‘Count’ it up: Advent winner unbeaten though overlooked

Count de Monet, under Sanjo Sanjur, wins the Advent Stakes for 2-year-olds at Oaklawn Friday. - Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

That's why they play the game, or in this case, run the race.

Just when odds-on favorite Tyler's Tribe appeared destined for his fifth stakes victory in seven races, something happened in Friday's $150,000 Advent at Oaklawn. Kylee Jordan, sitting chilly in the upper stretch, looked on track for her third victory on the track's opening day.

Just as quickly, the Iowa-bred favorite put on the brakes and Jordan went to the whip. By then, rail-sitter Count de Monet was charging down the middle of the muddy surface for an upset victory in the track's second running of the juvenile race.

With Santo Sanjur riding for trainer Tom Swearingen, the Speightster colt remained unbeaten after three starts -- you're forgiven for not knowing that previously. Horseshoe Indianapolis isn't the first track one looks for an Oaklawn winner but one that Count de Monet became on what morphed into a clear day with temperatures in the upper 60s at post time for the feature.

Alto Road outkicked Tyler's Tribe for second at 44-1, completing a $601 exacta with the winner. By first-year sire Army Mule, Alto Road won his second start at Lone Star Park in July then was freshened until Oct. 28 when eighth in Remington Park's Clever Trevor. Past Oaklawn jockey champion Luis Quinonez had the mount for trainer Ronnie Cravens III.

The news was not nearly so gleeful for Tyler's Tribe, the "now" horse of the past Prairie Meadows meeting, after winning his first five races by a combined margin of 52-plus lengths. That sent the Sharp Azteca gelding to a different and bigger stage, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland, where he finished last after a bleeding episode.

Iowa owner Thomas Lepic came to trainer and co-owner Tim Martin's backyard for the Advent, won last year by last-out claimer Kavod for trainer Chris Hartman. Martin reported no mishaps in training for Tyler's Tribe, who, from post five, customarily broke on top. With a half-mile in 46.11 seconds, the favorite showed no signs of weakening as the nine-horse field turned for home.

No sooner than she peeked over her shoulder, Jordan found herself in peril. Tyler's Tribe, the 2-5 choice, was desperate to hold third, a nose prior to the other 124-pound high weight entered, Frosted Departure. Count de Monet, timed in 1:05.06 for the 5 1/2 furlongs, paid $33.20, $13.20 and $5.60. Earning $90,000 for the Advent, the winner almost recouped dollar for dollar the $85,000 that owner Charles Galli paid for Count de Monet in April in a 2-year-olds-in-training sale in Ocala, Florida.

Unless one dotes on unbeaten horses, Count de Monet's three-furlong bullet work in 36.20 seconds Dec. 4 was his largest playing chip. Although his two Indiana victories came by 12 lengths, the most recent (Sept. 29) coming by 6 1/2 lengths on the lead, some class concerns were inevitable.

Formerly known as Indiana Downs, Horseshoe Indianapolis is a thoroughbred and quarter-horse track in Shelbyville with the nearest casino to Indianapolis. Owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment, its casino and entertainment center draw some of the same acts as Oaklawn (Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits included), and its signature race, the Indiana Derby, comes around with 3-year-olds coming off a summer freshening or taking a step up.

A local horse winning a six-figure stake in Hot Springs is unlikely to shake things up in a state that auto racing, college basketball and several pro sports attract considerable attention. But until he is seen again -- possibly in the $250,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 1 at Oaklawn -- Count de Monet's name will be heard more than it was before Friday.