon , making him a half brother to 2017 Haskell winner Girvin and this year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Midnight Bourbon .
The 4-year-old Ny Traffic , in his first race since finishing ninth in the 2020 Preakness Stakes run Oct. 3, impressed in his 2021 debut. The Cross Traffic colt trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. blazed to a 6 3/4-length victory in an allowance optional claimer May 2 at Belmont Park.
“He came back in a big way. He won emphatically,” said Joseph. “We were hoping he would win but we never envisioned he would run like that in his first race back after seven months off.
“It’s a long year and he has a lot in front of him. We’re hoping this race can be a building block for the year.”
John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman, and Team Hanley’s Ny Traffic strung together four graded placings last season, but has yet to win a stakes race.
“He came close (in last year’s) Haskell,” said Joseph. “He definitely has a graded stakes win in him. Hopefully, it’s this year—and maybe this weekend.”