Monmouth Park Racing Preview – 5/29/23 – By Eric Solomon

The Memorial Day Program at Monmouth is a 10 race card that is highlighted by the Mr. Prospector Stakes. Last year’s winner, Drafted, is back to defend his title against seven other rivals in the featured 8th race. The 9th race kicks off the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series. This is a four race series of grass races for horses that have started for a claiming tag in 2022-2023. The distance starts out at a mile in the first leg, and progressively gets longer, with the final leg going 1 mile and ⅜ toward the end of the summer. There’s several trainer and owner bonuses tied into these races, and they’re usually extremely competitive. This year is no different as 13 horses are entered in this wide open contest. First post is 12:40 (ET) this afternoon. 


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
1 5 3,4,5 2 DBL, PK5
2 3 1,3 4 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 5 5,6 1,2 DBL, PK3
4 2 2 6 DBL, PK3
5 7 6,7 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 8 1,7,8 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 3 3,6 8,9 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 4 4,6 1 DBL, PK3
9 1 1,7 2,4 DBL
10 2 2 6


Race 1:

All the odd numbered races on the program are going to be run over the turf course, and this New Jersey Bred maiden special weight race for fillies and mares at one mile will kick things off. This is a tough first race of the afternoon where there’s not much in the way of pedigree to go off for the turf. I’d want to cover as many as possible here, because even the longer prices that I’m struggling to make a case for, certainly could step up and run well on the grass. I made Fair and True (#5) my top pick. She didn’t show much in her first three starts on the dirt as a two year old, however, she looked like a much better horse once she got on the grass at the Meadowlands. She makes her first start of the year, and I’d prefer to see her sprint one time before going two turns, however, you have to take what the condition book gives you, especially in these state bred races. Chuck Spina’s horses have been live to start off the meet, so I feel she’s worth the shot. Joy and Prosperity (#3) makes her first start of the year after a respectable debut at this level at the Meadowlands last season. She didn’t have the smoothest start, but she was only a length behind both Te Amo (#2) and Postino’s Prophecy (#4), both of which are back today as well. While Kent Sweezy doesn’t have great numbers with new acquisitions and with runners coming off longer layoffs, she has more upside than some of the others. Jorge Vargas is coming off a two win day yesterday, and he’ll get the assignment here. Postino’s Prophecy was quite the money burner toward the end of her three year old campaign. She was well bet in her last three starts where she finished in the money, but couldn’t seal the deal. With the lack of depth in this state bred division, I don’t think she’ll be a maiden much longer, but she might need this race before she’s at her best. Te Amo is one that I’ll cover with on deeper tickets. She’ll add Lasix for her first start of the year and she’ll have the honor of starting in the stall next to her half-sister, Singleberylbourbon (#1). Like many of the others, she’ll be making her first start of the year today. Her last two route races on grass weren’t bad, and she certainly could step up as a new four year old. 


Race 2:

A half dozen conditioned $5K claimers will go six furlongs in the first dirt race of the day. I’m going to play against the morning line favorite, The Big Bluff (#5) and Paco Lopez. He was at his best when he was able to lay closer to the pace. At six years old, he seems to have lost some of that early zip. He’s been far off the pace in his last three starts on fast tracks, and that style has not been successful so far at this meet. I think there could be a pace battle between R King Kong (#1) and Mr. Extension (#4). Both horses seem to be intent on making the lead, which could set things up for a horse that can press the pace. I’ll try Golovkin (#3) to stalk and pounce in this race, while cutting back in distance. He was dull at seven furlongs last out when facing a better group of open $6,250 claimers at Tampa. John Pimental, who re-claimed this horse back in March, brings him to the Jersey Shore for the first time. He’s the kind of horse that runs his race on any surface, having a win on turf, dirt, and synthetic, all around the same top Beyer Speed Figure. R King Kong returned after a lengthy absence last month at Tampa, easily winning an $8K N3L claiming race in gate to wire fashion. He has four career starts and three wins, which is an unusual stat for a horse in this kind of claiming race. I don’t think he’s the same horse that earned an 86 Beyer Figure back in November of 2021, otherwise I think we’d see him in a N1X allowance race. However, I do think he has the speed and ability to wire this group. Mr. Extension was a handy winner here two weeks ago, but he has struggled to put together two good races in a row. He does like racing here, hitting the board in four of five career tries on this oval. I’m not sure he’ll be able to put away R King Kong as easily as he put away his rivals last out, but his style fits the track profile and I like the strategy to try and strike while the iron is hot. 


Race 3:

Chad Brown has a duo in this maiden special weight race on turf and both are likely to take money, I’ll be using both, but I’m going to try Bombarella (#5) on top in her grass debut for Kent Sweezy. She debuted on the Tapeta at Gulfstream last month and finished 7th in what was a fast race for that condition. She is sired by Hit It a Bomb, who was the winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His offspring have won 10% of their starts in turf routes, so there’s reason to believe that she will improve in her second try. Jose Gomez, who rode La Pachanga (#6) to a second place finish two weeks ago, ends up here, which is a little interesting. Perhaps La Pachanga was a late addition to this field, and Gomez decided to honor a prior commitment to Sweezy. La Pachanga runs for Shug McGaughey, and definitely has a better pedigree, so Jorge Vargas getting the mount is a little bit of a surprise. Shug’s filly was good here in her second career start on the turf and her 4th career try overall last time. She’s a half to Olympiad, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was second to Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. The dam, Tokyo Time, was best on the turf, but her best runners have come on the main track. I still think this filly has plenty of upside, and is a major player in this race. Skyview Drive (#1) and Monetize It (#2) are the two that are coming from Chad Brown. Monetize It ran as a part of an entry for Brown at Aqueduct last month, and while they went off at 3-5, she was definitely the weaker half of that duo. She still ran huge, finishing a game third, ironically beaten by the number five horse (Tryinmyheartout), who was trying the turf for the first time and ridden by Jose Gomez. Samy Camacho rides first call for Chad Brown at Monmouth, and he ends up here. Skyview Drive improved in her three tries at Tampa over the winter, coming up just a bit short each time. She fits at this level, but I do worry about her as the favorite, as she doesn’t seem to have the best closing kick at the end of her races. 


Race 4:

This open $30K-$25K claiming race is all about Scar (#2) and Jeremy Rose for me. He was in a good groove in the fall and early winter last year before going to the sidelines for about four months. He returned at Parx where he was a bit flat that day. He typically needs a start before he’s at his best, so I do expect him to slide right back into his better form in this race. I have some questions about the ability of Styner (#1) and Smokey Harbor (#6) to hold on in the final furlong at this level. I think he can sit the perfect stalking trip and make his move on the turn with this group. Smokey Harbor will be where I back myself up in this spot. He;s shipping in from the Fair Grounds and moving up the class ladder after a strong front running victory there in March. The pace was solid and he was still able to hold on that day. I like the Camejo gave him a little extra time and I like seeing Jorge Urdaneta get the return call.


Race 5:

$20K-$16K N3L claimers are set to go 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf in the final leg of the Win-Early Pick-5. I’m going to wager that the last start from Magical Marriage (#7) was an aberration and that he’ll return to form back in his home course and with softer competition. He was an upset winner in N1X company on this weekend last year, coming to town off a similar race pattern. He tried the N2X level twice, but wasn’t competitive at that level. He ran much better when dropping back in for a tag at the end of the 2022 meet. He’s run twice since at Delaware and Gulfstream, finishing off the board both times. I think he’ll be able to stalk a moderate pace and maybe get the jump on the favorite, The Peninsula (#6). He’s come to life in his last two starts since being claimed by Jorge Delgado. He was flying late in both of those races. There’s not a ton of speed here, but he’ll have the advantage of getting Paco Lopez in the irons, who certainly is one of the better judges of pace on the grounds. He’s the main danger in this field.


WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $48 Ticket:

Scar (#2, R4) is going to be the key to this sequence this afternoon for me. I think he makes a ton of sense in the 4th race, and singling him there allows me to get some more coverage in the early legs, which feel more wide open to me. There was a bomb in the first leg of yesterday’s wager that led to a payout of almost $800 with the next four winners paying less than $9.00 a piece and two of them going off as huge favorites. I do see the first race as an absolutely wide open race once again, so I may consider paring down in the other legs in order to punch the ALL button in that race. 


Race 6:

Paco Lopez had another three winners on yesterday’s program, and it’s become apparent that he’s going to get his wins, however, as a result, many of his mounts are getting overbet. That’s the scenario I’m hoping for in the N1X allowance sprint. Lopez rides Live Is Life (#3) for Jorge Delgado, who is off to a strong start at this meet. This is a good horse that usually gets close, but he doesn’t feel like a win candidate to me. I’ll try to start off the Late Pick-5 by going three deep, using Couth (#8) on top. He was claimed after a strong effort to win a $30K maiden claiming race at Keeneland last month, doing so quite easily. Carlos David claimed him out of that race and his numbers with runners first off the claim and very good. He’s moving up in class, but I think he fits well with this group if he can run back to that last race for his new barn. Mr. Swagger (#7) was excellent at this distance in his debut at Aqueduct three starts ago. His effort was good enough for him to go directly to the Gotham Stakes, which didn;t really go his way. He tried two turns for the first time in the Wood Memorial where he offered nothing. This is a needed drop after chasing the Derby dreams with this one. I do worry about horses that go in those Derby prep races where they feel like they are overmatched. Sometimes those kinds of horses tend to struggle on the drop. Juan Avila has been red hot this weekend, so I do see a horse like this as one that needs to be included on your tickets. Notah (#1) struggled at this level against a sharper field at Keeneland last month. He was cutting back after a failed effort when facing Kingsbarns in his first start against winners. He was very good three back when breaking his maiden at Tampa, and the addition of blinkers feels like a good move, especially with a rail draw. 


Race 7:

A full field of 12, plus one AE are entered in this $16K-$14K N2L claiming race at 5 and ½ furlongs on the grass. Reckless Place (#3) has been competitive in both career turf sprints, both of which came on this course and distance. She showed a little bit of interest on the Tapeta last out when making her first start since April. She’s now second off the layoff for Patrick McBurney, who had his first winner of the meet yesterday in the nightcap, a horse that paide over $50 for his score. Flatter Me (#6) looms as the main danger in this race. He’s been getting close with similar kinds of fields, but is having trouble getting over that hump.His two grass races on this oval have been strong, so I do see some upward potential, despite the speed figures being a bit stagnant lately. Fitts (#9) feels like an under the radar longshot in this race. He’s never sprinted on the turf, but he has the pedigree to do so. He has been an improved horse since being purchased by Manuel Berrios, and now he’ll be making his first start since September today. Drama’s Player (#8) has proven to be the best gate horse in the field on dirt, and now she’ll try to take her talents to turf. Her form has been up and down, but when she’s right, she can be very dangerous. 


Race 8, The $100K Mr. Prospector Stakes:

The feature today is a six furlong sprint that features Drafted (#1), who was the winner of this race last year. This nine year old gelding is a closing sprinter that had the dream setup last year, as there were several need the lead types that dueled hard early on, allowing for him to come over the top with his last rally. He’s a multiple graded stakes winner, following a similar racing pattern to last year. The main track has been kind to front end speed all meet long, but it has started to play a little more evenly. For me, he’s still a backup play in this race, because I do wonder if he’s lost a step, and I’m not sure he’s going to get the great setup he did last time. That being said, if he is completely ignored in the wagering like he was last year when he went off at 5-1, I’d be more inclined to take a bigger chance with him. My top pick is a horse for course, looking to rebound after a terrible meet at Tampa. Feast (#4) was a beast here last year, winning four of five last season. He was not able to maintain his form at Delaware once this meet ended. He did run a big race at Gulfstream on the Tapeta in December, but his last three tries at Tampa were awful. That track can be tricky there and some horses just don’t like it. He has a nice work since returning to Monmouth, and he showed last year when winning the Rumson that he can be quick to hit his best stride after breaking from the gate. Stage Left (#6) is a horse that has improved since joining David Jacobsen’s barn. He ran a huge race to win the King Leatherbury Stakes at Laurel last month, a race that was taken off the turf. He came back to run third two weeks later in the Grade 3 Runhappy Stakes at Belmont. He’ll be making his 4th start in 40 days, which does feel a bit ambitious. However, I’m not sold on some of the other horses in this race.


Race 9:

The first leg of the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series is a one mile turf event that drew a field of 13. The rail is at 0, so all 13 runners will be able to participate. I’m going to try another horse that was really good here in 2022, and make  Comedic Timing (#1) my top pick. He was a part of one of my better hits and one of my worst beats here last year. However, he ran four really good races on turf, three of which came here. He cleared the N1X condition in August after a pair of races where he had less than ideal trips, but still kept fighting. He just missed at Delaware after this meet wrapped up and he ended his season finishing a beaten third in an off the turf starter allowance race. He may need this first race off the layoff, but I love the effort this horse gives every time. He’s not afraid to come through an opening on the rail, so if he can rate off the front runners from his rail draw, my hope is that he’ll be sneaking through, getting the jump on some horses that might have go wide off the turn. Tampa Bay Downs runs a series of races that is very similar to this series and both Sandy Lane Kitten (#2) and Initforthelove (#7) were participants. Initforlove is definitely the better runner at this point, as he won the last two legs of their series. Those races were contested at nine and eleven furlongs, respectively. He’s definitely a horse to consider at those longer races later on in the summer, and typically this is the kind of horse that I try to beat in a race like this. However, he does have a good record at this one mile distance, and you can’t argue with his current form. Sandy Lane Kitten is an eight year old that always runs hard. He wasn’t quite good enough to win these races at Tampa, but he was in the hunt. He’s drawn well for the race that he wants to run and he ran well in the area last year. This will be his first start on the Monmouth turf and he’ll get Jorge Vargas, who has had a very nice weekend here, to ride. Uncle Curly (#4) finished in the money in two of these races last season here. He cleared the N1X condition at the Meadowlands back in October and most recently was seen finishing 5th against open claimers at Gulfstream. Peter Walder gave him some time off and now he hits the reset button to start his 2023 campaign. Looking at how well he ran here last year, I’d think that all four of these races are on his agenda, assuming he stays healthy. Paco Lopez keeps the mount for a barn that has good numbers with runners coming off the bench. 


Race 10:

The Monday nightcap is $20K-$18K N3L claiming race for fillies and mares at six furlongs. This race is all about The Sweaty Fox (#2) for me. Both Cupids Payday (#1) and Coal Mine (#6) are coming out of the same race, where they were beaten by a runaway winner. Their figures are definitely inflated from that effort, but both are cutting back to six furlongs, while dropping in class a bit. Neither have one turn figures that stack up with The Sweaty Fox, and the same could be said for Skerrett (#5), who has been competitive in some slower races at Parx. I don’t think anyone can go with The Sweaty Fox in the early stages here. She was primarily a turf runner before showing that she might be more effective on the main track at Tampa this year. She is looking for her third straight win on the main track and I think she is well-spotted to do so. She is the 4th choice in the wagering on the morning line, and If the public is bullish on Cupids Payday and Coal Mine off that last race, I think there’s a ton of value on her at or around her 4-1 morning line figure. Coal Mine is where I’ll back up here. She was really good at Delaware as a two year old, but her form did not translate to Laurel over the winter. Her last race was more competitive, so perhaps it’s just an issue with the track in Maryland. 


Meet Statistics/Notes:

Top Pick Winners: 19/57 (33.3%) – $133.00/ $2.33 ROI


It was another strong afternoon of racing at Monmouth Park as the card was bookended with huge longshot winners. There were also some winners that offered strong value throughout the program. Grooms All Bizness may have offered the best value of the day, going off at 5.5-1 in the 9th race on Sunday, which was an optional claiming/N2X allowance race going 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. I am a big believer that there is a huge difference between 5 furlong turf sprints and 5 and ½ furlong turf sprints, especially at Monmouth, and this race definitely supports that theory. Mamba on Three had the best speed figures in the rest and had Paco Lopez riding. However, his form at 5 and ½ furlongs paled in comparison to his 5 furlong form. He was hammered at the windows, being bet down from 5-2 on the morning line to a ridiculously low 3-5. Longshot, Just Jeremy, who was 10-1 on the morning line but went off at crazy high odds of 50-1, was better at the break and Mamba on Three was chasing the whole way. Grooms All Bizness was wide, but he got by the frontrunner and was definitely the best horse in the race. I didn’t give out Just Jeremy, however I also didn’t anticipate his odds going so high. He ran very well at 5 and ½ and 6 furlongs on turf last year. Whenever he runs again, I don’t see him being at such high odds, even if he does try stakes company. He could be a horse to keep an eye on in some turf sprints as the meet rolls on. 


The featured race was the $100K Miss Liberty Stakes where Todd Pletcher sent out the heavy 2-5 favorite, Scottish Star. She had everything her own way on the front end as none of the longshots showed any interest in trying to quicken the early pace. Spirit and Glory tracked and got through along the rail with a heads up rider by Nik Juarez. She is an improving four year old that could have her eyes on graded stakes contests like the Eatontown next month and the Matchmaker in July. There was really no excuse for Scottish Star who had every chance to battle back and take home the trophy. The winner was just the better runner today.

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