The second of five weekends of turf racing for the Monmouth at the Meadowlands meet gets underway with a six race card tonight. The card starts off with a nice state bred optional claiming/allowance race for fillies and mares sprinting five furlongs on the turf. The weather looks to be a non-issue this evening, but rain could affect tomorrow night’s program. With heavy rains from a tropical system in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday, I’ll wait until closer to post time before I post my thoughts on that card, which is very likely to be canceled when looking at the forecast. First post tonight is at 7:00 PM (ET).
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||4||3,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|2||6||4,6,8||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|3||5||5||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The featured race kicks off the program tonight, which drew a contentious field of eight. I don’t think there’s anyone in this field that can go with Fixed Odds (#5) in the early stages of this race. She’s always been an exceptional gate horse, but she has had trouble finishing her races. She was 0-5 as a two year old, surrendering the lead in the stretch in all five starts, including two on softer courses here. She broke her maiden in her first start as a three year old in a very slow race in the slop. She’s improved though in her last three tries against winners, breaking through with a win at this level three weeks ago, finishing in front of both Delightful Ava (#1) and Amazing Graces Joy (#2) that day. No one could keep up with her early on that day and I expect the same thing to happen today. She’s back at the same level while in for a tag. Sometimes that would be concerning, but she cost $60K and she’s earned over $130K on the track, so she’s proven to be a decent buy for her connections up to this point. While Delightful Ava and Amazing Graces Joy couldn’t catch her that day, there are two runners in this race that might have a legitimate shot. Toot Your Horn (#4) is the top pick tonight, making her first start in a turf sprint, which will be her third career race. She was excellent on debut, running in the clear down the backstretch, keeping the pacesetter within her sights. She exploded past her at the top of the lane and drew off to win by seven lengths. She didn’t beat much that afternoon, but she certainly looked good doing so. She was a vet scratch as the morning line favorite in a race at this level in August, but she came back two weeks later in a one mile route. I noted that afternoon that she seemed vulnerable on the stretch out, especially since the initial intent was to run her in a dirt sprint. She got caught in between horses early and wanted out in the worst way. She was buried in behind runners that day and never really got a chance to run. I’ll chalk that race up as an educational experience. She cuts back to a sprint, today, racing on her dam’s favorite course. She ran at this distance at the Meadowlands three times and was an open lengths winner each time. Her first foal to race, Here Comes Billy, was a three length winner in maiden allowance company here in 2021. She hasn’t been the sharpest gate horse in her first two tries, but I think she has enough speed to keep from getting stuck in behind runners, which she clearly hated. Breaking in the middle of the field is less than ideal, but I’ll still play her to rebound in this spot. Perspicacious (#3) is still the class of this field, even though she’s probably better in two turn races on the turf. Her lone start in a turf sprint came when she wasn’t in the best form and she drew an outside post in a 5 and ½ furlong race at Monmouth, which is less than ideal. She’s run decent races against better fields this year at Monmouth on the turf. I’ll toss her last effort when she was well-beaten in an off the turf race on closing day downstate. If they go too fast early, she’ll be the one I’ll be looking for late.
Two year olds will go 1 mile and 1/16 in this maiden special contest. There are a pair of horses that had some rough trips when they ran at Monmouth on 8/6 in two separate divisions of a race at this condition. Midnite Lumberjack (#6) was away slowly when he was my top pick in his debut at 28-1 that afternoon. He was able to get closer to the pace despite being wide, before flattening out in the stretch. He was beaten by a well-meant Todd Pletcher first time starter that day, who would go on to finish 4th in the With Anticipation Stakes. He was eligible for a $255K allowance race at Kentucky Downs, going 6 and ½ furlongs on opening day there. He was shuffled to the back of the field in the early going that day and was able to pass a few runners to get into 6th. The runner-up in that race came back to win the Juvenile Mile stakes there ten days later in a strong gate to wire performance. That was an improved effort from his debut, and I think he can build off that effort here. Noble Wave (#4) had a miserable time as the even money favorite here that afternoon. He didn’t get away cleanly and then there was some serious traffic issues as they transitioned to the backstretch, which put the back markers at a serious disadvantage that afternoon. He made a bit of a run, but flattened out, finishing 6th. He has finished off the board in all three starts, but I’ve seen enough growth from this George Weaver trainee to keep the faith in him. I may look elsewhere if his odds dip below his 7-2 morning line price, but I still see him as a player with this group. Arrow Speed (#8) finished 5th at this level three weeks ago in one of the faster two year old maiden special weight routes on the turf at the meet. The winner drew off to win by four lengths that day and will likely make his next start in graded stakes company in a race like the Pilgrim at Aqueduct or the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland. He’s a half to a graded stakes winner and cost $160K at the Keeneland September Sale last year. I would say he’s eligible to improve off his debut. Masterofhiscraft (#1) is the morning line favorite with Paco Lopez in the irons. He ran well in a $50K maiden claimer at Colonial at the beginning of the month. He drew the far outside post in both career starts there, so drawing the rail today could be a welcome change. However, I’m not sure how deep of a field he saw that afternoon and I do think there are live challengers here. I’ll cover with him, but I prefer others, especially at short odds.
Fillies and mares will dash five furlongs in this $30K-$25K N2L claiming race. I have been a fan of Tapestry Colors (#5) since her impressive debut win at Monmouth in the summer of 2022. She returned after almost a year on the shelf and finished off the board in three tries in N1X allowance company. She hasn’t had the best of breaks in those races, bumping a rival last out and bobbling at the start three back. She was very effective when going straight to the lead in her first career start, and with the lack of early speed in this race, I think Jomar Torres would be well served to try to work out a similar trip here tonight. She gets definite class relief, dropping in for a tag for the first time. I have some doubts about many of her rivals in this spot, so I’ll be looking to her as a single on many of the multi-race wagers. The Saratoga invader, Lady Firefoot (#6) would be where I’d back up in this race. She was very good last year when breaking her maiden at six furlongs on the turf at Aqueduct with $40K maiden claimers. She was 7th in her first start of the year at the Spa last month when going two turns against a sharper bunch. She drops in class and cuts back to five furlongs, which I fear might be a little short for her, especially in a race that is lacking in the early pace department.
This is a very competitive $16K starter allowance race for fillies and mares, going 1 mile and 1/16. White Lilacs (#9) is the pick here for me, coming off a pair of narrow defeats in her last two starts. She was very good three starts when clearing the N1X level at Monmouth Park in a race on the Haskell undercard. She lined up against a respectable N2X field in her next start and was narrowly defeated by a nice filly, Uncorked, who has been very tough in all of her North American turf races. This filly has improved dramatically this year, and there’s not a lot of early pace to challenge here in the stretch-long run into the first turn. She should be able to clear this group and set a reasonable tempo. No Valla (#4) was able to catch her last time at Delaware, however, I think the course here can be kinder to front end runners than it is there. I think she’ll be tough to catch tonight. I think Any Port (#1) might offer the best value in the field, starting off at 6-1 on the morning line. She is making her second start off a layoff and dropping in class after getting a wide trip with N1X allowance types three weeks ago. Roy Lerman had her in very good form this winter, running three strong races at Tampa and Gulftsream before going on the shelf after a state bred N1X allowance win in South Florida. She faced a tougher group in her return, which was a race that she likely needed. She ran well on this course last season and should be more fit for this race tonight. No Valla has been very good of late, winning her last two starts and losing in a photo three back. She certainly improved this summer after a disappointing start to her meet at Monmouth. Her trainer, Kent Sweezy, got off to a strong start, winning two of his first four races here last weekend. She’s a contender in this race as well. Classic Colors (#2) is one of two runners that Brittany Russell has entered in this race, and she looks like the better one of the duo. She was outclassed in the Yaddo Stakes last month at Saratoga, but her two previous turf efforts were sharp, winning at Pimlico and missing by the narrowest of margins in state bred N2X company at the Spa. She’ll likely need White Lilacs to be overaggressive on the front end to ensure the best possible trip for herself. Russell hasn’t raced many horses in New Jersey, but the ones that she’s brought to the Garden State have been live.
An overflow field of 14 has been assembled in this $10K maiden claiming contest for three year olds and upward going 1 mile and 1/16. These $10K maiden claimers at the Meadowlands so far have been equivalent to the $16K-$14K maiden claiming races at Monmouth, so even though the claiming tag is lower, I don’t see these races offering any real class relief. Mister Moore (#5) feels like the one to beat in this spot. He rebounded nicely in a bit of a merry-go-round race three weeks ago at Monmouth. He broke out and lost a decent amount of ground coming out of the chute. He was able to move into second while the loose leader set the tempo. He came within a length of the frontrunner, who had another gear as he kicked clear in the stretch. Mister Moore was passed late by the even money favorite who nailed him on the wire for second money. With the exception of a troubled trip at the Spa two back, his turf efforts have been solid. Mike Maker already has a winner at the meet and this one could give him his second. Dooq (#3) made his turf debut at Monmouth last month in an above average race at the $16K-$14K maiden claiming condition. He was 4th that afternoon when another free-running leader took that field from gate to wire. He was making his first start since the end of May and his first start on the grass, so he figures to be more fit for this race. Pino has strong numbers with horses second of the layoff, and drawing a post closer to the rail should work to his advantage. On deeper tickets, I’ll include East Side (#10), making his first start in two months for Robert Falcone. Falcone had a tremendous Monmouth meet and he looks to keep that momentum going up here. He was gelded after his last start and has essentially run the same Beyer Figure in each of his three career races on the grass. The outside post is less than ideal, but I respect anything this barn has been sending out lately.
The nightcap is a competitive $25K-$20K N4L claiming race at 1 mile and 1/16. The morning line favorite in this race is Fatima’s Blessing (#6), who is definitely a horse that I’ll use on the multi-race wagers. He’s a hard-trying gelding that always seems to show up and run a strong race. This race will be class relief for him as Mike Dini drops him in for tag. My concern with playing him to win or using him on top in the vertical exotics is that he is definitely a trip-dependent kind of horse. He likes to come from the back of the pack and what kind of pace he has in front of him and what kind of traffic he’s going to encounter are factors to think about. He will have Paco Lopez aboard, so he’s likely going to get a sharp ride, but I would like to play a horse that will be closer to the front end in this spot. I’ll make Speight’spercomete (#2) my top pick in this race. I thought highly of his first two turf races this season at Monmouth, winning on July 8th with N3L claimers and finishing 5th in a loaded N1X field on Haskell Day when he had the misfortune of drawing Post 14. He was in tight two back at the N1X level when he finished 6th in a wild finish. He ran two weeks ago and had another difficult trip when breaking from Post 11 out of the chute when going this distance at Monmouth. He didn’t get away cleanly and conceded a decent amount of ground in the early stages of that race, when he split the field by finishing 6th. I think he’s a better horse than he showed in those last two races, and while he came from off the pace to win his first turf race, he showed earlier in the meet that he’s more than comfortable being on the front end. I’m looking for Jose Gomez to put him in play early, possibly taking the lead if no one is really eager to get it. From there, I’m hopeful he can slow them down and win the sprint to the finish. Comedic Timing (#8) is another horse that I’ve thought highly of over the last two seasons at Monmouth. Trevor McCarthy gets the mount tonight for Patricia Farro, who claimed him two starts back. He’s been competitive in his last two turf starts, and he cleared the N3L condition two weeks ago in the slop. He should be a little closer to the leaders than some of the shorter priced runners in this one, and he might be able to get the first jump on the frontrunners.
Monmouth at the Meadowlands Meet Statistics:
Top Pick Winners: 4/11 (36.3%) – $28.60/$2.60 ROI
Final Monmouth Park Meet Statistics:
Top Pick Winners: 103/455 (22.6%) – $759.10/$1.67 ROI
I didn’t have a lot of time last week to wrap up the 2023 Monmouth Park Meeting, so I’ll do that here. From a handicapping perspective, it was an up and down meet for me. I was mired in an awful slump throughout the month of June which definitely tanked my meet long ROI. My stats for May, July, August, and September looked like this:
83/341 (24.3%) – $668.60/$1.96 ROI
Those numbers are a shade below by $2.00 ROI goal, but overall fairly respectable. However, my June swoon looked like this:
20/114 (17.5%) – $90.80/$0.81 ROI
You have to take the bad with the good and after going back through charts and replays from that month, there were more than my share of bad trips, bad beats, and wrong ideas to last a while. There were definitely some of those races that month that I’d like to have back, and sometimes when you’re in a slump, nothing seems to be going your way. Personally, I dialed back my wagering during that month, which is normal for me when I feel like I’m in a slump. I have played on tilt before and it’s not fun.
From a racing standpoint, Geaux Rocket Ride came in from California to win the signature race, the Grade 1 Haskell. Therapist pulled off the upset to win the other Grade 1 race at the meet, the United Nations Stakes. The jockey and trainer titles were both repeat winners from 2022 with Paco Lopez earning top jockey honors for the 10th time and Claudio Gonzalez taking home the top trainer award.
Handle was up despite fewer races and race days this season. I do think the racing office deserves credit for paring back some of the larger cards that we’ve seen in previous years. As a result, average starters per race on dirt and turf were up from a year ago. They also were more fortunate in the weather department this summer, especially compared to the weather 180 miles north at Saratoga. As a result, I think the handicapping product at Monmouth was one of the more attractive signals over the last few months.