Turf racing is back in New Jersey as three of the ten races on the Saturday program are carded for the lawn. There was some rain in the area yesterday, but the forecast is mostly dry today. I’ve handicapped everything for the grass and I’ll go back and make changes if need be. The featured race is the $100K Politely Stakes for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf. The talented New York bred filly, Robin Sparkles makes her seasonal debut in that race. There’s also a maiden special weight race and a N1X allowance contest on the grass (Races 7 and 9). Paco Lopez is riding at Pimlico this afternoon, creating some good opportunities for some other riders looking to make their mark early on at this meet.
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|
|2||4||4,6||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||3||2,3,6||5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||4||4||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off with a $7,500-$6,500 N3L claiming race at one mile on the main track. Linda Rice brings in an interesting horse that will likely attract a lot of attention at the mutuel windows, Liveyourbeastlife (#8). This is a horse that is a little less than two years removed from narrowly losing to Mystic Guide in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. From there those two runners took dramatically different turns in their careers. Mystic Guide went on to win the Dubai World Cup the following year, whereas Liveyourbeastlife has not won a race in his seven subsequent starts. He was claimed two starts back for $32K at Belmont. He resurfaced at Aqueduct in April, where he was a dull 5th as the favorite when facing $14K N3L claimers there. He leaves New York and drops yet again, while running on a softer circuit. This is not a great field, but he’s not in good form and he draws a wide post in a two turn race to boot. I’ll be trying to beat him outright in this race. I’ll take the turf horse, Lion Charmer (#2) on top for Robert O’Connor and Samy Camacho. He drops in class and switches to the main track. This will be only his second career start in a race where he was entered with the intention of running on the dirt, the other being his debut back in April 2019. He has hit the board twice in two dirt races, both at Tampa, His lone start on the dirt wasn’t good, but that came against a significantly better field than he’s facing today. Camacho is off to a hot start in his first few days of racing regularly here. Nice of Me (#5) makes his third start of the year and his second off a layoff today. He stretches back out to two turns, which I see as a plus. He was a track and distance winner here last year, beating conditioned $25K claimers. He ran many credible efforts here last season when facing tougher fields. On deeper tickets, I’ll use both Dohko (#3) and Bridgekeeper (#6). You know what you’re getting with Dohko, as a horse that has only 2 wins in 41 career starts. His ceiling isn’t very high, but conversely, his floor isn’t that low. He’s hit the board in 17 other starts, and his last two efforts would make him reasonably competitive with this field. Bridgekeeper is taking a considerable drop in class after a pair of subpar efforts, one on turf and the other on the dirt at Tampa. He’s never hit the board in four career dirt starts, and his two best races on the main track have been in races taken off the turf. This will be the softest field he’s seen since he’s faced winners.
Despite the six horse field, this is another wide open race in the Win-Early Pick-5 sequence. Fillies and mares go 1 Mile and 70 yards in an optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance contest. I think the PA Bred, Billieanne (#4) is sitting on a big effort this afternoon. She makes her third start off a layoff and returns to a two turn race after sprinting in her first two starts of 2022. She ended 2021 in good form, winning a pair of allowance races at Parx, including a win in open N1X company there. She was overmatched when facing fellow PA breds in the Unique Bella Stakes last month. That was a solid field that afternoon though, so she is getting class relief here. Despite breaking from the outside, the morning line favorite, Tap Dance Fever (#6) figures to sit a pretty sweet trip in this race. She hasn’t gone two turns on the dirt in a little while, but she was a winner when she last did at Delaware in the fall. She sat just off a decent pace that day and pounced on the leaders to clear the N1X allowance condition that day. She was second in a similar race three back and is coming off 4th place finishes in a small stakes and handicap on the big undercards at Tampa on their biggest days. She’s been off since March 12th, and as long she likes the local oval, she figures to be right there with this group. On deeper tickets, Misty Taste (#3) is scheduled to be the first horse to start twice at the current meet. She was last of nine in the Serena’s Song Stakes on Opening Day when facing a considerably tougher bunch than what she’s up against today. She won three straight races on this track last season and was second at this level in August. She hasn’t been in the best form of late, so I’m not willing to take too short of a price on her. However, waking up on the drop in class isn’t out of the question.
Conditioned $16K-$14K claimers dash 5 and ½ furlongs here. Despite a pair three year olds being entered in this race, everyone qualifies under the N2L condition. I think the Finger Lakes invader, War of Thrones (#1) has a big shot in this race. He went off form after joining Joseph Parker’s barn downstate last fall. He had bad starts in both races and never seemed interested. He was transferred to Bonnie Lucas, and returned last month in a $5K N2L claimer in the slop at Finger Lakes, where he was much the best, but had to settle for an unlucky 3rd place finish. He was loaded in the stretch, but had to hit the brakes on two separate occasions in a 4 and ½ furlong race. He still was gaining on the winner, finishing a neck behind in a three horse photo. His form in allowance company last season would put him right there with this group today, and at longer odds, I’ll wager that he can get back to those races in his second start off the layoff. Tiz Handsome (#5) is the morning line favorite that is shipping north from Tampa. He comes here in decent form, narrowly missing against similar two starts back. He struggled a bit against tougher last out and he hasn’t been finishing his races with the strength that you’d want to see from a short priced runner. However, he fits well on both class and form.
This is a maiden special weight race carded for three year olds and up, however, only six three year olds have entered. That is a footnote worth noting as whoever comes out of this race will show that they ran against three year olds and up in future PP’s. There is a heavy favorite, Moving Pictures (#3) that they’ll all have to contend with here. Kelly Breen brings this son of Mohaymen up from South Florida after a big effort in his first race of 2022. He debuted last summer at Saratoga, taking some mild interest at the windows when going to post at 8-1. His race was over early after some trouble at the break though. He resurfaced in April at Gulfstream, where he ran a much improved race to be second when facing a tougher group there. His main opponents will likely be the first time starters, all slotted outside of him. Of that trio, Crack the Code (#4) is the one that is likely best suited to pull the upset. Colts Neck Stables had a good season last year, especially with their first time starters, winning with 4 of 16 of them. This son of Honor Code doesn’t have sensational morning drills, but then again, not many of Duarte’s runners do. I’ll cover with him on deeper tickets, but I think the favorite has a clear upper hand in this contest.
Race 5: The $100K Politely Stakes:
There was some rain in the area yesterday, but I’m hoping the first stakes of the year is able to be run over the turf course. Do note that both Payntdembluesaway (#3) and Honey Pants (#6) ran yesterday in the The Very One Stakes at Pimlico and are almost certain to be scratched this afternoon. I clearly remember watching the maiden breaking performance from Robin Sparkles (#1) back in August of 2020. I was a week removed from rotator cuff surgery and was watching racing and baseball for the majority of time that I was awake. Her name stuck out to me since it is a reference to a character on one of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I remember being wowed by her turf debut in spite of it coming with New York bred $40K maiden claimers. Needless to say, she hasn’t been entered for a tag since. She’s run well, finishing on the board in all but one of her career tries on the turf. A few of those races came in stakes company, finishing third in both the Grade 3 Caress and the Smart and Fancy Stakes at the Spa last summer. She was dull in her last start, which was the Floral Park at Belmont, last fall. Bruce Brown, who already has notched a win at this young meet, gave her some time off and brings her back for her five year old season today. Even though she might need a race before she is at her best, I think she’ll be able to beat this group today, especially with the names that won’t be participating. Athwaaq (#5) could be able to play the role of spoiler if she can take this group gate to wire. She’s a seven year old mare that seems to continue to be getting better with age. She made her first start of the season in a six furlong sprint last month at Aqueduct in an optional $62.5K claiming/N2X allowance race, where she was caught in the final strides after doing all the heavy lifting on the front end. She spoiled one of my Pick-5’s last season, leading gate to wire in a race at the Monmouth at the Meadowlands meet, so I’m not going to let her beat me again.
Dirt Play: Bold Confection (#2) is the logical upgrade on dirt. She comes in racing strictly in dirt sprints, holding her own in many of them. Don’t sleep on the three year old filly, Creative Girl (#8) at a price. She is improving and might be able to take this group gate to wire. Robin Sparkles (#1) is still worth using on class alone, but I don’t feel as strong about her as I did on grass.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5 Play: $24 Ticket
I do think the back end of this sequence is likely to get very chalky with both Moving Pictures (#3, R4) and Robin Sparkles (#1, R5) feeling like short priced horses that have a big chance in their respective races. I think the key to getting some value out of this ticket will be to beat Liveyourbeastlife (#8, R1) in the first leg. He feels like a bad favorite to me that is going the wrong way fast. There are some other runners that could be overlooked in that race that could spice up this ticket. War of Thrones (#1, R3) is another horse that I’ll be hoping that can get home at decent odds to increase the value here.
The Late Pick-5 starts with a $8K-$7K time restricted claiming race at 1 mile and 70 yards. There’s not a lot of early speed signed on with this eight horse field, so I think both Hot and Heavy (#2) and Internet of Things (#3) will get advantageous trips. I made Internet of Things my top pick in this race, making his first start off the Crystal Pickett claim. He’s a six time winner, winning two starts back with time restricted $5K claimers at Tampa. Since that tag was $5K or less, he remains eligible for this condition. Samy Camacho rode him that day for the first time and he reunites with him this afternoon. Hot and Heavy is a stretch out sprinter, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up on the lead. He also won for a $5K tag at Tampa recently when going 5 and ½ furlongs. I have a few concerns about him getting the distance at this stage of his career, however, he did win at 1 Mile and 40 yards at Tampa in an off the turf race back in December 2020. I think if he’s unchallenged up front, he could get brave in the stretch. Candy Cane Lane (#6) is an interesting class dropper that I want to use in this race as well. He likes the local oval, winning three of seven times here, with two more in the money finishes. He wintered at Turfway on the synthetic, and horses that have been running at Turfway over the winter, seem to be winning all over the East Coast this spring on every surface. He’s an interesting longshot here at 12-1 on the morning line. On deeper tickets, I’ll use the morning line favorite, Look Out Lambo (#5) as a saver. Jeffrey Englehart is a high percentage trainer, winning 25% of his races in 2022 thus far. However, his four starters at this meet have been a little disappointing, only hitting the board with one. This horse hasn’t raced since the end of December at Mahoning Valley, and while he’s working well locally, he’s typically been a horse that has needed a race or two before he’s at his best. He has won five of his last seven starts, with all of his triumphs being at Finger Lakes. There’s enough talent there to use him, but I’ll be very cautious with him, especially at short odds.
Fillies and mares go 1 Mile and 1/16 on the turf course in this maiden special weight contest. Chad Brown brings in a Frankel first time starter, Pond Walker (#7), who I’ll be trying to beat here today. She’s clearly bred for the grass, and has been working well enough for her debut. However, she’s clearly not what Chad Brown considers to be in his top group, as she’s making her debut here for $57K as opposed to New York or Kentucky for a considerably larger purse. Brown had very good numbers here last season, winning some races with horses like this, but I think a lot of those races came when there wasn’t a strong alternative for his runners to beat. I think this race is all about Frippet (#4) coming in from Keeneland for Jonathon Thomas. She led most of the way in a maiden allowance in Lexington last month, before being run down by a more experienced runner, Walkathon. That one went on to win last weekend, clearing the first level allowance condition at Churchill when facing winners for the first time. This filly has good early speed and should be able to control the early tempo, if that’s what Isaac Castillon wants to do. I believe she’ll graduate this afternoon. The backup for me in this race will be the Graham Motion second time starter, Spellbrook (#5). She was slow into stride in her debut at Laurel on the grass last month, before gaining some momentum to finish 4th that day. Motion’s horses tend to improve greatly in their second career start. Angel Rodriguez, who has ridden well early in this meet, gets the assignment.
Dirt Play: Frippet (#4) looks to have a distinct advantage over his remaining three rivals. He’ll be a very short price, but he looks too good for that trio.
Conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claimers go 1 mile and 70 yards in this race, One three year old with multiple wins, Origo (#7) is taking on some older horses and a few other three year olds, all of which have won only one time. Origo makes a lot of sense here, winning in his only career dirt start, which was against fellow three year olds in open $20K claiming company in a race that was taken off the turf. He’s been primarily a turf horse in his career, but his pedigree, Medaglia d’Oro out of a Tapit mare, tells me that two turns on the dirt should suit him just fine. Samuel Marin has made the most of his limited opportunities at the meet since coming to America from Venezuela. He feels like the one they’ll have to beat. I’m not liking what I’ve seen lately from Jerusalem Gates (#5). He was away slow last out at Penn National when he was the heavy favorite in an optional claiming/starter allowance race there. However, he looked like he was very stiff, not moving well at all that day. His sluggish performance, combined with his declining speed figures makes him a play against in this spot for me. I will use both Candy Kingdom (#3) and We Ready (#8) on some deeper tickets. I will always be cautious when going to bat for a horse that has only one win in 49 career starts. However, I do like the current trajectory from this six year old gelding. He showed some improvement at Turfway over the Tapeta surface this winter. He went to Mahoning Valley where he narrowly lost last time out in a N2L allowance race there. Anthony Foglia, who is also the owner, becomes the trainer of record again, and he brings this son of Sidney’s Candy back to Monmouth, where he has run some credible races. I think he’s interesting, especially if his odds go above his 6-1 morning line figure. We Ready broke through in his 15th career start last time, beating $20K maiden claimers at Belmont. He tries two turns on the main track for the first time in his career today. I don’t love the outside post for him, but, overall, this isn’t the worst spot for him to try winners for the first time.
Aziza (#10) has had a few significant gaps in her running lines over the years, however, she came back strong last month at Tampa. She is well spotted in this N1X allowance race that is completely devoid of any early speed. If Isaac Castillo can get her on or near the lead, she should get an advantageous trip, despite her high draw. Chad Brown sends out a pair of runners for Klaravich Stables, and the one that is the most dangerous will need some assistance to draw in. Investmentstrategy (#12) is the one to beat here after finishing a credible 4th against a better field at this level at Aqueduct last month. She might not be quite good enough for the NYRA circuit, but she fits quite nicely at this level here. However, she’s the second also-eligible runner here, so she might have to wait for another afternoon to compete. Tic Tic Boom (#3) makes her second start of the year after finishing near the back of the pack in the Dahlia Stakes last month at Laurel. She’s been aggressively campaigned in her career, running in several stakes races, despite being a maiden. She had her breakthrough race in an off the turf maiden allowance in the slop here last August. She followed up that effort with a distant third place finish in the PTHA Presidents Cup at Parx, which was also taken off the turf. She’s sired by Hit It a Bomb, so there’s reason to believe that she’ll be better on the grass. She makes her first start with N1X allowance types here, and I think she could be a factor at this level. Both Belle Belisa (#6) and Toned Up (#7) are live runners in this race, but both could be pace compromised, as both are horses that like to lag near the back of the pack before making their one big run. They’ll need some unlikely sources to push the pace, but they do fit from a class perspective. Belle Belisa is trained by Michael Dickinson, who is the creator of the Tapeta surface that is used at several tracks across the world, including Turfway Park. In a cruel twist of fate, this daughter of Lope de Vega had absolutely no interest in competing there in her two synthetic efforts over the winter. However, her grass form puts her right there with this group if she’s able to be gaining late. Toned Up is another horse that should appreciate the switch back to turf. She broke her maiden on the grass at Laurel last year. She looked like a different horse in her last two turf starts. She’s been running on the dirt lately in New York, so the change of scenery could help as well as the surface switch.
Dirt Play: Tic Tic Boom (#3) and Toned Up (#7) are solid plays on the main track. Both are winners on the dirt and can certainly compete with the group that remains. Madame Rouge (#11) draws in off the AE list, and is a gate to wire threat in this race. I’d also include that one on my multi-race plays.
The get out race is a $10K maiden claiming race at 1 Mile and 70 yards on the main track. Plunk (#1) had a wide journey and a slow pace to contend with at this level when making his second career start and his first attempt at two turns last month at Tampa. Samy Camacho follows this gelding up north to ride for the third straight time. He feels like the one to beat, as his distance experience might give him an edge over some of the others. Classic Escape (#2) tries two turns for the first time after three straight sprints to start his career. Luis Carvajal does well getting horses to stretch out to longer distances. If he and jockey Jomar Torres are able to fix his starting gate woes, he could be a player at this level at decent odds. At 8-1 (ML) or better, I’ll wager that they can get things turned around. On deeper tickets, I’ll include the morning line favorite, Let Freedom Spring (#8) who is slated to make his second start of this meet. He was no match for Rhumjar in the first race of the meet two Sundays ago when facing $25K maiden claimers. He stretches out and takes another decent drop in class, running for the bottom in New Jersey.
Top Pick Winners 9/25 – $65.00 / $2.60 ROI