Friday is opening night for the Monmouth at the Meadowlands, nine day, all-turf meet. Nine, six race cards are planned, with a first post of 7:00 PM (Eastern time) each night. These cards can be tricky, especially since thoroughbreds haven’t had a chance to run on the turf course in East Rutherford, New Jersey since 2019. In fact, only three horses on the card have ever run on this course, and none of them have ever won a race here. However, the field sizes are decent for both the Friday and Saturday night cards, so there will be solid wagering opportunities. The weather forecast for the weekend is nice, which is always worth paying attention to, as there is no option to take the races off the turf and move them to the main track when they offer this meet. If the weather does not cooperate, the card is either cancelled or rescheduled. The wagering menu is the same as the six race, twilight Friday cards at Monmouth this summer. I’ll share my thoughts for each race for the first two cards this week before I turn my attention to covering Keeneland next week on the ITM blog. I’ll still be checking out these races though, and if I have any thoughts worth sharing on some of the races, I’ll include them here, under the Monmouth blog.
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Race 1: Top Pick: 8
The meet opens up with a modest $10K maiden claiming race at 1 Mile and 1/16. Paco Lopez was the story of the second half of the Monmouth meet, finishing with 109 overall wins and a 32% winning percentage. He has dominated the jockey colony for many years at Monmouth, but this was a new level of dominance. It’s undeniable that he was getting to hand pick his mounts, especially toward the end of the meet, however, he was upgrading just about every single horse that he was on, putting so many of his horses in perfect positions. He gets the call on the morning line favorite here, Sam in Style (1), who was a close third at this level two back at Colonial Downs. He was too far off the pace when facing $16K maiden claimers last out at 7 and ½ Furlongs at Delaware, leaving himself to much work to do. I think he sits closer to the pace today, breaking from the rail. He will be the one to beat, but I suspect, he’ll go in the gate at odds less than his 2-1 morning line. He’s definitely worth playing, but I’ll take a swing with Kinsaler (8) on top here, dropping in from maiden special weight company at Penn National. He has four career starts for trainer Carl O’Callaghan, and all four races were taken off the turf. He was competitive in his first two races, but not as much in his last two. He’s sired by Unusual Heat, who has produced some quality turf runners, most notably, the multiple Grade 1 winner, Acclamation. His regular rider, Emilio Flores, is scheduled to come in to ride. With the whip regulations in New Jersey, I don’t love taking a short price on a rider that hasn’t ridden much or at all at Monmouth this year. However, Flores is a crafty veteran, so I’m willing to take a shot here, as long as the price stays around his 6-1 morning line. Private Code (4) is a class dropper, coming in from New York for Roy Lerman. His two races at Saratoga, one on turf off a five month layoff and the other sprinting on dirt, were not good. However, he was more competitive with $32K maiden claimers at Tampa earlier in the year (in races restricted to horses that are his same age). I’m expecting a better effort from him tonight.
Race 2: Top Pick: 5
I think Thomond Park (5) is a sneaky good longshot (6-1, ML) to use in this $25K-$20K claiming race for three year olds and up that have never won four races. He ran two really good races on the Monmouth Park turf course this summer, and both of those races were when Isaac Castillo was riding. Jomar Torres was aboard last out, and he didn’t give this gelding a great ride. He was shuffled back to the rear of the eleven horse field on a course that was hard to close on that day. Castillo opted to ride for Greg Sacco that afternoon, as Sacco has typically given him more rides than Derek Ryan (trainer of Thomond Park). As long as the course is more fair to closers than the Monmouth course was at the end of the meet, he is very live in this race, and could be a worthy single on some smaller budget tickets. This is a spot in the multi-race sequences, where I think you can make some money playing against the Paco Lopez horse, Lion Charmer (3). That one is live, but I think others are better in this field. Social Group (8) is one that I’d use here on some multi-race tickets and definitely in the vertical exotics. He has one start and one win on the turf, wearing down the winner in the stretch at Parx to beat an optional claiming/starter allowance field on 9/13. He didn’t run a step in a N1X allowance race that was taken off the grass on Tuesday. This is a quick turnaround, so there is a chance that he won’t go. However, I don’t his last effort took much out of him, and Pino has clearly been trying to get this one on the turf again. Fly Fly Away (2) could be the lone speed in this race, making him a horse that you need to respect. I think Paco will be keeping him honest, breaking just to his outside. That may hinder his chances just a little. He was the lone speed in his last three races at Monmouth, winning two of them. I am a little concerned that he faded behind Uncle Curly, ridden by Lopez, last out, on a course that was kind to speed. However, I still think he’s worth using. Croi Mor (7) has been claimed out of his last two starts at Monmouth, now campaigned by Tom Clark. I think he’ll be overvalued here, especially moving out of the Wayne Potts barn and losing Paco Lopez. Veteran rider, Rocco Bowen, who has been recently seen at Presque Isle and Arlington, is named to ride, which would put him in the category of riders that have not ridden with the new whip rules in New jersey this year. I’ll use this one as a saver on deeper tickets, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him.
Race 3: Top Pick: 1
Open $10K-9K claimers are going 1 Mile and 1/16 here. Despite the lower claiming tag (Monmouth had carded several races at $12,500-$10,500 tag), this is a sharp field that is headed by Projected (1), who had four wins and a loss in a photo finish in five starts at Monmouth this summer. He was entered in a N2X allowance race last Friday at Monmouth, but rain forced that race off the turf. There is an N2X allowance race carded for the end of this meet, but I think Carlos David wants to get him a race before that, since this nine year old gelding is in great current form. He wasn’t claimed for $12,500, despite his strong summer, so I think they’re willing to roll the dice. Gerrardo Corrales has ridden him extremely well from difficult posts, so I think he’s even more dangerous with a rail trip here. Kitten Street (2) and Paco Lopez would be the main threat. He’s set the pace in his last two starts, finishing third last out and getting passed rather easily by Projected two back. Lopez getting on board upgrades his chances, but also likely limits his value. The last time Lopez rode him, he was able to carry his speed gate to wire back in June. Beach Traffic (9) might offer the best value in this race. He is taking a pretty decent drop in class after facing allowance foes last out at Laurel and facing starter handicap horses two back at Monmouth. In that race two back at Monmouth, he was up against a much better horse, Mid Day Image, who also had a serious pace advantage that day, so I’m willing to completely draw a line through that race. He closed well three back in to beat N4L claimers, earning a figure that would be competitive with this group. If My Point Exactly (3) and Uncle Ned (5) are able to force the issue with Kitten Street on the front end, I think Beach Traffic could be the horse that benefits. If it looks like closers have a fair shot to get home after watching the first two races, I’ll include him on my Pick-4 ticket. He’s also enticing to use in the vertical exotics if he stays near that 10-1 morning line number.
Race 4: Top Pick: 4
Fillies and mares that have never won twice, run with a $7,500-$6,500 tag here in this contest at 1 Mile and 1/16. This is a condition that was strictly run on the dirt at the Monmouth meet, so there are horses that are dropping in class and horses that are switching surfaces here. To make things more complicated, a lot of the more accomplished horses are on the also eligible list, in posts 12-14. It looks like this is a field of one-paced runners that struggle to win, so as a result this feels like a race where I’ll definitely want coverage. If there’s a playable angle, I’ll always look to a new face in a race like this, which is why Copper Penny (4) is my top pick, while making her fourth career start and her first race on the turf. She was claimed for $10K when winning on debut at Parx back in April. She finished 6th when facing optional claiming/starter allowance foes on the dirt in her next start there in May. She came to Monmouth, in hopes of getting on the grass with $16K-$14K multi-conditioned claimers in June, but she caught a sloppy course in a race that was moved to the main track. She didn’t run a step that day, and has been off since. Juan Vazquez brings her back and drops her in class for her turf debut. She is sired by Will Take Charge out of a Shakespeare mare, so there’s reason to believe she’ll take to the turf. If you draw a line through the race in the slop, her two dirt efforts make her a player if her form can transfer to grass. Ciarrai Abu (2) broke her maiden with $12,500-$10,500 maiden claimers at Pimlico three starts back. She finished midpack with two starts against better N2L claimers in Maryland. She caught good and yielding courses in her last two, so she could move forward on firmer ground tonight. Sayoh (6) switched tactics last out and ran a career top figure when trying to take a $16K-$14K N2L field gate to wire at Monmouth. She went off form a bit this summer when facing some tougher fields at the $16K-$14K multi-conditioned claiming level. Her last indicated she may be taking a step forward and rounding back into the horse she was earlier in the year. Real Wild Solution (5) had an up and down meet at Monmouth, running okay in two races, and running clunkers in the other two. She was in better form at Tampa, so perhaps the change in scenery, along with the drop in class will help her out today. If any of these scratch, I’d consider using Maliceinthepalace (12), Cold Hearted Cat (13), or Running on Entry (14), on deeper multi-race exotic tickets. I still prefer the top four choices over anyone from this trio though. All three have speed figures that would get them close here, but they have had many chances to get that elusive second win and they’d likely be compromised by their post in this spot, limiting their chances tonight.
Race 5: Top Pick: 7
We have a $5K claiming race for three year olds and up that have not won a race since April 1st or have never won three races. This is another condition that is not available on the turf during the summer meet at Monmouth, so many in here are dropping in class. There is a decent amount of early speed signed on in this spot, so as long as the course seems to be playing fairly, I’m comfortable using only two here. I Say I Play (7) is very interesting to me in this race. He’s the only horse eligible strictly under the N3L condition, meaning he has won a race within the last six months. That win came at Parx with optional claiming/starter allowance company in June. He regressed in his next start, but he has moved forward in his last two turf tries. He is a four year old English Channel gelding that continues to improve with more experience. He drops a bit here and should get a firmer course to run on. I think he can sit off the speed and make a break for the lead on the turn. Idle Time (3) ran last week with open $10K claimers at Monmouth in a race that was taken off the turf. Draw a line through that and he has come close a few times this summer at Monmouth. His last win was in March at Tampa, so he recently became eligible for this condition. He’s a horse that should appreciate a firmer course. I’m not sure the ground at the Big M will be Florida firm this time of year, however, it should be more favorable to him than the good course he struggled over two starts back.
Race 6: Top Pick: 7
Let’s roll the dice try to blow up the tote board with a bomb in this maiden special weight for fillies and mares, three year olds and upward. Chad Brown sends out a pair of four year old fillies, Infinite Potential (1) and Ballot Initiative (5), and Shug McGaughey has a three year old filly, Red Hot and Blue (8). This trio is going to take the bulk of wagering dollars, and rightfully so. Infinite Potential was a solid third in her last start at Belmont back in June. Ballot Initiative was a solid third in her last start at Ellis in July. Red Hot and Blue was a solid third in her start at Delaware three weeks ago when making her turf debut. All three have run good races against strong fields, however, there’s not a ton of speed signed on in this race. Judgement Time (7) may be afforded the luxury of crawling on the front end in her third start off the layoff and fourth career try. She ran fairly well in her race two back when setting a quick tempo on the front end in her first try at two turns on the turf. Sher connections inexplicably cut her back to a sprint, on the turf, which looking at her pedigree (Optimizer out of an Cape Blanco mare), doesn’t make much sense to me. Front end speed fared pretty well at one time on the Meadowlands course, but who knows what we’re going to see tonight. Wilmer Garcia was improving as the Monmouth meet progressed, and he gets the call tonight. At odds of 20-1 or greater, I think she offers some value in the vertical exotics, and is worth including on multi-race tickets. Infinite Potential is going to be the one to beat, as she ran two strong races to start her career at Belmont. She had been working at Monmouth for her return after hitting the board in both Belmont tries. She was training at Saratoga, but wasn’t quite ready to run there. I think Chad Brown wants to see her at two turns, which is why she’s here instead of at Belmont. Paco Lopez, who was riding Brown’s better horses at the end of the Monmouth meet opts to ride Red Hot and Blue, who closed well on a tiring course at Delaware last out to get third in her turf debut. She faced some very good fillies in her three maiden special weight races on the dirt earlier in 2021. She might have to try to close into another pokey pace here, but she should be more fit. Shug’s horses have won at a 30% clip in their second race off the layoff over the last 21 months. Ballot Initiative is the other Chad Brown in here. She made her first start of the year back in July, going 10 Furlongs on the turf at Ellis. She ran an even race to be third that day, but hasn’t run since. She tried to get in a race at Monmouth, but she scratched when it was taken off the grass. I prefer her stablemate, and think she might be better next time, however, she’s worth covering if coverage can be afforded.
Monmouth Park Summer Meet Stats: 150/513 (Top Pick Winners) – $1,027.00/ $2.00 ROI per $2 win bet
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