The Memorial Day Weekend wraps up with an 11 race card at the Jersey Shore. There was a huge crowd on hand for a gorgeous day of racing yesterday, where Isaac Castillo put on a riding clinic. He won five races on the program, including the Jersey Derby aboard Fuerteventura. Today’s featured race is the $100K Miss Liberty Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf. Vigilantes Way was a two time stakes winner on this course, winning both this race and the Grade 3 Eatontown in 2021. She takes on seven other rivals in that race, which is the 9th on today’s program. Keep in mind that Friday racing starts this week with an eight race card, starting at 2:00 ET this year. The $2K Pick Your Prize Handicapping Tournament is also hosted on site and online (hybrid format) next Saturday, June 4th. Seats for the NHC, BCBC, along with other cash prizes are up for grabs in one of the more unique tournaments in the country.
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||5||5,7||6||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|6||4||4||1||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|7||4||4,8||6,9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|8||6||3,6,8||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off on the grass with an open $12,500-$10,500 claimer for fillies and mares. Twisted Treasure (#7) comes in from Tampa riding high on a two race win streak where she defeated restricted claimers on the grass. She broke her maiden on this course last year, beating $16K-$14K maiden claimers back in June. Elione Chaves follows her up from Florida to ride here, for what I believe will be the first time riding at Monmouth. Kitten With a Whip (#2) is the morning line favorite and the logical main contender in this race. She’s been facing better in her last two starts after securing a victory at a similar level two starts ago. She’s bred for the turf and is the class of this field. However, she will likely be a very short price, so the value will be limited at best.
Five of the seven entered in this $10K maiden claiming race already have run once at the current meet. Three of them, El Mic Tiesun (#2), Not a Postino (#5), and Marisco (#7) caught a sloppy course when facing each other at this level on 5/14. All three had varying degrees of excuses as to why they didn’t win, and I think all three are very logical in this spot today. Not a Postino finished 5th, beaten by the other two, but I think he’s in the right spot to rebound today. There was a three way duel going on up front, and he was the widest of all. He tired late when making his first start since October. From a speed figure perspective, that race was a cut below his efforts in 2021. I think he can move forward in a shorter race where there doesn’t appear to be as much early speed signed on. Marisco hopped at the break and found himself in behind the dueling leaders, taking a lot of mud to the face. He ran on to be third, but was no match for the winner. He’s progressing nicely, and his trainer, Jose Delgado, is off to a hot start at the meet. El Mic Tiesun also had some trouble getting away cleanly from the gate that day. He was at the back of the pack, but did come running late to get into second. He’s in a higher percentage barn from when he was a regular at the Fair Grounds. Consistency has been an issue for this maiden making start number 13, so running for a more consistent barn could help. I feel he often leaves himself too much work to do though, and cutting back to 5 and ½ furlongs doesn’t feel like the answer. I’ll cover with him on the deepest tickets, but I think he’s better suited to the bottom of the vertical exotics. Perhaps being influenced by yesterday’s results, I’ll throw in the bomb, Pesky Valeski (#6) on the B line here. His debut at Tampa was poor, but at this level, I’m willing to forgive a bad first try. His works since that race are better those I’ve seen from Wine Time (#3), who is the other runner that hasn’t run at the meet. Wine Time is 3-1 on the morning line, likely because it’s Paco Lopez riding. Pesky Valeski is 20-1 for a trainer, Pompeyo Gomez, who won a race on Saturday with this rider, Jorge Gonzalez. There seems to be better value on the bomb, so this feels like a race where we can take a shot.
This is a tricky and evenly matched six horse field where four of the six are entered with the $40K tag and the other two are entered under the $40K starter allowance condition. I ended up on Lanfrankophile (#4) with Paco Lopez riding for Bonnie Lucas. She won a race at a similar condition three starts ago at Aqueduct, She ran here in N1X allowance company two weeks ago and finished a distant third. I think Lopez will have her in the perfect striking spot, just off the cheap speed in here. Tindari (#5) has the least experience of anyone in this field, winning her only start when beating $16K maiden claimers at Tampa last month. I do like that she won her race going seven furlongs, despite the fact that she clearly didn’t beat too much that day. I could see her taking a step forward in this spot. Acaciahelpme (#3) is the morning line favorite and one that I’ll use as a saver in this race. I think she’s more effective going slightly further than this race, however, I think there could be a contested pace battle between Sassy Like Julia (#1), Always Mia (#2), and Amore Fire (#6), which could help her cause. I do think all three of the runners above could be playable underneath in vertical exotics, I don’t trust any of them to hang on for the win.
We continue on the main track with a time restricted $8K-$7K for fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs. While I don’t love trying to single in cheaper claiming races, I think Probably Grace (#2) has a big shot in here. She faced a considerably tougher field of male horses at this same condition in the slop two weeks ago and finished 6th. That race is a total toss for me, as in addition to struggling to get over the track and facing a stronger group, she was also impeded at the start. She stays at this level, but gets class relief. Angel Rodriguez continues to ride well at the meet, and Jose Delgado is winning at a high percentage to start off this season. I’ll opt to take a stand here because I have my doubts about many of the other main contenders.
$30K-$25K maiden claimers sprint five furlongs on the turf here. Even though the race is carded for fillies and mares, three and up, all of the runners are three year old fillies. I think this race runs through Office Etiquette (#2) John Stephens. She lost to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Pizza Bianca in her first turf start going two turns at Saratoga last summer. Stephens cut her back to a sprint a few weeks later, and she ran a better race. He’s trying the same type of move here after running her in a nine furlong race that was taken off the turf at Belmont eleven days ago. She finished third, but was well beaten in that race. She cuts back to a much shorter race where she has shown the ability to be forwardly placed. Historically, when the rails are out at 36 feet here, horses that are closer to the front end tend to have more success. Santafe Express (#4) tries the turf for the first time today for Susan Crowell. She ran a strong race on the dirt three back at Parx, but hasn’t been as sharp in her last two. She’s sired by Connect out of a Hard Spun mare, so there’s reason to believe that she could take to the turf. The same could be said for second time starter, Playalinda (#6), who debuted on the dirt at Tampa last month with $40K maiden claimers. She’s sired by Treasure Beach, who did his best work on the lawn. She’s worked well over the dirt since shipping here, so she seems to be right at home.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5 Play:
This wager continues to pay well throughout the first month of racing at Monmouth Park. Yesterday’s winning ticket paid over $2K, in a sequence that became more challenging once our single scratched out of the second race. Today, I’m going to build a modest ticket around Probably Grace (#2, R4). I think she is better than most of the field and the horses that should be her main competition, have some serious question marks. I think there are several vulnerable horses in this sequence at shorter odds, and those have been the kinds of races that have been triggering these larger payouts.
We have a seven horse conditioned $5K claimer for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. This race feels like it’s going to very formful, with Princess Betty (#4) being the deserving favorite. She’s coming off a third place finish with open $6,250 claimers at Gulfstream when going a one turn mile last month. She has never gone two turns on the main track, so that is a bit of a question mark. However, she has gone two turns on the turf, and her form remained the same in those races. She likes to be forwardly placed and she finds a race with very little early speed. I’d be comfortable using her as a short priced single, but I will back up on some tickets with the second choice, Road Test (#1). She is making her third start off the layoff, so whatever this eight year old mare has left in the tank at this point in her career, we’re likely going to see it here. She doesn’t have much early speed, which is not ideal with this field where there aren’t many that are interested in being on the lead. She’s better than most of these, but I’m not sure she’s good enough right now to beat the favorite.
The Late Pick-5 starts with a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race going five furlongs on the grass. Abe Honestly (#4) ran one monster race on this course last year to break his maiden in a race where the other prime contenders were scratched. This is probably the softest field he’s seen since that race. He’s never come close to running another effort like that since, but he is taking a significant drop in class and that might be enough to turn things around for him. Karnak (#8) is the one to beat in this race, making his third start off the layoff for Arnaud Delacour. He was overmatched in his first two races off the bench, facing much deeper fields at Gulfstream and Belmont. He beat both Abe Honestly and Beach Warrior (#6) when breaking his maiden last year at Tampa. On deeper tickets, Beach Warrior and Red Mule (#9) would be the two I’d use as savers. Beach Warrior is making his second start of the year, while getting back on the grass. His last race seemed like a race to get him ready for a grass campaign over the summer and fall here in New Jersey. His ceiling isn’t as high as the top two, but he is a four year old, so there’s a chance that he could be better this year than last. Red Mule needs help to get in, and if he does, he’s more likely to finish second or third than he is to win. He’s hit the board in 14 of 25 career starts, but only one of those in the finishes was a win. 4-1 is a little light for a horse that struggles to win, but he definitely fits from a speed figure perspective.
New Jersey breds sprint six furlongs in this maiden special weight that kicks off the Late Pick-4 wager. The question for this race is what to do with a horse like Pogi (#2), who is the lukewarm morning line favorite. He burned a lot of popular money last summer, finishing second five times and third once in seven starts. Three of those second place finishes came when he was bet down to the 2-5 favorite. He weakened late to finish 4th in his first start in 2022. That was his first off the board finish on dirt in his career. He’s one that I’d likely include underneath on the vertical tickets, but I’m leaving him off my multi-race exotic tickets. Lucky for Shore (#6) makes his first start for Andrew Simoff this afternoon. He was very good with the few horses that he brought here in 2021, especially when Paco Lopez was riding. They teamed up to win 3 of 4 races together last season on this oval. This gelded son of Madefromlucky debuts here after some solid works at Delaware. The trio of Irish Boolum (#3), Calypso Band (#4), and Bustin Loose (#8), finished 2nd, 3rd, and 6th respectively, in the same maiden special weight race that Pogi was 4th in. I’d play all three, but if I had to pare down my ticket, my preference would go toward Irish Boolum and Bustin Loose. Irish Boolum has progressed nicely in his three starts, improving each time. He was no match for One Time Willard, who was a dominating force last out. He faltered yesterday at two turns as the heavy favorite in state bred allowance company, but I think that was asking a bit much from him, so I won’t hold that against these runners. Bustin Loose showed some early zip before fading in that race. He was gelded shortly after that start, and he worked sharply last week, suggesting that all is well. The outside draw should be a plus as well. Calypso Band also was making his debut in the same race, and he kind of hung around late to get up for third as Pogi was tiring. I think the rider switch to Samuel Marin could be an upgrade, as he’s been riding very well at the start of his North American career.
Race 9: The $100K Miss Liberty Stakes
The reigning champion of this race, Vigilantes Way (#1) is back to make her first start of 2022. She loves this course as she also won the Grade 3 Eatontown here last year, despite breaking from post 12 in that race. She’s a very productive mare that is poised to have another strong season in the Mid-Atlantic region. However, my concern with her is that she wasn’t quite as sharp in her first start off the layoff last season when she was third in the Dahlia Stakes at Pimlico. She came back fiercely in her next start, giving Mean Mary all she could handle in the Gallorette Stakes on the Preakness undercard. I will use her, but I’m going to make the Chad Brown filly, Rocky Sky (#5) the top pick. She was a decent second to her stablemate, Bleecker Street, in the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes last out. She’s been off for two and a half months, but she’s been a horse that has seemingly needed some spacing in between starts. She’s an improving four year old, and I think her recent form gives her a slight advantage over the more accomplished, Vigilantes Way today. I’m interesting in seeing what Flippant (#2) does in her first start as a four year old. She ripped off three straight wins on the grass last season before finishing 8th in the QEII Cup at Keeneland. She’s been away since and working well at Keeneland for her return. Victoria Oliver saddled Kentucky Ghost to win the Cliff Hanger Stakes on Saturday.
The morning line indicates that this optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance contest seems to be a two horse race between Monshun (#5) and Liberated Lady (#6), but I’m not so sure. I’m intrigued by Early Edition (#3) here. Back in December, she decimated a $40K maiden claiming field at Parx by a whopping 22+ lengths. She followed up that effort with a respectable try in starter allowance company at Aqueduct in January. She wasn’t as sharp in her last two starts, so she’s been giving a little extra time in between starts. She’s worked well locally and could be upset minded here. Monshun does appear to be the class of the field. She was second as the favorite in the Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct two starts back. She faced N1X allowance foes there last month, while also trying older horses for the first time. She was a heavy favorite in that race, but finished 4th after not being able to secure the lead. Closers were having success on both surfaces here yesterday, and she definitely wants to be out on the front end. If front end speed is struggling in the dirt races, I might be more inclined to take a bigger swing against her. Patty Cakes (#1) has run three races, all in the same Beyer Speed Figure range. Those numbers aren’t likely going to be enough to beat these, however, I do think she could be a candidate to improve here. She’s second off the layoff and making her second start as a three year old. She tired late on opening day, but I think she’s better coming from off the pace like she did in her maiden victory last fall at Delaware.
The nightcap is another race with a heavy favorite, as the Chad Brown trainee, St. Joe Louis (#2) looks awfully tough here. He’s dropping in class from allowance company to a conditioned $30K-$25K claiming race. Despite being heavily backed in his last three starts at Tampa, he was unable to clear the N1X allowance condition. The drop in class is the logical move for this gelded son of Kingman. While he may have lost a step, he looks sharper than many of these. I will give a look to It’s Gravy (#4), making his second start off the layoff here. I thought both of his races on the grass in the New York Stallion Series races as a three year old were not that bad, especially his third palace finish at Saratoga on 7/28. He’s been soundly defeated in his last three, all on the main track. I think the change of surface and drop in class are necessary, however, I don’t think Kelly Breen expected to see the likes of a horse like St Joe Louis when he entered.
Top Pick Winners 19/67 (28%) – $204.40 / $3.05 ROI