Monmouth Park Racing Preview – 5/14/22 – By Eric Solomon

There’s a ten race card starting bright and early at Monmouth Park, with the first race going off at 12:15 ET. They’re offering a pair of stakes races that share top billing on the program this afternoon. A field of six signed back on to run in the Long Branch Stakes (Race 5), which is the first local prep on the Road to the Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 23rd. That race was wiped out last week due to inclement weather at the Jersey Shore. Todd Pletcher’s Dean’s List tries two turns for the first time while facing the winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn, Dash Attack. The 9th race is the Spruce Fir Stakes for New Jersey bred fillies and mares, sprinting six furlongs. Last year’s winner, Princess Georgia, is trying to retain her title while facing the winner of the 2021 Eleven North Stakes, and morning line favorite, Alta Velocita.

 

I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park 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 1 1 8 DBL, PK5
2 6 1,2,6 5 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 4 4,6 DBL, PK3
4 8 4,8 2,7 DBL, PK3
5 3 3,4 1,6 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 5 4,5,6 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 6 6 5,10 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 5 1,5 6 DBL, PK3
9 8 8 2 DBL
10 9 2,9 7 5

 

 

Race 1:

The weekend starts with a $30-$25K conditioned claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Older horses must be entered under the N2L condition in this race. Four of the nine that entered are three year old fillies with a pair of wins. I think the two shorter prices, who are both three year old fillies with more than one win, are very logical choices in this race. If you believe that Lady Zeta (#1) can rebound off her last effort where she finished a dull 4th with open three year old claimers, she would be the one they’d have to beat. After a dull break in her debut in a four furlong dash at Timonium, her next four efforts were sharp. She broke her maiden in the mud at Laurel in January and followed that effort up with a win in optional claiming/starter allowance company at Parx. She was a competitive third in optional claiming/N1X allowance company when returning to Maryland. She came up short two back at a one turn mile and dropped back for a tag last time out. I think the six furlong trip is the right distance for her. Morning line favorite, Little Miss Sassy (#8) with Paco Lopez, is the logical alternative shipping up from Tampa. Horses that last raced on the Oldsmar, Florida oval were 0-6 on Opening Day, but they were competitive, hitting the board three times. When you draw lines through the two turf races, her main track form is solid. She was a winner in an optional $75K claiming/N1X allowance race where she was entered for a tag, meaning that she’d still be able to be protected at the N1X level. Lopez won three of the eight races he rode in on Sunday.

Race 2:

Form lines are all over the place in this optional $16K claiming/$8K starter allowance race. I ended up trying to connect with a longshot by taking Hard West (#6) on top. Robert Mitchell rode home some juicy longshots on this track in 2021 for trainer Clarence King, and they team up with this five year old gelded son of Gone Astray. He was a sharp winner three back at Parx, and he ran well enough to be competitive when moving up in class in his next two.  Think he stands a chance at long odds here. A Penn Legacy (#1), who is a Maryland bred, leaves home after a four race stint this winter at Laurel. His effort two back was sharp, and he could have easily bounced last out when turning in a dull effort. If he can get back to his Delaware form from last season, he’ll be tough. Free Dancer (#2) is the speed of the speed on a course that is historically kind to front runners. He’s struggled to put two big efforts back to back, but this may be a field that he can dominate from the get go. On deeper tickets, I’ll include the favorite, Mi Tres Por Ciento (#5). He’s got some big races in his not too distant past that would make him very tough to beat at this level and he’s likely faced some stiffer competition. Getting Isaac Castillo to ride is not a bad thing, but his recent form isn’t the greatest, leaving me a bit uncomfortable taking a short price with him.

Race 3:

Conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers go 1 mile and 70 yards in this race which was brought back from last Saturday. While there are three year olds entered, everyone in the race qualifies under the N2L condition. There are two new additions to the field that weren’t entered last week, and both Super Shoes (#1) and Ludo (#5) figure to take a decent amount of pari-mutuel attention. However, Super Shoes is coming off a bigger effort, and his last race off a similar try was not every good. Ludo has only one start on the dirt and it was a win with $16K maiden claiming company in an off the turf race at Tampa. He was claimed for $16K three back and he paid instant dividends breaking his maiden in the aforementioned race two starts ago.I think if trainer Rafael Schistl thought he was going to be better on the dirt, he would have placed him a little more aggressively. I’ll keep the same duo on top, siding with Gus K (#6). He might be able to get Fernando De La Cruz off to a good start at this meet. He’s coming in off a win with $16K maiden claimers at Tampa, finally breaking through in his 9th career start. This is a logical spot to face winners for the first time for a horse whose speed figures have been gradually increasing with just about every start. Trainer Angel Rodriguez owns him and he also sends out Tempestuous (#4) for Palm Beach Racing. He is also coming off a win with $16K maiden claimers at Tampa, although he might have seen a softer group in an off the turf race there. He handled two turns on the main track without an issue for the first time, and he employs another new face to meet, Samy Camacho, to ride.  

 

Race 4:

Knowing that Paco Lopez gets hammered at the windows at Monmouth, there are times where I think strategically trying to beat his horses can work out. This New Jersey bred maiden special weight that was redrawn from last Saturday’s card is one of those races. Random Luck (#8) is strictly the one to beat off her 4th place finish in her debut against open maiden special weight company at Parx last month. There are several barns that primarily race New Jersey bred runners and many of them don’t run outside of New Jersey. As a result, over the next few weeks, you’ll see a lot of New Jersey breds making their first starts of 2022. By stretching her legs at Parx, she has a recency edge over three of her rivals, including the morning line favorite that Paco is riding, Big Lee’s Legacy (#6). Conversely, even though Paco is taking the mount here, I feel this race is serving the purpose of getting a race under her belt in advance of the first maiden special weight race of the year for New Jersey breds at two turns on the turf. I’ll add her into the mix this week after planning to leave her off my tickets last weekend. A horse that I was a little chilly on last week, Bikini Baby (#4) may have tipped her hand that she is ready to fire when she drilled a 46:4 bullet workout on Monday. That work was clearly a plan B since she didn’t get to compete on Saturday. Eddie Owens doesn’t have great numbers off the layoff, but that was a very strong looking work, especially for a horse at this level. She Loves Gold (#2) rejoins Rory Huston’s barn after spending the winter at Parx with Scott Lake. She may appreciate the return to the Jersey Shore, as her only career effort at Monmouth was far better than any of her other races. She’s making her second start off the layoff, and she showed some more life last out. Caliente Rum (#7) has been making some progress at Parx, while never really getting close to the winner. Despite starting her career in maiden claiming races, her last two races have come against open maiden special weight company. She cuts back from seven furlongs to 5 and ½ furlongs, and she’ll get noticeable class relief as she does. She’s a sneaky price play in here.

Race 5: The $100K Long Branch Stakes:

The racing office brought back this stakes race for three year olds from last Saturday, when the weather forced a cancellation on the first day of racing here. This race is the first local stop on the road to the Haskell Invitational Stakes. Six of the eight that were originally entered have come back in this 1 Mile and 70 Yard contest. The most notable defection from the original lineup is Fluid Situation, who is a speedy maiden winner shipping in from Tampa for John Terranova. That does take away a notable pace player in this race. I was on Benevengo (#3) last week and I’m still backing him in this race today. His regular rider, Isaac Castillo, was unavailable last weekend, as he was finishing up the Oaklawn meet. However, he’s back in town after a very productive month in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he won 20% of his races. Jesus Cruz and Wasabi Ventures Stables scored with some nice prices at this meet last year and they had a solid meet at Tampa this season. They claimed Benevengo on debut in February for $25K, when he crushed that maiden claiming field by over nine lengths running for Kathleen O’Connell. He moved up to face optional claiming/starter allowance company and was a strong winner that day as well. He goes to two turns, which according to his pedigree, should be what he wants to do. Dean’s List (#4) is likely going to go into the starting gate at odds lower than the 7-5 morning price. He was a very good second behind Morello in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes two starts ago at the one turn mile at the Big A. Pletcher didn’t think he was going to get two turns in the Wood against his stablemate Mo Donegal, so he was entered in the Bay Shore on the same card. I didn’t love that race for him, when he was away last after being on the lead at just about every call in his three prior starts, losing to another stablemate, Wit. Unless he doesn’t break well, I’d figure that Paco will have him on the lead today. There will likely be some pressure, but the defection of Fluid Situation is probably a best case scenario for what he wants to do. I see him leading the first ¾ of the race, and from there, we’ll see if he can hold on. I’ll use him on the A line, but I think there’s value trying to beat him. Dash Attack (#1) looked like he could be a Derby Trail contender after winning his debut and the Smarty Jones Stakes at the beginning of the Oaklawn Meet. He wasn’t the same on dry ground in his next three starts, all in  Derby points races. McPeek sends him here to regroup, and he is all but guaranteed to get a wet track this afternoon. Samuel Marin, made his first North American start here on Sunday after riding in Venezuela over the last several years. He’s certainly getting a nice opportunity riding another stakes runner for McPeek.There is some rain in the forecast, and he’d be an upgrade on a sloppy track. On deeper tickets, Mark Casse sends in Glider (#6), making his first start since the Gotham Stakes in March. His break that day wasn’t great in what was a dull 5th place finish. He did finish a solid second to Emmnauel at two turns on the main track at Tampa two starts ago. It is conceivable that he can make up the 10 lengths that he’d had to find to beat Dean’s List today, but I’d need better than 3-1 to get involved. 

WIN-EARLY PICK-5 TICKET:

I’m going to invest a little more than usual in this sequence this afternoon because I think there is the potential for a nice payout. While I’m not singled anywhere, I definitely have some price horses covered here. In addition, I think there are some shorter priced horses, most notably, Big Lee’s Legacy  in the 4th Race, that will be worth trying to beat. 

Race 6:

I ended up on Probably Grace (#5) in this time restricted claiming race for fillies and mares. She’s been consistently running quality races against better fields at Tampa. She was a four time winner in 2021, but she’s eligible for this race since her most recent win came with time restricted $5K claimers in December. Delgado claimed her two back and she showed improvement when finishing third with optional claiming/starter allowance types last month. 7 of her 8 wins have come at this six furlong distance, so the cutback from 6 and ½ furlongs might make the difference. Aqueduct shippers won two races last week, which should bode well for Summer Bourbon (#6), who is the morning line favorite in this spot. She was recently second with open $10K claimers in New York. She went off form a bit over the winter, but she’s looked more like the 2021 version of herself in two of her last three starts. My only trepidation is the trainer switch to Joseph Brocklebank, who is taking over for Michael Miceli while he’s serving a suspension. Wedontbelieveher (#4) is a lone speed threat in this race. She’s moving up in class after a narrow defeat in a solid stretch duel at Tampa. Her current form isn’t the greatest, but she ran two solid races on this oval last year when facing tougher company. She looks like she could be rounding back into better form.

Race 7:

New Jersey bred fillies and mares run in this N1X allowance race at six furlongs. I Can Run (#6) comes in from Maryland for Claudio Gonzalez after improving on wet tracks in her last three starts. She broke through last out, breaking her maiden with open $40K-$35K maiden claimers at Laurel in her last start back in February. She cuts back in distance when making her first start in three months for a barn that is sharp off this kind of layoff. Some of the others that are making their first start of the year have shown in the past that they are better after getting a race under them. Your Pal (#10) has a recency edge over some of these, getting a start last month at Mountaineer in preparation for this race. She’s hit the board in her last four races, winning once with time restricted claimers at Parx two back. I am concerned that she is 0-17 here at Monmouth, but she does like an off track, and she has hit the board six of those 17 local starts. Wicked Jane (#5) for Paco Lopez and Greg Sacco, makes her first start since finishing third at Laurel three months ago. She’s another consistent type, hitting the board in 6 of her last 7, winning twice in that span. She is another horse that has had a lot of losing trips to Oceanport, going 0-14, but hitting the board half of the time. 

Race 8:

This optional $12,500 claiming/$6K starter allowance race was brought back from last week, but there are a few additional runners that add some more intrigue. Curlin’s Thrill (#5) was exceptional at this meet last year, winning three times and finishing second once in four local starts. His trainer, Darien Rodriguez, re-claimed him at the end of the meet after losing him in August. He’s been on a steady diet of allowance and starter allowance type races where he hasn’t been offered for a tag. He hasn’t run poorly in many of those races, most of them being at Tampa, however, he wasn’t as sharp there as he was here in 2021. He’s back in for a tag and returning to a track where he’s run his best career races. At 6-1, I’m willing to wager that he’ll wake up when coming home. Runabout (#1) ships in from Aqueduct for Jeffrey Englehart and returns to a course where he’s never finished off the board in five career starts. He must have the ability to do some kind of rain dance as he’s caught muddy or sloppy tracks in his last five starts. The weather forecast is questionable this afternoon, so an off track is a definite possibility. He didn’t show up two back, but he’s hit the board in nine of his last ten starts. I think he’s been facing better horses than most of these. Coach Adams (#6) returns for Jerry Hollendorfer after wintering at Oaklawn. He was well backed at the windows in all four starts there, but he could do no better than third in those races. He was definitely facing some competitive fields there, and he ran decent races on this oval last season. He’s 3-1 on the morning line, which feels a little low. I’m hoping his odds float up a bit to create a little better value. 

Race 9: The $85K Spruce Fir Stakes:

It’s hard to look past the talented mare, Alta Velocita (#8) in the co-feature race this afternoon, which is a stakes race for New Jersey bred fillies and mares going six furlongs. She was very good at this meet last season winning four of her five starts, and finishing less than a length behind the winner in her lone loss. She’s been off since February after running second when facing some fillies and mares at Laurel in an optional claiming/conditioned allowance race. She’s starting to run out of allowance conditions, so it’s entirely possible that Andrew Simoff was waiting for this meet to start before running her again. She hasn’t finished worse than third on the dirt since September of 2020. I think she’ll be a popular winner this afternoon. On deeper tickets and underneath, Roselba (#2) would be one to consider. She’s making her first start of the year, and Rory Huston’s horses typically need a start or two before they’re at their best. She’s also probably better on the grass than on the main track. However, she was less than two lengths behind Alta Velocita in the Eleven North Stakes last season on the main track. There are a few other speed horses signed on, and she tired late in this race when returning from a layoff last season. However, I think she made a lot of growth as a five year old, and I predict we’ll see a better showing from her this afternoon. 

Race 10:

This $10K maiden claiming race feels like the biggest spread race in the late sequences. I ended up on Marisco (#9) as the top pick, shipping in after a pair of respectable tries with better at Tampa. He’s handled a wet track, finishing third in the slop last out behind a runaway winner with $25K maiden claimers. Delgado is sending out a pair and he feels like the more likely winner of his duo. El Mic Tiesun (#2) is a Fair Grounds shipper that has had many chances to break his maiden. He is moving into Bonnie Lucas’ barn, who is the trainer handling Wayne Potts’ northeast stable while he’s on suspension. While moving to a higher percentage outfit, I am expecting improvement. His sprint efforts look like they would be competitive with this group. Not a Postino (#7) takes a sizable drop from maiden special weight company to start his 2022 season. He ran well in the slop in his debut over opening weekend last year and was claimed by Alberto Plaza, who ran him four times. He was competitive last year, with his best start being a second place finish in maiden special weight company. He ran once for Patricia Farro at Parx after the Monmouth meet concluded, I would presume because Plaza might not have his training license in PA. He finished a dull 6th that day and went to the sidelines until now. He feels like a bit of a wildcard in this race, as Plaza, who may own other horses, only trained this one in 2021. Jose Ferrer was red hot to start the meet last season, and he gets the mount. I’ll cover with him, but from a value standpoint, I’m looking elsewhere. The same could be said for Whata Guy (#5) for Kelly Breen and Paco Lopez. It’s interesting to see this duo reunited at Monmouth because Breen gave most of his local business in 2021 to Nik Juarez. This Upstart gelding is also taking a deep drop in class. His two local races, especially his debut, were probably his best races, but this is a horse that has never come close to winning a race. He’ll likely be favored as a class dropper and from his human connections, and honestly, at this level, that may be enough. However, much like with Not a Postino, I think there’s better value elsewhere. 

 

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