Unfortunately, Opening Day will have to wait until tomorrow as weather has forced the cancellation of today’s card. I’ll leave this post up, as the races carded for today will be brought back as extras next Saturday and Sunday. I’ll have tomorrow’s analysis posted later on today.
Derby Day is also this year’s Opening Day at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. They have a fantastic 62 Day Meet planned, racing through September 18th. As always, the highlight of the racing season will be the Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 23rd. The controversial whip rule has been amended to follow the HISA guidelines that are slated to go into effect nationwide on July 1st. The highlight on the Opening Day card is the Long Branch Stakes for three year olds, carded as the 8th race this afternoon. The runner up in the Gotham Stakes, Dean’s List will try two turns for the first time in that race while facing the winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes earlier this year at Oaklawn, Dash Attack. Mother Nature might not be ready for racing at the Jersey Shore, as the weekend forecast is less than ideal, with cooler temperatures, and wind and rain in the forecast for Saturday. None of the eight races this afternoon are carded for the turf, hopefully limiting the number of scratches on the program. First post this afternoon is 2:00 ET, with the last race wrapping up about an hour before they go into the gate in the Kentucky Derby.
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||3||3,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||2||2||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||7||7,8||3||2||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||3||3,6||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||1||1,3,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The meet starts off with a six horse maiden special weight contest for fillies and mares, three years old and up, going six furlongs. There’s a pair of second time starters coming out of Aqueduct debuts that look tough here. I’ll try to get a better price by taking Always Aware (#3) on top. Jorge Duarte Jr. and Colts Neck Stables do most of their yearly business at this meet, so I feel like the race at the Aqueduct in March was all about getting race day experience for this filly. She took a bump at the start, flashed some early speed, before fading to last that afternoon. Her speed may be a valuable weapon in this race where there doesn’t appear to be much of that signed on. Duarte had an excellent meet here last year and his numbers with second time starters are solid. Nik Juarez, hasn’t ridden much in 2022, but he’s always dangerous at this meet. Paco Lopez started riding regularly here last season about a month after the meet began. By the end of the summer, he was dominating the jockey colony, winning multiple times a day on a regular basis. He’s riding on Day 1 this year and he gets the call on World Traveler (#5) for Greg Sacco. She debuted last month at the Big A and finished third, beaten 11 lengths after a bit of a slow start. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lopez be more aggressive with this mount, while facing a small field.
A field of six $8K-$7K time restricted claimers travel six furlongs here. The six starters that make up this field last raced at five different tracks, with runners coming from Aqueduct, Laurel, Finger Lakes, Tampa, and Parx. It feels like the favorites are going to be formidable in this spot. Summer Bourbon (#2) may have the pace advantage over The Great Dansky (#1) in here. Two of his last three races have been solid with open claimers at Aqueduct. He was much more consistent in the summer and fall of 2021, so the hope is that he’s trending that way. The Great Dansky is the Laurel shipper that came up empty in a one turn mile race with optional claiming/starter allowance company. He cuts back to six furlongs, which is a preferred distance. He gets the services of Paco Lopez for his local debut.
This $10K maiden claiming race feels like the biggest spread race in the Win-Early Pick-5 sequence to me. I ended up on Marisco (#7) as the top pick, shipping in after a pair of respectable tries with better at Tampa. He’s handled a wet track, finishing third in the slop last out behind a runaway winner with $25K maiden claimers. Delgado is sending out a pair and he feels like the more likely winner of his duo. El Mic Tiesun (#8) is a Fair Grounds shipper that has had many chances to break his maiden. He is moving into Bonnie Lucas’ barn, who is the trainer handling Wayne Potts’ northeast stable while he’s on suspension. While moving to a higher percentage outfit, I am expecting improvement. His sprint efforts look like they would be competitive with this group. Not a Postino (#3) takes a sizable drop from maiden special weight company to start his 2022 season. He ran well in the slop in his debut over opening weekend last year and was claimed by Alberto Plaza, who ran him four times. He was competitive last year, with his best start being a second place finish in maiden special weight company. He ran once for Patricia Farro at Parx after the Monmouth meet concluded, I would presume because Plaza might not have his training license in PA. He finished a dull 6th that day and went to the sidelines until now. He feels like a bit of a wildcard in this race, as Plaza, who may own other horses, only trained this one in 2021. Jose Ferrer was red hot to start the meet last season, and he gets the mount. I’ll cover with him, but from a value standpoint, I’m looking elsewhere. The same could be said for Whata Guy (#2) for Kelly Breen and Paco Lopez. It’s interesting to see this duo reunited at Monmouth because Breen gave most of his local business in 2021 to Nik Juarez. This Upstart gelding is also taking a deep drop in class. His two local races, especially his debut, were probably his best races, but this is a horse that has never come close to winning a race. He’ll likely be favored as a class dropper and from his human connections, and honestly, at this level, that may be enough. However, much like with Not a Postino, I think there’s better value elsewhere.
Conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers go 1 mile and 70 yards here. While there are three year olds entered, everyone in the race qualifies under the N2L condition. This is another spot where the shorter prices feel like they’re going to be tough, and they’re both sent out by the same trainer. Gus K (#3) might be able to get Fernando De La Cruz off to a good start at this meet. He’s coming in off a win with $16K maiden claimers at Tampa, finally breaking through in his 9th career start. This is a logical spot to face winners for the first time for a horse whose speed figures have been gradually increasing with just about every start. Trainer Angel Rodriguez owns him and he also sends out Tempestuous (#6) for Palm Beach Racing. He is also coming off a win with $16K maiden claimers at Tampa, although, he might have seen a softer group in an off the turf race there. He handled two turns on the main track without an issue for the first time, and he employs another new face to meet, Samy Camacho, to ride.
Knowing that Paco Lopez gets hammered at the windows at Monmouth, there are times where I think strategically trying to beat his horses can work out. This New Jersey bred maiden special weight is one of those races. Random Luck (#1) is strictly the one to beat off her 4th place finish in her debut against open maiden special weight company at Parx last month. There are several barns that primarily race New Jersey bred runners and many of them don’t run outside of New Jersey. As a result, over the next few weeks, you’ll see a lot of New Jersey breds making their first starts of 2022. By stretching her legs at Parx, she has a recency edge over three of her rivals, including the morning line favorite that Paco is riding, Big Lee’s Legacy (#2). Conversely, even though Paco is taking the mount here, I feel this race is serving the purpose of getting a race under her belt in advance of the first maiden special weight race of the year for New Jersey breds at two turns on the turf. She Loves Gold (#3) rejoins Rory Huston’s barn after spending the winter at Parx with Scott Lake. She may appreciate the return to the Jersey Shore, as her only career effort at Monmouth was far better than any of her other races. She’s making her second start off the layoff, and she showed some more life last out. Caliente Rum (#6) has been making some progress at Parx, while never really getting close to the winner. Despite starting her career in maiden claiming races, her last two races have come against open maiden special weight company. She cuts back from seven furlongs to 5 and ½ furlongs, and she’ll get noticeable class relief as she does. She’s a sneaky price play in here.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5 PLAY:
I’ll wager $48 in the first Win-Early Pick-5 of the meet, using a caveman ticket, with the horses in the grid. While I have some stronger opinions, I’ll avoid singling on this ticket, as it’s the first day of the meet and the weather forecast isn’t great. I think the two races with larger fields, Race 3 and Race 5, are the best chances to get a price home in this sequence.
Half of the eight horse field in this optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance race have never raced at Monmouth before. The other half each has several strong efforts on this oval and should be very pleased to get back on this track. Runabout (#3) ships in from Aqueduct for Jeffrey Englehart and returns to a course where he’s never finished off the board in five career starts. He must have the ability to do some kind of rain dance as he appears destined to start on a muddy or sloppy course for the 6th straight time. He didn’t show up two back, but he’s hit the board in nine of his last ten starts. I think he’s been facing better horses than most of these and should be able to find the Winner’s Circle this afternoon in his return to New Jersey. Stay Home (#5) was a winner against an average $10K claiming field last month at Keeneland. Jose Delgado was down there to claim him and bring him north. This is a barn that excels with runners first off the claim and his winning percentage improves when teaming up with Paco Lopez. He’ll likely need to take a step forward to beat the top pick, but he’s definitely a player with this group. Friendly Fella (#7) was very good here last season, and brought that energy to Philly and Maryland, but his last three starts at Gulfstream were not his best. Perhaps returning to two turns on this oval after several one turn races will be the cure for what ails him. He did drill a 48 flat bullet work on this oval last week, besting 41 other rivals at that distance in the AM.
New Jersey bred fillies and mares run in this N1X allowance race at six furlongs. I Can Run (#8) comes in from Maryland for Claudio Gonzalez after improving on wet tracks in her last three starts. She broke through last out, breaking her maiden with open $40K-$35K maiden claimers at Laurel in her last start back in February. She cuts back in distance when making her first start in three months for a barn that is sharp off this kind of layoff. Some of the others that are making their first start of the year have shown in the past that they are better after getting a race under them. Your Pal (#5) has a recency edge over some of these, getting a start last month at Mountaineer in preparation for this race. She’s hit the board in her last four races, winning once with time restricted claimers at Parx two back. I am concerned that she is 0-17 here at Monmouth, but she does like an off track, and she has hit the board six of those 17 local starts. Wicked Jane (#3) for Paco Lopez and Greg Sacco, makes her first start since finishing third at Laurel three months ago. She’s another consistent type, hitting the board in 6 of her last 7, winning twice in that span. She is another horse that has had a lot of losing trips to Oceanport, going 0-14, but hitting the board half of the time.
Race 8: The $100K Long Branch Stakes
The feature today is the first local race on the road to the Haskell Invitational Stakes, and I want some coverage in this spot. Dean’s List (#1) is likely going to go into the starting gate at odds lower than the 2-1 morning price. He was a very good second behind Morello in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes two starts ago at the one turn mile at the Big A. Pletcher didn’t think he was going to get two turns in the Wood against his stablemate Mo Donegal, so he was entered in the Bay Shore on the same card. I didn’t love that race for him, when he was away last after being on the lead at just about every call in his three prior starts, losing to another stablemate, Wit. Unless he doesn’t break well, I’d figure that Paco will have him on the lead today. There will likely be some pressure, and we’ll see if he can hold on. I’ll use him on the A line, but I think there’s value trying to beat him. Jesus Cruz and Wasabi Ventures Stables scored with some nice prices at this meet last year and they had a solid meet at Tampa this season. They claimed Benevengo (#5) on debut in February for $25K, when he crushed that maiden claiming field by over nine lengths running for Kathleen O’Connell. He moved up to face optional claiming/starter allowance company and was a strong winner that day as well. He goes to two turns, which according to his pedigree, should be what he wants to do. His regular rider, Isaac Castillo is finishing up the meet at Oaklawn this weekend, after getting a lot of first call mounts for Steve Asmussen there over the last month. Angel Rodriguez takes over this horse that is taking a sharp rise in class, despite being eligible for the N1X condition. I think he’s a threat at what could be double digit odds. Dash Attack (#3) looked like he could be a Derby Trail contender after winning his debut and the Smarty Jones Stakes at the beginning of the Oaklawn meet. He wasn’t the same on dry ground in his next three starts, all in Derby points races. McPeek sends him here to regroup, and he is all but guaranteed to get a wet track this afternoon. Samuel Marin, is an odd choice to ride though. I am familiar with him, but he hasn’t ridden a race this year. Getting a shorter price on him in a stakes race is a little bit of a concern here. On deeper tickets, Mark Casse sends in Glider (#8), making his first start since the Gotham Stakes in March. His break that day wasn’t great in what was a dull 5th place finish. He did finish a solid second to Emmnauel at two turns on the main track at Tampa two starts ago. It is conceivable that he can make up the 10 lengths that he’d had to find to beat Dean’s List today, but I’d need better than 4-1 to get involved.