After losing a night of racing last week due to the heavy rain in the area from the remnants of Hurricane Ian, we should be good to go for both the Friday and Saturday night cards in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The course definitely took in some moisture over the last several days, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a good or yielding course on both evenings. The first of two stakes races at this brief meet, the Honey Bee Stakes, for three year old fillies sprinting five furlongs, is on tap to highlight the six race card this evening. Post time is 7:00 PM (ET).
I’ll be covering this meet for the second straight year on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||7||7||6||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|2||2||2,7||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|3||5||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The night gets started with a $25K-$20K maiden claiming race for two year olds going 1 mile and 1/16. Jonathan Thomas, who is in position to have a good night, sends out Secretary of War (#7), who is strictly the one to beat. He’s a War Dancer gelding that has been competitive in his two career starts with state bred maiden special weight company at Saratoga. This is a significant drop in class for his third career start, and the maiden special weight to maiden claiming angle for Thomas is mighty. He’s won with 55% (6 for 11) with those starters since 2021 and has hit at a 40% rate with that angle for his young career. Being allowed to use Lasix in NewJersey with two year olds could be a reason for the ship, as opposed to facing state bred maiden claimers over at Aqueduct. Unless one of the first time starters runs huge, he looks to be too good for this group. Balladine (#6) looks to be the firster with the best shot of pulling the upset. Mike Dini has brought live runners to this meet, winning once and finishing second with the other four starters. He’s sired by Highland Reel, who was a multiple Group 1 winner and the winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf. He hasn’t had a large presence as a sire in North America, only having three starters here. However, his two year old daughter, Comanche County, won twice at Del Mar this summer, including a win in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes. His dam was based in France and hasn’t had a North American runner. However, a softer course, at least from a pedigree standpoint, shouldn’t be a deterrent. Dini has hit with 10% of his first time starters since 2021, and sent out a winner in a turf route at Monmouth in August. Since 2017, he’s sent out six runners to debut in a maiden claiming route on the turf, and two have come home victorious. I do like his chances better than his stablemate in the outside stall, Lucid (#11), who is also set to debut tonight.
The Pick-5 gets started with a very interesting five furlong sprint for $10K-$9K claimers. This is a contentious field and trying to figure out who will handle the course and distance is a bit of a challenge. I ended up with Stanhope (#2) as my top pick, getting back on the grass for Bonnie Lucas tonight. He was well beaten with conditioned $15K claimers at Parx in an off the turf race. Prior to that, he was a winner at Monmouth with $20K N3L claimers when going this distance on the grass. That was his only career try at this distance and he looked very comfortable at this trip. He has enough speed to get to the front, and he’s run credible races on softer courses. He’s clearly a better horse on the turf than he is on the dirt and Jose Gomez, who recently moved on from an apprentice to a journeyman rider, gets the return call. Mike Maker sneds out Mai Ty One On (#7) for his first start since June tonight. He’s an eight year old gelding that has some big efforts at this distance in his past. He was a winner with conditioned $35K claimers three starts back at Gulfstream. He came up short two back in a starter handicap there. He was a competitive 4th in his most recent effort with starter allowance types on the Tapeta. This is a slick spot for this one to return. While he’s being offered for a $10K tag, by far the lowest in his career, there tends to be less claiming activity at this meet than at Monmouth. Many of the local trainers stay North for the winter, which would limit the number of starts for him on turf, as the number of turf races up here starts to rapidly dwindle over the next few weeks. Running in this spot would open up the condition for Maker to make him eligible for some different starter allowance conditions in Florida if he was not claimed. If he is claimed, they’ve recouped most of their money with him. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Zanno (#6), who definitely should appreciate the return to turf. His form was headed in the wrong direction in his previous two turf starts this spring at Gulfstream. Since then he’s run twice on the Tapeta there and three times on the dirt, most recently showing up in an off the turf race at Penn National. He likes this distance and has races on the turf that would be competitive at this level. I’ll need to get a decent price on him as he’ll need to be able to reverse some dull recent form, however, I do see him as a candidate to wake up. I’ll be against Valmont (#1) showing up in this race off the layoff with a $10K tag after being claimed for $45K two starts back. Balistico (#4) will take some money at the windows and feels like a horse that is wise to have underneath in the exotics. However, I think he’s better at 5 and ½ and 6 furlongs on the turf. Nitro Time (#5) struggled last out with starter allowance company on a “yielding” course at Penn National. (The final time for the five furlongs was 55:2, so I’m not sure how yielding that course really was). I think he’ll be hard pressed to go with Stanhope, who has inside position, early on. I think this field is deeper than what’s he’s seen in his last several tries, and I see him struggling in the final furlong tonight.
This is one of the races that was brought back from last Saturday night’s canceled program. Despite the re-draw, Postino’s Prophecy (#5) still looks awfully tough to beat in this state bred maiden special weight race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. She was beaten by Her Name is Lola and Indiantown in her last two starts and there’s no one of that caliber in this field. She was steadied last out, falling back several lengths, but she was moving well late to secure third by a wide margin. Jairo Rendon was riding the course exceptionally well last night, and he’ll get the return call on the most likely winner on the program. I’ll eat chalk here and try to move on.
An overflow field of 14 entered this $7,500-$6,500 N2L claiming race for fillies are mares going 1 mile and 1/16. The rails will be at 0 feet tonight, so 12 will be able to compete. This is a wide open contest where I’ll seek a decent amount of coverage. Many here have won their only race when they were close to the front end, as a result, I’m looking to make my top pick a runner that could be on the move late. Karen’s Catita (#6) ships in from Maryland after coming up short with $16K-$12.5K N2L claimers at Laurel. She was facing winners for the first time that day, and she drew a tougher assignment than what she’s up against here. She came from off the pace to score at long odds in her previous try at Delaware with $16K maiden claimers. She’s a four year old daughter of English Channel, so I believe that she’ll be able to handle softer footing on the turf. I don’t love the post, but I think Nonna Patrizia (#12) is live in this spot. She’s proven that she’s much better on the turf than she is on the dirt. I thought she was an interesting longshot play when facing $16K-$14K N2L claimers last month at Monmouth, finishing 4th at 22-1 after setting a contested pace. She’ll have to overcome a wide draw and it’ll be up to Jorge Vargas to try to secure decent early position in the run down the stretch for the first time. However, she is still a player with this group. Luna’s Treasure (#9) was a winner with $10K maiden claimers on opening night here, getting a heads up, rail-skimming ride from Hector Diaz. He sits atop the jockey standings at the moment, winning with 4 of 14 mounts thus far. Her last two races have shown a young filly that is starting to improve. She’s another one that won’t have the luxury of a rail run today, but if she can duplicate or build off her last race, she’ll be very tough to beat. On deeper tickets, Diane’s Comet (#3) may be able to secure early position along the rail, which could be beneficial in a race like this. Andy Hernandez will have to avoid a full on pace battle, which is a possibility. However, she’s been first or second in four of five career starts. She might be overlooked a bit, as her speed figures are below some of the others in here. However, she does battle hard and is a candidate to improve while facing winners for the first time. Investment Income (#11) is the likely favorite, and a horse I’ll be trying to beat in the vertical exotics. She was claimed by Lindsay Schultz off of Chad Brown while facing $16K maiden claimers last month at Monmouth. Her figures have steadily declined and the fact that she’s entered for a tag that’s half of what she was claimed for last month is not very encouraging. The wide draw is less than ideal for a shorter priced runner as well. I’ll look to use her as a saver on deeper tickets in the multi-race bets, but she feels like a horse that could be valuable to play against.
Race 5: The $75K Honey Bee Stakes:
The first stakes race of this short meet is a good one. Eleven three year old fillies are set to dash five furlongs here. The one to beat is Benbang (#2) who was a strong winner of the Blue Sparkler Stakes in her last start on July 16th. After entering her in the Galway Stakes at Saratoga in August, Jonathan Thomas opted to give her a little time after that big effort. Her two career turf races are very good, finishing a close up 4th in the Stalwart Manor Stakes at Belmont last November. Isaac Castillo will pilot her for the first time tonight. The only question for me with her is if she’ll be able to handle the give in the ground that is expected. She’ll definitely be on by A line, but at short odds, I’ll try to find a price here. Teen Drama (#6) is the top pick, coming off a strong effort when beating an average N1X allowance field on the turf in August at Monmouth. She was excellent in her debut, crushing a $25K maiden claiming field in May. She faced a very salty N1X field where she was checked hard, eliminating her from contention that day. She looked very good in her next start, getting back to her winning ways. When she’s had two decent trips, she’s handled her business. This is a big step up, but I see a lot of speed signed on and she could be gaining well late. On deeper tickets, Lady Zeta (#3) is another one that I’d consider using. She was very good when clearing the N1X condition on a good course in N1X allowance company in May. She was no match for Benbang in the Blue Sparkler in her next start. She has been running in some tough races on the dirt since then. She is proven on a softer course though, and that might be enough to make up those four lengths on the favorite.
The nightcap is a strong maiden special weight race for fillies and mares, three and up, going 1 mile and 1/16. A lot of the New York outfits, Pletcher, Brown, Clement, Motion, and McGaughey are represented in this 12 horse field. Pletcher and Brown both used the 8/19 maiden allowance at Monmouth last out with Charging Lady (#3) and Emmylou (7). I was against Emmylou that day, in part because I thought it was odd that Brown didn’t debut her on the turf. She ran well though, looking loaded through the stretch while having nowhere to run. Hector Diaz rides first call for Brown in New Jersey and he gets the call on her over Consistently (#6) starting in the stall next door. Charging Lady makes a lot of sense, running a game second behind Yarborough in that race. I really liked the effort from Yarborough that day, covering a lot of ground, but still grinding home a winner. She didn’t run that well in her next start against winners at Kentucky Downs, but I have her tabbed as a horse to watch in her next start, wherever that may be. Charging Lady was wider on the turn and couldn’t quite get to the winner that day. She gets a better draw this evening and she looms a big threat tonight. Bali Belle (#4) makes her first start since faltering in a six furlong sprint back in May at Belmont. Her five tries before that were all at two turns and they were typically better efforts than what she put forth in that race. She’s run well on softer ground and she gets the services of Jaime Rodriguez, who has been riding his eyeballs out lately at Delaware. There’s a trio of fillies in the outside three gates in this race coming out of some common races at Colonial. I think the public will side with Empress at War (#11), however, I prefer Determined Empire (#10) and Afraid Not (#12), both who should be longer prices. Determined Empire probably wasn’t ready 10 furlongs last out when she finished a dull 5th. However, her race two back at this distance was solid, closing well late. I like the cutback and I like the decisions her rider, Madeline Rowland, has been making on the track lately. Afraid Not has had her chances, but she is improving. She tried a state bred stakes race last month in a sprint in Virginia where she was 9th, beaten 6 lengths. When you draw a line through her two sprints, she has been progressing nicely in two turn races. Jairo Rendon gets the call tonight and he has been riding aggressively of late. There isn’t a ton of early speed here, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try to clear from his outside stall. I think others will be coming, but if it’s a night where closers are struggling to get home, I’d upgrade her chances.
Pick-5, $60 Ticket:
I like this sequence quite a bit tonight. I think Postino’s Prophecy (#6, R3) is a safe single in the third race. There are some interesting price horses throughout the sequence that I think have a chance to help this sequence pay out nicely.