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

There’s a challenging nine race card this afternoon at Monmouth Park where there are four absolutely wide open turf races with large fields. The card is headlined by the $100K Get Serious Stakes for turf sprinters, going ⅝ of a mile. I’m hopeful that all four races that are carded for the grass will get to be run on the turf, as the three races yesterday were transferred to the dirt. I’ll have some notes for both surfaces in those races, but I’ll make a turf only Win-Early Pick-5 Ticket and I’ll make the necessary changes if any of those races come off the turf today. Remember, the first post is at 12:15, which means that on most days, Monmouth is the first North American track of the day to run.  

 

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 2 1,2,8 5 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 2 2,4 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 Turf: 1

Dirt: 1

1

1,12

2,6,11 DBL, PK3
4 3 3 6 DBL, PK3, PK6
5 Turf: 4

Dirt: 4

4

4,5,11

5 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 1 1,6 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 Turf: 10

Dirt: 6

4,10

6,10

5,7

12

DBL, PK3
8 2 2 1 DBL
9 Turf: 9

Dirt: 12

1,6,9

12

4

6

11

 

 

 

Race 1:

New Jersey breds go 1 Mile and 70 Yards in this maiden special that kicks off the afternoon at Monmouth Park. I’ll try a price here and go with Steel Pier (#2) in his second start off the layoff. He ran an improved race in his second career start last season, when he was 4th in a sprint race at this level on this track. He ran a decent race at two turns on the turf with fellow Jersey breds before being overmatched in open company at the Meadowlands in the race that ended his three year old season. He was dull in his return against open maiden special weight company at Parx going seven furlongs. I think he’ll be more effective at two two turns and might be worth a gamble in this race where a bigger price is a definite possibility. Kaz Sweet Heist (#8) goes two turns for the first time, but he feels like the one they’ll have to beat this afternoon. He ran a few nice races against open maiden allowance company at Penn National over the winter to start his career. He came back two weeks ago  at this level in a sprint race here where he was a little flat. Synnefias tries to get him to go two turns against a field where he’s in better form than most. I don’t love the wide draw for his first route, but I think he needs to be on your multi-race tickets. Forever Chocolate (#1) makes his second start of the year after running a dull 8th in the same race that Kaz Sweet Heist is coming out of. He was making his first start since September, so he likely needed that race more than his rival did. He is trying a route for the first time as well, and he gets a better post for that task this afternoon. There’s not a ton of speed to contend with, so I’d expect Nik Juarez to get him into the race early on here. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Cassation (#5) making his first start as a three year old. He faced open maiden special weight company in his last two starts at Parx and the Meadowlands.  He tried the turf two back, but he looks like a horse that could handle either surface. I think he’ll be more effective in his next start, but he’s one that I don’t want to completely ignore in a wide open race.

 

Race 2:

Fillies and mares that have never won three races, sprint six furlongs while running with a $30K-$25K tag in the back end of the Early Daily Double. Bourbon Rebellion (#2) is the horse to beat in this race, but she’ll need to prove she can rebound from losing the rider in her last race at the end of March. She narrowly lost with $50K N3L claimers two back at Aqueduct. She moved up in class to an optional claiming/N2X race where she stumbled out of the gate and put Kendrick Carmouche on the ground. She was no worse for wear as she reappeared on the work tab ten days later at Belmont. She ships to the Jersey Shore while dropping in class off that effort. If she’s right, she’ll be awfully tough here. If she’s not quite herself, Mizzen (#4) feels like the logical alternative to me. She also had some issues at the start in her last race, which came at Tampa. She, too, was facing an optional claiming/N2X allowance field when she ducked out at the break, losing early position, and going wide most of the way. She was last that day, never looking like a winner. Her races in claiming company are much sharper though, so the class hike could have also been an issue for this daughter of Street Sense. I’m expecting an improved effort today.

 

Race 3:

The first of four races carded for the turf this afternoon is a maiden special weight contest for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16. Chad Brown sends out two here and Todd Pletcher is also represented. However, the morning line favorite, Tap the Gavel (#1), comes from the Kent Sweezey barn, and gets Paco Lopez to ride. He made his turf debut against a solid field at Gulfstream at the end of March. He drew post 11 and was wide most of the way, but narrowly missed, losing in a photo. He gets the top local rider, and considerable post relief from his last two starts, as he also drew post 11 in his prior race at two turns on the Tapeta. I think having the Pletcher and Brown runners in this race will keep his price respectable. It’s hard to predict what we’ll see from the Pletcher and Brown horses here. Chad Brown trains both Forwardly (#2) and Thistle (#11). Both horses pretty much ran the same race in their respective debuts at Aqueduct in November and at Gulfstream in February. Neither showed much early speed, lagging near the back of the pack. Forwardly showed a little more of a closing kick in his race, but I’d argue that he had more of a clear path to close into. Thistle turned for home and found a wall of horses and had to shift to the far outside. He closed with some interest to get into 8th that afternoon. The second and third place finishers from his race, went on to finish second and first in their next start in a maiden special weight contest at Keeneland last month. The winner of the race that Forwardly came out of was stakes placed in his next two starts, so both are exiting useful races. Splendid Summer spotted the field several lengths at the break when he simply missed the start in his Gulfstream Park debut. He was never a factor that day, finishing 7th, while looking uncomfortable racing at the back of the pack. Emisael Jaramillo is in from Florida today to ride a horse in the Get Serious Stakes and he takes over for Paco Lopez on this son of Summer Front. I think all three horses are live and worth including some tickets, but if you’re playing the early sequences on a tighter budget, I’d be comfortable using Tap the Gavel as a single. 

 

If this race is transferred to the dirt, Tap the Gavel (#1) will still be the top pick. His debut on the main track at Tampa was solid back in November. He was inexplicably dull in his second start though, which prompted his trainer at the time, Bill Mott, to try him downstate at Gulfstream on Tapeta. I really liked his most recent effort on turf, but I think he’d be the most likely winner if this race comes off. The MTO, Late Call (#12) would be the only other horse I’d use on dirt here. He ran a respectable 3rd in a seven furlong debut at Laurel last month. Duarte adds Lasix for his second start and stretches him out to two turns here. I’m not sure how many would be remaining, but this is a favorable spot for him to make his second career start.  

 

Race 4:

The Jersey Shore-6 starts here with an optional $16K claiming/$8K starter allowance race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. Two of the cooler horses in training that tend to dominate these starter allowance races are both entered on this card today. Free to Fly (#3) is a 17 time winner that is entered in this race, and Beverly Park, who is a 16 time time winner, is entered in Race 8. The question for this race is how much heat will Bionic Battle (#4) bring early on and how will Free to Fly respond to that early pressure? Jose Ferrer is an aggressive rider, and Bionic Battle seems to have only one way to go, which is fast early. Free to Fly wants to be forwardly placed, but she’s proven several times that she doesn’t need the lead to win. She hasn’t run a bad race on dirt since November of 2020, racing 18 times since then, winning 11 of those races and finishing in the money in the other seven. She may have lost a step or two from her best days last summer, but she’s one that simply needs to be on your tickets. If the pace battle gets too intense, there’s a pair of logical closers here, but of the duo of Catania (#6) and She Dazzle (#7), I prefer Catania. She’s an Illinois bred shipping in from Oaklawn off the Jerry Hollendorfer claim. She improved dramatically over the winter in Hot Springs, winning two of three races there. Her two turn form was good, but she also won at this distance in her last start. In her career, she has four wins and has never been off the board at this distance. I think she’s more likely to finish better than She Dazzle. That one is coming off a dull race at Tampa, but was running quality races at a similar condition prior to her last start. She’s the kind of horse that seems like she needs 6 and ½ or 7 furlongs to be at her best though. 

 

Race 5:

The 5 and ½ furlong turf chute will be employed for the first time at this meet in this optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race. There’s some decent speed signed on this race, but I feel that as long as the turf is on the firmer side, this race runs through Momos (#4). He’s a well traveled four year old son of Distorted Humor who is graded stakes placed as a two year old on turf and dirt. He came here last season and cleared the N1X condition in an average effort on the main track, which was a race that he looked like he needed while coming off the bench. His only poor efforts in his career have come in his two turf sprints at Keeneland, one against Golden Pal in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and his most recent effort in a contentious N2X allowance race where he faltered at the 2-1 favorite. I think he might have needed that race as well, and he typically runs better on firmer courses, so I can forgive that effort where he was not at his best. He’ll take pressure early in this race, but I feel that he’s talented enough to hold the others at bay. Citrus Burst (#5), in the stall next door, will be the other one that I’ll be using here. Like Momos, he is making his second start off a three month layoff. He was in very good form this winter at Gulfstream, running two big races before going on the shelf. He came back in a stakes quality allowance race where he finished 5th behind Chasing Artie. He’s getting some class relief for this race and he feels like he could be the most likely candidate to nail Momos on the wire if he starts to weaken in the final stages. 

 

If this race is transferred to the dirt, I’m still comfortable keeping Momos (#4) as the top pick. I’m also fine with keeping Citrus Blast (#5) on the ticket, as both have shown they can handle the main track just fine. I will add the MTO, Spun and Won (#11) onto the ticket as well. He was very good, winning on debut in a strong maiden special weight on the Haskell undercard last year. He went on to run quality races at Parx and Aqueduct last fall. After two subpar efforts, he rebounded nicely on the main track in his last start at Belmont. The five and a half furlong distance might be a tad short, but I expect him to be a player in this race. 

 

WIN-EARLY PICK-5 TICKET: ($48 Play)

I see this as a sequence where you could play this on a pretty tight budget, as I think Tap the Gavel (#1, R3), Free to Fly (#3, R4), and Momos (#4, R5) are all likely winners in their respective races. All three could be short prices, and I’m hoping that some of the money in the third race is spread around a little more than we’re seeing on the morning line. I’m opting to stretch this ticket out a bit, and not use a single, while maybe hoping to catch a few horses that could bump the value of this ticket. That was certainly the case yesterday, when four of the five races were won by shorter priced horses, but the $40 horse that beat a heavy favorite (Our top pick in Race 3), triggered a payoff of $966 for the $0.50 Pick-5, which I feel was great value, especially with a five horse, off the turf race won by the favorite in the last leg. I think the first race today is going to be a spot where we could catch a horse at decent odds. Three of the four shorter prices in that race are horses that I won’t be using. 

Race 6:

The Late Pick-4 gets under way with a five furlong $10K maiden claiming race. I’m not buying the morning line favorite, Angeli Blu (#3) as a horse that wants to run on the dirt. Even though he was facing better horses both times, he never looked comfortable racing on the main track. He’s not facing much here, but I see him as struggling in a five furlong race since he’s really lacking any kind of early speed. I’ll play against him and try Hey Hey Haley (#1) on top. He’s only made four career starts, all coming on this oval. He was very good at this level in his first race off the layoff last season when going six furlongs in the mud. Jorge Panaijo is off to a slow start in 2022, but he rode some very nice races last season on some longer priced horses on this track. He’s a definite upgrade if a pop-up shower creates a wet track, but I’ll use him on top either way here. Risk Vs Reward (#6) is the other logical horse to use here, coming back after a 4th palace finish in the slop at this level last weekend. He showed some early zip in that race, dueling on the front end before backing out in the final furlong. He’s making his second start off a short layoff, which is a move that Jose Delgado does well with. 

 

Race 7:

We have the first $12,500-$10,500 open claiming race on the turf this season. This is a condition that is always competitive at this meet year in and year out. Horses that run well in these kind of races are eligible to enter the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series which is an annual four race turf series with races ranging from one mile at the beginning of the series, to 1 mile and ⅜ at the end of the series. Those races mirror of series of races that were run over the winter at Tampa, where Bird’s Eye View (#4), who is the morning line favorite in this race, participated in all four. He typically runs quality races, but his speed figures are gradually declining. He was a winner with open $16K claimers at Tampa in November, and he won at this same condition last September on this course. He’s one that I’ll be using while getting some class relief, but I prefer Go Poke the Bear (#10) on top here. He took a three month break after some dull efforts on the main track when turf racing concluded in the mid-Atlantic region last year. He was a decent 5th in his return against a better group at Laurel last month. He has a little more tactical speed than the favorite, so he might get first run on some cheaper speed in this race. He ended his turf season with a great run on the Meadowlands turf course, winning twice and losing in a three horse photo there. His return effort this spring tells me that he’s more than just a horse for course at the Big M, although he is definitely a name to keep in mind when racing returns there this fall. Victor’s Dynasty (#7) is a horse that interests me at a price in this race. He came to Parx this winter and was claimed by Patricia Farro. He showed no real interest in the dirt there, but he’s definitely been a better horse on turf and synthetics. He’s been mostly sprinting for the last few years, but he’s proven that he is capable at two turns. Andy Hernandez has ridden well in the limited opportunities that he’s received so far at this meet, and he gets the assignment on this horse that might try to take this group gate to wire. On the Couch (#5) is another live runner that is looking to prove that he can handle two turns on the turf. He’s a New York bred sired by Freud, so most of his career races have been in six and seven furlong turf sprints on the NYRA circuit. We went to Florida over the winter and ran a pair of credible two turn races on the Tapeta before struggling with better claimers in his last start on the turf. Duarte looks to have him well-spotted here, but he might need a race before we see his best. 

 

If this race is transferred to the dirt, I’ll try Paco Lopez’s mount, Large (#6) to try to take this group gate to wire. He’s run credible efforts on this track in the past, and I’m not sure who will remain to challenge him here. I’ll use my top turf pick, Go Poke the Bear (#10) as well on the A line. He’s not as effective on the main track as he is on grass, however, he has run races that would make him a contender should they decide to keep him in the race. Unleveraged (#12) is on the AE list on the turf, but he’d be able to go on the dirt without an issue if Darien Rodriguez wants to do so. He was a solid second at Tampa two back in an off the turf race at a similar condition. 

 

Race 8:

The headliner in this $5K starter allowance is Beverly Park (#2) who is an absolute throwback horse. We’re less than five full months into 2022 and this five year old is scheduled to make his 15th start of the year already. He’s run 14 times, winning six of those races, and finishing second in another four. He’s run races at Oaklawn, Turfway, Mahoning Valley, Laurel, Charles Town, and Keeneland so far this year. He is usually very competitive at this level and distance and the way the track was playing yesterday, should suit him just fine if that form holds up today. He has caught fast tracks at this distance six times since 2021. He has five wins in those races and one second. The second place finish was a $10K starter allowance at Keeneland where he was beaten by Baby Yoda. After a beautiful day yesterday, he should get his fast track this afternoon and report home a popular winner. Underneath and as a saver on deeper tickets, give a look to Savvy Layla (#1) on the rail. His best races are sprints, so he could be a factor while cutting back from a two turn race at Tampa in his most recent start. If the pace gets wild on the front end, he’d be the most likely candidate to mow them down late. 

 

Race 9: The $100K Get Serious Stakes:

If this race holds together, there is a lot of early speed signed on, even more than the average five furlong stakes races on grass. I would prefer the race be at 5 and ½ furlongs for Belgrano (#9), but I think he’ll get a prime setup while returning to a course that he loves. He won the first left of the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series going one mile last year when they set a ridiculous pace on the front end and he got a serious jump on the closers to dominate that field. Since then, he’s been exclusively sprinting, including a win in the Rainbow Heir Stakes on this course last season. He hit the board in his last four races at Gulfstream this year, however, this is his home turf. If they run on the turf, I’m thinking with the rain earlier in the week and the humidity in the air, the course will be labeled good, which is perfect for him. I believe he will stalk a hot pace and pass the fading speed late. Battle Station (#1) is another candidate to be rolling late in this race. He was third when making his first start in three and a half months in the King Leatherbury Stakes at Laurel last month. I expect that he can move forward off that effort while traveling here and getting a favorable setup in front of him. Yes I Am Free (#6) is the Gulfstream shipper that Emisael Jaramillo is here to ride today. He’s looking for his third straight turf sprint win. He scored in the Silks Run Stakes last time out in March and he took home top honors in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in February. There’s decent money available for a quality turf sprinter in the mid-Atlantic region over the summer, so this will be a good litmus test to see what kind of success he can find away from home. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with the horse that finished first in this race last year, The Critical Way (#4). He was later disqualified from purse money after testing positive for a banned substance when dominating this race back in June. He was very good in 2021, winning several stakes races like this. However, he returned at Tampa in a conditioned allowance and pulled up from that race and hasn’t been seen on the track since. His AM drills on the dirt are good, but this is a very tough spot to make his return from a layoff. He wants to be forwardly placed, and there are others that are just as fast as he is in the early stages, if not faster. He has the class for sure, but I don’t know how interested I’ll be in using him at short odds in this wide open race. 

 

If this race is transferred to the dirt, I’m not sure anyone would be able to catch up with Hollywood Jet (#12), breaking from the outside stall. He’d be looking to win his 8th straight race, but his first one outside the friendly confines of Parx. He did run and win by a wide margin on Tuesday over at Parx, so this would be a quick turnaround for the horse that was the winner of the Fishtown Stakes three starts back. For $100K, and a prospective small field, I think they would take the chance with him running back quickly. Yes I Am Free (#6) can handle the dirt, and I think if they brought him up from Florida, they’d run him on either surface. I’m sure he’d prefer to see Hollywood Jet stay home, but he’d be a legitimate opponent if that one does go. Sagamore Mischief (#11) is a horse for course, that would also be a horse to upgrade if Hollywood Jet didn’t make the trip up the turnpike. He was third in the Rumson Stakes here at this five furlong distance last year. He’s usually more of an on the board horse as opposed to a winning horse, meaning that he makes a ton of sense underneath. 

Meet Statistics:

Top Pick Winners 13/35 (37%) – $114.80 / $3.28 ROI

 

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