After a rainy, but exciting day of racing yesterday, Monmouth Park ends the week with a nine race program. The featured race this afternoon is a very good running of the John J. Reilly Stakes for New Jersey breds, sprinting six furlongs. There’s a deep field of 10 with several runners making their first starts in 2022. The track should be drying out after running on a sloppy course yesterday.
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||7||2,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1||1,3||5,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|4||6||6||3||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||7||6,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||6||2,3,6||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day begins with a $12,500-$10,000 maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares going six furlongs. Nonna Patrizia (#7) takes the plunge from maiden special weight to this lower level maiden claiming race after she faltered after a speed duel at Tampa last out. Her debut in an off the turf five furlong sprint two starts back wasn’t terrible, and an effort like that would put her right there with this group of professional maidens. I think she has more upside than most here. Luli’s Dancer (#2) was running credible efforts with Florida bred maiden allowance types at Gulfstream last year. She was on the sidelines from October to February when she resurfaced at Tampa in an open maiden special weight race where she was completely overmatched. She came back two months later and tried the turf for the first time with $25K maiden claimers, where she was also a non-factor. She returns to a dirt sprint and drops to a level where she looks like she could find success. As a ten time maiden, she’s considerably more appealing than Paco’s mount, Only Girl (#4), who I’ll be trying to beat in the early sequences. She’s also making her 11th start, but she’s been struggling with similar company, so this drop in class is not nearly as significant as it is for my top two choices. She’s also been running in longer races, never running a race this short. She’ll likely be the favorite, just because Paco Lopez is on her back, so I think there’s value in using the other two.
This is an interesting N1X allowance race for three year old fillies going six furlongs. The two shortest prices are both fillies that are making their first starts of 2022 for trainers that have good numbers with horses coming off the layoff. Golden Bell (#1) was a strong maiden winner as a two year old at Keeneland in the spring for Wesley Ward. Her effort was good enough for her to join his Royal Ascot contingent. She faced 26 other rivals in the Windsor Castle Stakes, which is a five furlong dash on the straightaway . She finished 16th that day, about eight lengths behind the winner. He brought her back in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga, which was taken off the turf. She was handily defeated by her talented stablemate, Averly Jane that day. She makes her first start of the year, while getting Lasix for the first time. My suspicion is that she’s not as good as some of the runners in his barn, as she didn’t run at Keeneland and is not running in a race at this condition at Churchill, where the allowance purses are currently twice that of here. Ward does spot his horses well though, as evidenced by his 31% winning percentage in 2022. I think she’s the one to beat. Benbang (#3) appears to be the main danger, making her first start since a narrow defeat in the Stalwart Manor Stakes at Belmont back in November. She debuted at Saratoga, winning an off the maiden special weight race by three and a half lengths. She took a shot against Echo Zulu in the Spinaway Stakes at the end of the meet, but was no match for the eventual two year old filly champion. I thought her effort was very good on the grass last out, and it;s a bit surprising to see her return on the dirt instead of the grass. Regardless, she’s a talented filly ridden by Paco Lopez for the second consecutive start. With both short priced fillies making their first start of the year, I feel that getting a little coverage elsewhere wouldn’t be the worst choice here. Leviosa (#6) is trying to rebound after a dismal showing in the Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream back in March. The second place finisher of that race came back to win in allowance company in her next start and the third place finisher came back to win the Mahoning Valley Distaff Stakes in Ohio. She’s a modestly bred daughter of Kantharos who was riding a three race winning streak prior to her last place finish in her stakes debut. Danny Gargan has won with 25% of his starters thus far in 2022 and he gets Isaac Castillo to ride her for the first time. Dazzy (#5) is also worth covering in this race, making her second start off the layoff. She debuted like a good thing, dominating a restricted maiden special weight field at Belmont on debut in October. She showed up in a Maryland bred stakes race, where she was wide, before fading out of the picture. She returned at the end of March at Gulfstream, trying the turf in the Melody of Colors Stakes. She gets class relief here while returning to the main track. There is some depth in this short field though, so she’ll need to find her best to get her picture taken.
We have a seven horse maiden special weight contest for fillies and mares, three years old and up, going six furlongs. This was a race that was supposed to be run last week, but was brought back after the weather cancellation. There’s a pair of second time starters coming out of Aqueduct debuts that look tough here. I’ll try to get a better price by taking Always Aware (#1) on top. Jorge Duarte Jr. and Colts Neck Stables do most of their yearly business at this meet, so I feel like the race at the Aqueduct in March was all about getting race day experience for this filly. She took a bump at the start\ and flashed some early speed, before fading to last that afternoon. Her speed may be a valuable weapon in this race where there doesn’t appear to be much of that signed on. Duarte had an excellent meet here last year and his numbers with second time starters are solid. World Traveler (#6) for Greg Sacco is the heavy favorite on the morning and the obvious main threat to the top pick. She debuted last month at the Big A and finished third, beaten 11 lengths after a bit of a slow start. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lopez be more aggressive with this mount, while facing a small field.
I’m going to take a stand in this conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claiming race and use Bahama Pearl (#6) as a single. I see her as the fastest horse in the early stages of this race and I have some considerable doubts about some of the short priced horses and their ability to get home late in a 5 and ½ furlong sprint. Venezuelan jockey, Samuel Marin, who won his first North American race yesterday aboard Dash Attack in the Long Branch Stakes, gets the assignment today. His mission should be to get her on the lead from the jump and try to keep her going late. She narrowly missed in a similar race on this course back in September, and I think she’s a rebound candidate after faltering in a two turn race at Tampa in her last start. On deeper tickets, the Maryland invader, Spanikopita (#3) will be where I backup. She was claimed for $16K three starts back by Mike Trombetta. She ran okay two back in an optional claiming/starter allowance, but was a dud last time out going seven furlongs. This is a considerable drop in class, so I’m not sure how much faith Trombetta has in this Anchor Down filly. I don’t love her at short odds, but she’s the most logical backup to me.
The last leg of the Win-Early Pick 5 is also the first leg in the Late Pick-5 sequence. We have an optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance race at one mile and seventy yards for fillies and mares. I’ll go two deep in this race, taking Big Base (#7) to pull off the mild upset. She’s an Oaklawn shipper that was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer two starts back. He moved her to a starter allowance sprint where she was beaten by a sharp horse who ran well over a speed favoring course. She has two nice races on this oval and she’s run solid races at this distance. I like her on the stretch out and I think she could be rolling late in a race where there is definitely some front end speed signed on. Obstinate (#6) is the morning line favorite and definitely the one to beat. She ships in from Parx after a dull effort against a stronger $8K starter allowance field. She was very sharp in her two prior starts there and if that version of this Tiznow mare shows up, she’s going to be very hard to beat.
WIN-EARLY PICK 5 PLAY:
Today’s Win-Early Pick-5 is exclusively for the ladies, as all five races in the sequence are for fillies and mares. After playing a larger ticket yesterday, I’m going to be a little more conservative this afternoon. I’m going to try to build this $16 ticket around Bahama Pearl in Race 4. She feels like a gate to wire threat in a race where I think some of the shorter prices might be struggling to find in the late stages. There is the possibility of some short prices in the early races on the card, so I like using this 6-1 (ML) horse as a single. If the short prices get home early and she connects in the 4th, that could add value to the ticket. If we’re able to beat a few of those favorites, while connecting with the single, the payout could creep into four figure territory. There was over $120K bet into the Win-Early Pick 5 pool yesterday, so this is a wager definitely worth checking out.
There’s not a ton of consistent form in this maiden special weight race for three year olds and up going one mile and seventy yards. Whizwit (#6) is trending in the right direction for Ben Perkins Jr. He’s had some gaps in his running lines starting only three times after an October debut. He caught muddy tracks in his first two starts, but ran a much improved third in a one turn mile race at this level over at Laurel. He’s been working very well at Pimlico, as he tries two turns for the first time. I think he’s sitting on an improved effort here. Mutasellem (#3) is stretching out back to two turns after a pair of sprints since joining Scott Lake’s barn. He was a solid second to Dynamic One last March at Aqueduct when he was running for Chad Brown, which was his last two turn race. Dynamic One went on to finish a close second in the Wood Memorial in his next start. Mutasellem ran once more for Brown, running a strong race on the grass. He went to the sidelines and returned for new connections at Laurel last month. He’s been competitive in one turn races, while slowly adding more distance. He’s facing a tougher group today, but I think he’s got a live chance. Magia Nera (#2) may not have loved the sloppy course at Keeneland last out, finishing a dull 7th in a twelve horse field there on Blue Grass Day. That was a sharp field that he was up against there, and his race two back going nine furlongs at Gulfstream was very good. Paco Lopez and Kelly Breen team up with this son of Bernardini who is the favorite on the morning line. Hellman (#4), who has probably been consistently facing the best horses, is one to think about on deeper plays. He stays at the maiden allowance level, but is likely finding some degree of class relief this afternoon while shipping here from Oaklawn. Isaac Castillo picks up the mount for the first time today.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon kicks off with an optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance race going one mile on the main track. Midnight Chrome (#2) is an interesting three year old in this race. He’s started seven times, and only three of them have been on the main track. Focusing on those races, he was 4th in his debut in a sprint at Delaware. He broke his maiden on grass, and ran okay efforts twice more on turf. He showed up as a big longshot in the Remsen where he was a distant third behind Mo Donegal and Zandon. Some horses that he finished in front of that day, including Fromanuthamutha, have come back to run well in their subsequent starts. He was third in his three year old debut on the grass and lost all chance at the start when beaten by Tawny Port in the Lexington. This is a logical spot to try him again on the dirt. His class lines will likely make him a short price, but I think he makes a lot of sense in a race where I have some questions about the main threats. Both Styner (#7) and Bold Paynter (#8) are coming off wins at this level at Tampa, and are both entered for the $16K tag today. They’re probably not ready for the N2X level and both were horses that were claimed for $16K a few starts back for their respective connections. Bold Paynter was competitive on this oval last season, but he ran into some tough horses in his races at this level. Rafael Schistl is a higher percentage trainer than Victor Russo, who campaigned him here last season. He has won 24% of the time with horses that won their previous start. I think Styner has run his best races when going two turns on the main track. He’s a four time winner coming off a strong effort last out. He is a bounce candidate, but he’d more more enticing if his odds float up over his 6-1 morning line.
Race 8: The $85K John J. Reilly Stakes:
This New Jersey bred sprint came up very strong this year, and it’s quite the handicapping puzzle as seven of the ten runners are making their first start of 2022. Four of the ten runners have won stakes races with open company, highlighting the depth of this field. Pickin’ Time (#5) will likely be the favorite when they go into the gate. He beat many of these runners on the square last summer in the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap. After some failed attempts at two turns, he’s been a much more successful horse in sprint races. However, he’s unraced since a win in the City of Laurel Stakes last November, and if there was a time to try to beat him, it might be today, as Kelly Breen doesn’t have great numbers with horses making their first start of the layoff. Golden Brown (#1) will be the likely second choice while making his first start since September. He won this race last year, when it was the Independence Day feature race. He ran well against open company off the layoff last season, when finishing second in the Mr. Prospector Stakes last May. He’ll be saddled by Robert McGregor, who is holding the fort down for the Patrick McBurney barn while he’s serving a suspension. Both of these runners make a ton of sense, and both will be on the A line for me, but I’m looking forward to seeing what No Cents (#2) can do while making his first start since December 2020. He started his career with a solid second place finish here in the slop in September of that year. He went on to win four straight races after that, including a pair of open stakes races at Laurel. He missed his entire three year old season, and now, after almost a year and a half, returns to the races for Cathal Lynch. His works at Fair Hill are solid, and Lynch has decent nubmers with horses coming back off a layoff. I’ll use him as the top pick, hoping that we’ll get a price on a horse that was very good as a two year old. On deeper tickets and mostly underneath, I’ll throw in Our Man Luke (#8), who is 30-1 on the morning line. My thought is that he’s run three of his better speed figures in his last three starts, suggesting that he’s a better horse than he was last summer. He got a race under his belt in 2022, finishing 4th in the mud at Parx with open optional claiming/starter allowance company. He was 6 lengths behind Pickin’ Time last August. If he gets a little better off his last race and the top runners aren’t quite at their very best yet, that could be the recipe for a big upset.
Another optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance race closes the Sunday card. This one will be contested at six furlongs though. The two shorter prices, Sicilia Mike (#3) and Hero Tiger (#6) both have several more seconds and thirds than victories in their respective careers. Both are talented horses that often run strong races, but more often are bridesmaids. Knowing that, I’ll try Feast (#1) on the rail to hopefully take this group gate to wire with Jose Ferrer. He’s coming in from Keeneland off the Jose Delgado claim. He was a respectable third that afternoon when running for Mike Maker. Since coming here, he drilled a decent work on the 4th of May over this oval. I don’t think there’s a ton of competition for the early lead, so if he isn’t pushed too hard, he might be hard for them to pass late. Aeronaut (#2) has two wins and two seconds in his last four dirt starts. He might be able to sit the right trip, just off the pacesetter. He cleared the N2L claiming condition and now moves up in class, but he certainly could be a factor with these. I will use Sicilia Mike on the B line, knowing that he’s in good form, coming off some sharp efforts in New York. He beat fellow New York breds three starts back and has finished second in his last two. Bonnie Lucas won her first race of the meet yesterday, and she’ll be in the market for more with him today.