Even though summer doesn’t technically begin until June 21st, summer officially begins at the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day Weekend. Monmouth will kick off the holiday weekend with racing on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday this week, with each card beginning at 12:40 (ET). Next week we’ll move to the regular summer racing schedule with a Friday card that begins at 2:00 (ET), and the normal Saturday and Sunday programs. Monmouth offers a 12 race card with five races on the grass, including the featured 7th race, which is the $150K Cliff Hanger Stakes, featuring some up and coming runners in the older horse turf division.
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the third consecutive 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||3||3,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||7||7||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|8||8||8||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||2||2,3||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
I love going into a card and having a strong opinion in the first race of the day, and that is the case in this conditioned $5K claiming race for fillies and mares. I like R Love On the Run (#2) quite a bit in this spot, shipping in from Charles Town. She was a winner in her first race of the meet here in 2022, handily defeating a conditioned $7,500 claiming field. She hasn’t won since that race, but she has done some of her best career work on this oval. She went to the sidelines after tailing off in form over the second half of the summer. In the interim, she was privately purchased by Riquelvis Grullon, who is also the trainer. He ran her three times at Charles Town, all going the 4 and ½ furling sprint distance on the bullring track there. She showed speed in each of those races, but faded late. I don’t punish horses much for poor efforts at Charles Town, especially when they’ve shown ability elsewhere. I do like that she showed speed in those races, because she appears to be the quickest from the gate in this group. Apprentice rider Mattie Martin, who has 5 wins with 29 rides thus far in 2023, will ride at Monmouth for the first time. Perhaps Excitable Lady (#7) can put some token pressure on her, but I think she’ll have the lead to herself on a course that has been very kind to frontrunners in the first four days of this meet. I think the majority of the money will go on Lil’s Turn (#3), who is shipping in from Oaklawn and cutting back in distance, while also getting class relief. She doesn’t have much, if any, early foot though, and horses like that simply haven’t been winning on dirt up to this point in the meet. I’ll backup with Excitable Lady, but I’m comfortable using R Love On the Run as a single in the early Pick-5 sequence.
A half dozen runners are going 1 mile and 1/16 in this optional claiming/starter allowance race. I’ll call the Early Double “The History Repeats Itself” Wager”, hoping to connect with Top Gun Tommy (#3) on top. Both R Love On the Run in the first and this son of Mineshaft were winners in their first starts of the season here in 2022. He was absolutely loaded that day when making a start off a similar layoff. He was wide throughout, but still easily cleared the N1X allowance condition that afternoon. He went off form for a bit, and Kelly Breen dropped him in for a $12,500 tag at Gulfstream in February where he was a gate to wire winner going seven furlongs. Jorge Delgado, who had a pair of winners last weekend, one of which under similar circumstances (Brasstown, 5/20/23 Race 1). Coach Adams (#6) was excellent here in 2022 winning three times and finishing a close up second the other three times. Initially, things weren’t as easy outside of New Jersey for him, but he did get back on track by winning his last two starts at Oaklawn. He might have lost a step or two from his best races that he put on last year, however, he still is a horse for this course as he’s racing back in top form.
Extreme Access (#4) was no match for the Chad Brown trained Program Trading when he ran two weeks ago in maiden special weight company. Mike Dini, who has started slow in his last two seasons here, drops him in class to the $40K maiden claiming level, where he looks like he’s going to be a tough customer. He drew post ten and was wide out of the chute and three wide going into the first turn, after Rodriguez had to use him a bit in the early stages to secure a decent spot. He figures to be tough to beat in this race. I assume he’ll try to stalk the early speed of the morning line favorite, Carlin Clan (#2). He wants to be on the front end in the early stages and he’ll have no excuse of not making the lead since he’s breaking from the second stall. He’ll be on my tickets, seeing as how he’s coming out of some of the better races than the majority of the field has been running in. However, despite facing better rivals, there is a sizable Beyer and Equibase Speed Figure discrepancy between his third place effort and the second and third place finishes from Dreaming of Toga (#3) and Mister Moore (#6), who were both last seen facing $32K maiden claimers at Tampa. Mister Moore interests me a little bit more because I think there is more upside and a better price to be had. Dreaming of Toga finished ahead of him last out, however, Mister Moore did not get the best of trips that day. He closed well to be a close up third, beaten less than a length and a half. The dam has produced a winner on turf and Roy Lerman trained both winners that his sire, Threeandoh, had in turf routes. I could see him taking another decent step forward here. If you’re playing him, Dreaming of Toga likely needs to be on your tickets as well. He just missed when dropping out of maiden allowance company and into the maiden claiming ranks last time out. Samy Camacho has been red hot to start the meet and with Lopez riding out of town, there’s an opportunity for him to gain some wins and get to the top of the jockey standings.
Sweet Willemina (#3) will likely be favored in this $10K starter allowance race for fillies and mares, however, I’m a big believer in playing horses when they’re doing things that they do best. I don’t think this classy six year old mare wants to be sprinting six furlongs, and I don’t think her running style fits the track profile at the moment. If closers show they are capable of getting home in the first two dirt races, I might use her as a saver on some Pick three tickets, however, I’ll be trying to beat her with most of my wagers in this race. While Shero (#5) might not have the highest ceiling, this mare is always well-spotted and she’s a tough cookie to get by in the stretch. She is 12 for 33 in her career and has 6 wins in 12 starts at this six furlong distance. She also won her lone start on this oval, although that was her debut back in September of 2020. She may have lost a step but she is definitely getting class relief after hitting the board in some salty allowance races at Parx. I see her being tough in this spot. She’ll likely have to run down Awesome Indira (#6), who might be the speed of the speed in this race. Like we saw with Top Gun Tommy in the second race, she was claimed by Jorge Delgado and allowed to spend some time away from the track before resurfacing for this spot. She may have to overcome a bit of seconditis as she’s finished as the runner-up in her last four tries. She ran big in her last two tries in Florida and now prepares to finish the local foes for the first time. Rose E Holiday (#7) was very good at this level at Gulfstream over the winer, but she struggled when she took a steep rise in class in her latest effort. While this may not be her best distance, she ran very well here in 2022. While I prefer the top two, she’s a formidable opponent that is worthy of using on some of the multi-race plays.
After watching the first two races from Conseillante (#5), it’s hard to think that she won’t be better off sprinting on the grass. She showed a lot of speed in her first two starts at Saratoga and Gulfstream, but faded badly in the final ¼ mile. She finds a field where there are several first time starters, none of which jump off the page as must use horses. In addition, there’s a few professional maidens and a few runners trying the turf for the first time. While I’d like to try to beat this filly, it’s hard to make a strong argument for her rivals, especially when looking at the success that the Brown barn has had over the first four days of the meet. I’ll use a trio of horses on the B line in this race. Mrs. Whistler (#2) makes her 7th career start today, and her first at this 5 and ½ furlong distance on the turf. She ran three times at Gulfstream over the winter at five furlongs. She doesn’t have enough tactical speed to be consistently successful in those kinds of races, especially on a course like Gulfstream, which tends to favor horses that lay closer to the front end in those sprint races. I do see the added distance as being a plus for her, as her best career effort came at this distance on Tapeta last summer. Paco Lopez rode her in her last two starts, but he’ll be riding at Delaware this afternoon so he can ride Morning Matcha in the Obeah Stakes. However, Jorge Vargas is a capable replacement. I’ll also cover with a pair of first time starters that look like they could be productive runners. Notable Queen (#4) is sired by Lord Nelson, out of the dam, Sliced Bread. She foaled the multiple graded stakes winning dirt sprinter, Kanthaka, who was also graded stakes placed in turf sprints. Jose Camejo, doesn’t have great numbers with debut runners, and none of her three foals to race were winners on debut. I think she’s one to watch out for next time, but she can’t be counted out here. Party Is Over (#9) is a Colts Neck homebred making her career debut here. Her dam was unraced, but she was foaled by Social Queen, who was a three time winner on the Monmouth Park turf course, all in two turn races. I suspect she’ll be better at two turns as well, however, the affinity for this course is there in the bloodlines, and this barn is definitely capable of winning with firsters.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $48 Ticket:
I like this sequence today, especially since I’m going to be singled to a horse that is 8-1 on the morning line in the first leg. R Love On the Run (#2, R1) has the best early foot in that race and she’s returning to a track where she has run well. I think she can wire this group, especially with the lack of speed from the morning line favorite in that race. I’ll start skinny, and fan out in the back end of the ticket, going four deep in both turf races. I think both Top Gun Tommy (#3, 4-1 ML) and Mister Moore (#6, R3 8-1 ML) are interesting value plays. While 4-1 doesn’t feel like a huge number, Top Gun Tommy is the 4th choice on the morning line in that race, which as a result, could add value to the ticket.
Barring a major reversal of form, there’s four of the seven that are viable win options in my opinion. I landed on Princess Lean (#2) on top, making her first start since being overmatched against a better group at Parx in March. She ran well here last season in her two dirt starts as a maiden. She went to the sidelines in July and returned in a $10K maiden claimer in February. She wasn’t the best version of herself that day, but she was good enough to graduate from the maiden ranks. She didn’t show much speed last time out, but she was passing some runners late in a race where the winner was much the best. I think she’ll be closer to the front end today and the return to Monmouth may be enough to make the difference. Parisian Vibe (#1) is the one to beat in this spot, dropping in class after a failed run on the turf. Her only off the board finish on dirt came two starts ago at Gulfstream when facing a solid group of Florida bred fillies and mares in a state bred N1X allowance race. This is a significant drop in class, and while it might not be a “red flag” kind of drop, it is enough to at least raise a few eyebrows. Jorge Delgado has brought several runners up from Florida, and many of them have been live runners. Her full brother made his debut here last weekend, but had a rough trip while finishing off the board. Binoche (#6) comes here from Tampa after finishing third in an open $16K claiming race for just three year olds. She faces older rivals today for the first time, and she does so at a lesser claiming price. Deciding how these races stack up is a bit of a tricky proposition. The 9-2 morning line price might be a tad light, however Delgado’s numbers off this type of a layoff may make it justified. Angelic Gal (#7) is the second choice on the morning line, but she’s a bit of a wild card in this spot. Her last three races on the Tapeta at Gulfstream were solid. She hasn’t shown her trademark early speed in her last few starts though. She has one really good effort and four subpar tries in her five career starts on traditional dirt. I don’t love the 5-2 price, but I do think she’s worth covering, in part because of her running style and in part because of her capability to run a big race.
Race 7, The $100K Cliff Hanger Stakes:
The Jersey Shore 6 wager starts in the featured stakes race today, which drew a field of seven four and five year old horses. This race is one of the races that Monmouth has adopted from the Meadowlands when they transitioned away from thoroughbred racing several years ago. It has since lost its Grade 3 status, but I like the field that has been assembled for this race today. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is, “will they able to catch Big Everest (#7) here?” Christophe Clement has this five year old firing on all cylinders at the moment, winning his last three and five of his last six. His last two tries came in stakes company at Aqueduct. His lone loss in this stretch came on a day where he was drawn wide and was unable to make the early lead. I think there’s some runners that could put some token pressure on him, but unless he is flat-footed out of the gate, I think he’ll get a relatively easy early lead. That should put a lot of pressure on the other shorter prices, Smokin’ T (#2) and Public Sector (#6). I think he has the pace and the class edge over those runners in this spot. Of those two, Smokin’ T would be the one that I’d back up with. I think as a four year old, he is continuing to improve. He has yet to get a victory when racing in stakes company though. Public Sector on the other hand was very flat last year. He was a multiple graded stakes winner at three, but he didn’t win a lick last year. This is a bit of class relief for him, but even with the success that the Brown barn has had over the first few weeks of this meet, I’d prefer to watch this race from him this time before making an investment. If someone does step up to beat Big Everest, I think James Aloysius (#1) could be the one. He’s a lightly raced four year old making his 5th career start and his first in stakes company. He’s got a string of improving speed figures, and I thought his effort in N2X allowance company at Keeneland last month was better than it looks on paper. He pushed an aggressive pace, while going wide on each turn. The winner came from over the top to score, but I thought he was very game to come within a length of winning that race. This is a deeper field, but I like that he’s never finished worse than second in all four starts and I do think he has another forward move in him.
The Late Pick-5 begins with a conditioned $50K-$40K claiming race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. This race is open to any three year old filly and any older filly or mare that has only won once. I often favor three year olds that have more than one win in races like this and that is the case with the morning line favorite, Unified Alliance (#8). She has won twice in her five career starts, with both victories coming in wire to wire efforts at Parx. She cleared the N1X condition in April and tried stakes company at Aqueduct in her most recent start. She finished last of four in the Memories of Silver Stakes that was taken off the turf. I can forgive that effort as the course was very sloppy that day. I don’t love seeing her in for a $50K tag, however, there’s not a ton of options for a three year old filly that has cleared the N1X allowance condition. She’s probably not good enough to face older fillies and mares in N2X company and she’s probably not a stakes caliber filly at this point. She cost $60K and she’s earned $81K on the track. If she’s claimed for $50K and she wins, she’ll certainly prove to be a profitable investment for her connections. Sirsten (#2) feels like the most logical alternative in this spot. Last year’s leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez, is off to a slow 1 for 16 start to this meet. However, it’s not like his horses are running poorly, as 9 other horses in that small sample size finished in the money. The seven furlong trip along with the facing Florida bred allowance runners likely worked against her last time out. In her three starts prior to that she had a win and two seconds, so the ability is likely there.
There’s a lot of early speed signed on in this optional claiming/N2X allowance race, and several horses that run their best races when they’re leading. That should set the table nicely for Catnip (#2) who was an impressive NX allowance winner at Keeneland last month. He was wide on both turns, but was absolutely loaded in that race, getting up in the shadow of the wire against a solid field. He’s been working well at Fair Hill for Michael Stidham, who has excellent numbers with horses in their second race off the layoff. Being able to come from off a relatively moderate pace was a new wrinkle in his development. While it isn’t easy to pass through conditions in consecutive races, I think he’s up to the task. Dominate Themoment (#3) was an impressive N1X winner on this course last summer, crushing a good field on Haskell Day. He was overmatched in his subsequent starts at this level here and at Aqueduct. He dropped into claiming company at Gulfstream, and was a winner in his most recent try. He moves back up in class and he’ll have to prove that he can run two big races in consecutive starts, but he looks like another runner that could get the right kind of trip in this race. Clear Vision (#5) is the one that I’ll back up with, primarily because of Roy Falcone’s record with horses that are running for him for the first time and his numbers with runners off layoffs. He was a Grade 3 winner in January of 2022, winning near the front end at Gulfstream. He’s run in five consecutive races where the early pace was aggressive, and he’s struggled in all of them. With Harpoon Harry (#1) drawn on the rail and There Are No Words (#8) in the outside stall, the pace figures to be hot and heavy for him once again. This will be the softest field that he’s faced in a while though, so I do think there’s a chance that he’ll be able to adapt here.
There’s not a lot of speed signed on in the state bred allowance route for fillies and mares, but I also don’t trust the favorite, Midnight Heiress (#5). She has struggled to finish her races, especially her two turn tries. I’ll cover with her because this is not a very deep group, however at short odds, she doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m also a bit weary of Precious Avary (#3). She has been facing tougher company in Pennsylvania, but she seems to be mired in a good race, bad race pattern, so this could be a race where she’s less than her best. That leaves Bikini Baby (#4) as my choice by default in this race, since it’s hard to make a case for the other four runners. She’s been putting forth quality efforts at Tampa on the grass with open allowance company. She gets some class relief while racing for a purse that is $50K better than she was competing for last month. Her dirt form wasn’t terrible last year, as she broke her maiden at six furlongs in July and followed up that effort with a third place try at a similar level. She doesn’t have a ton of early foot, but she showed interest that day in a race where there was little early speed to contend with. I think she’ll be closer to the pace than she has been on the grass, which should allow her to be in a prime position. I expect her to be finishing better than the other pair.
The final turf race of the afternoon is a wide open $16K-$14K maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. Amalfi Lady (#10) is an interesting longshot in this race for Juan Avila, making her first start on the turf. She’s a pedigree play for me here after a career top effort going seven furlongs on the main track in her most recent start. Her dam is Lady Hester, who was competitive in synthetic races overseas before coming to the States. She finished in the money in maiden allowance races at Saratoga and Keeneland, and ended her career with a win on the dirt at Indiana Grand. Her dam was the Grade 1 winning mare, Questing, who also won races overseas on grass. After a series of sprints, she moves to a route for the first time and won’t have to improve much from her last to be competitive with this level. Mo Town Annie (#11) is the lone also-eligible runner in the field, coming off a strong win in her first race on turf at the beginning of the month at Tampa. She makes her first start since joining Mike Dini’s barn, and he has a decent track record with new acquisitions. She’s a must use in this race if she does get the chance to compete. Fancy Like (#8) has one start, which came here in her debut last June. She resurfaces after almost a year away from the races for John Stephens. She drops in class, which makes sense after faltering with $40K maiden claimers in her first try. The race she was in was one of the deeper races at that condition last season, where the winner and runner-up came back to win in their subsequent starts. 4 of the other 5 starters from that race went on to break their maidens at a lower class level last year. I’d like her better after seeing a race from her off the bench, but I think this field is soft enough to play her today. Dixie Groove (#3) is one of the shorter prices in the field and she definitely fits from a figures standpoint. She’s never run a winning race, but she’s often close. Her dam is one of only three dams in this field to have produced a winner on the turf. Her synthetic efforts are solid and she matched her top career Beyer Figure on the turf in her one career grass start.
Space Odyssey (#7) feels like the one to beat in this time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claiming race that will wrap up the afternoon of racing at the Jersey Shore. Lindsay Schultz claimed him after a nine furlong victory at Oaklawn last month. He has a pair of wins and a pair of second place finishes in five starts at their recently concluded meet in Arkansas. Schultz has proven to be quite a capable trainer, winning with 28% of her starters thus far in 2023. She’s hit with 15% of her claimers in their first starts for her. Corkman (#3) feels like the best alternative in this spot. He’s struggled in his first two starts of the year at Aqueduct, going a one turn mile in both of those races. His two turn form there last season was strong though. Winning at Aqueduct and finishing third at Saratoga. This is a significant drop in class, so if he’s going to return to form, this feels like the spot where he’ll do it.
Top Pick Winners: 11/37 (29.7%) – $74.40/ $2.01 ROI
Despite excellent weather, turf racing was canceled on Sunday’s program. As a result the 6th and 8th races were contested on the main track. Speed continued to be a valuable weapon, as seven of the ten winners on the afternoon were either on the lead or less than a length behind the pacesetter at the first call. Chad Brown’s Justice Department was the only horse that won a race that wasn’t leading at the top of the stretch. He broke his maiden in the first race of the afternoon, and while he did beat a professional maiden in that race, I’m curious as to what this Gun Runner gelding will do for an encore.
Speaking is a talented four year old New Jersey bred that won the featured John J. Reilly Handicap on Sunday. That gave him his third career stakes win on this oval in the third consecutive season. He almost won the Sunny Ridge Handicap at one mile last year, so that may be on his radar for his next start, despite the fact that he is probably better as a sprinter. Regardless, he is one of the top Jersey bred runners in training and is capable of winning races at the open level as well.