The weekend wraps up with a ten race Sunday program at the Jersey Shore. New Jersey breds are back in the spotlight as a field of seven will go one mile on dirt in the Friendly Lover Stakes. That race is named after one of the best New Jersey bred sprinters of all time. He ran 66 times and won 22 of those races. He was 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1995 and was a mainstay each summer at Monmouth. It’s a little surprising that the race named after him is at one mile instead of six furlongs, which was his best distance. He’spuregold, who is one of the best New Jersey breds in training right now, will make his first start of the meet in this race. He’ll put his perfect record in races restricted to fellow Jersey breds on the line in this race. First post for the Saturday card is 12:40 (ET).
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||2||2||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6||6||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||4||1,4,8||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||1||1,2,6||8||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||5||5||4||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Maiden special weight sprinters start the afternoon at Monmouth, and Todd Pletcher has a horse that could be a good one. Abadin (#2) ran very well in his debut at Belmont last month, beaten a length by an Arrogate colt who was cutting back in distance from one mile. Maiden allowance races are $32,500 more (total purse) at Belmont than they are at Monmouth, so I had to ask the question; why is he here instead of in New York? After doing a bit of a dive into the condition books and race history, I see there was a six furlong maiden special weight at Belmont that didn’t fill on 6/4. There’s another maiden special weight next Sunday at seven furlongs in the condition book, but from a pedigree standpoint, I’m wondering if Pletcher preferred to have him cut back to six furlongs after that debut. From a timing standpoint, we’ve seen Pletcher use these June races at Monmouth to prep horses for Saratoga, especially when certain conditions don’t fill at Belmont. That’s really the only knock I have on this runner and the alternatives are not that enticing. I’ll eat chalk and use him as a single on most tickets. If I backup, it would be to Straight Arrow (#1), the first time starter for Mike Dini. He;s a four year old Arrogate colt that is finally getting to the races today. The works are respectable and the dam has produced a pair of debut winners and had multiple wins on this oval back in her day.
While I’m willing to eat chalk in the opener, I’m going to try to beat the 3-2 morning line favorite, Little Luca (#2) in this conditioned $30K-$25K claiming sprint. He’s dropping in class, but his only win came against New York maiden claimers in the slop. I prefer others in this race as I’m not willing to pay the tax to have Paco Lopez riding. One America (#6) is the top pick in this race, cutting back from a race at one mile. He has a good record at this distance, winning his only career race at six furlongs and finishing second in his other two tries. He has early speed, so he should be able to pin Paco Lopez and Little Luca on the inside part of the track, which has not been the most desirable place to run over the last week. Midnight Chrome beat him last out at this level. Angel Rodriguez rode One America hard from the gate to try to make the lead, which he did, but Midnight Chrome went right alongside him on the backstretch and was able to pull away as much the best. He would go on to dominate a field of starter allowance runners at Parx last week. I’m expecting a much better effort from him in this spot. I’ll also use Cantankerous Cat (#3), who is looking to rebound from a poor effort in the slop here last month. He likes to be involved early, but he was slow away from the gate and it looked like he was struggling to get a handle of the wet course on a bad weather afternoon. He has been his best of fast courses, which should be the case this afternoon. He has a win and two second places in four starts here on fast going. He;s getting a bit of class relief after being well backed last out. I’ll put Little Luca on the C line as a backup plan in this race, and I could consider upgrading him if his odds float up.
This is a straight $12,500 starter allowance race for three year olds and up going six furlongs on the main track. This is another spot where it looks tough to beat a heavy favorite. Caramel Chip (#4) is coming off three straight wins in starter allowance company at Gulfstream, Keeneland, and Churchill for trainer Jose D’Angelo. He’ll lose the services of Irad Ortiz, who has ridden him in each of his last three starts. However, he’ll be just fine as Samy Camacho gets the assignment. Hushion (#6) would be where I’d back up in this spot. He;s coming off a win against a weaker field on opening day, when the track was playing kindly to front end speed. He’s won his last two starts on this oval and could sit the right trip. I don’t think he’s nearly as good as Caramel Chip is at the moment.
Maiden fillies and mares run with a $16K-$14K claiming tag in this six furlong sprint. Claudio Gonzalez sends out a pair of runners and while Sugar Sin (#5) has been running more recently, she hasn’t done much on the track to convince me that she’s going to be able to beat this group. I’ll try Gonzalez’s other filly, Elika (#4), making her first start since finishing 4th with better company at Laurel last fall. She’s been working well for her three year old debut. She improved enough from start one to start two to make me think that she has another forward move in her. R Tootsie Glitter (#6) beat $40K maiden claimers two starts back at Tampa and then finished up the track in an optional claiming/N1X allowance race there. She is unraced since and in that time, she was disqualified from purse money from her victory. That makes her eligible to rejoin the maiden ranks, however the sharp drop does confuse me a bit. I can’t ignore the fact that she was a winner though. Nice Baby (#1) is the morning line favorite, making her first start since August, when she finished a competitive 4th place against open maiden special weight types on the Tapeta. Her dirt efforts weren’t bad, finishing in the money all three times, while facing better rivals.The drop is a little puzzling, but I don’t think it’s far off from where she belongs.
Fillies and mares sprint 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf in this maiden special weight. I’m going to try to beat Chad Brown’s Payout Ratio (#3) in this race. He had a horse a few weeks ago that showed little in route races and cutback to a sprint like this and that runner was a nonfactor. After a few more wins yesterday, I’m sure this runner will be well backed at the windows. I prefer a few of the second time starters coming out of the 5/27 race at the condition. I’ll make Classic Performer (#4) the top pick in this spot. She broke alertly, but her rider’s feet fell out of the irons before they bent on the main part of the course. Angel Rodriguez was quick to recover, but she lost valuable ground and position in the first furlong or so. She ranged up to the front runner, who was able to have things her own way but she flattened out, getting nailed at the wire in a photo for place. Jose Gomez gets the assignment today for Jose Camejo, who is looking to get off the duck for the meet. Bolt of Paradise (#8) was entered in the same race, and she was a little green. She broke near the back of the field and advanced a bit on the turn. She was in a bit tight at the top of the stretch and surged as she darted to the inside where the chute meets the turf course. She slowed up a little as the rails reappeared, finishing 6th in that race. She wasn’t far off the second place finisher though, and she should be more fit for her second voyage. Liana B (#1) has speed from the rail, which should be a valuable asset with this group. She tried the turf for the first time at Aqueduct in April, finishing third when going six furlongs there. She faced $40K maiden claimers in New York, but the quality of that field is comparable to the quality of this field. On deeper tickets, Miss Sensible (#5) might be a live longshot here. She debuted in a five furlong turf sprint at Gulfstream two starts ago. She faded late, but ran a fairly even race. I didn’t quite get her next start in a two turn maiden special weight race on the dirt here. She was 5th beaten 20 lengths that day. Jorge Delgado has eight wins at the meet now and he opts to keep this horse in a protected spot, at least for one more time. She feels like the longer price with the biggest shot.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $12 Ticket:
This might be the kind of sequence where you’ll want to have it several times. Barring an awful start or major trouble, it’s hard to envision Abadin (#2, R1) and Caramel Chip (#4, R3) losing in their respective races. Both horses will likely pay less than $3.00 to win, so I take no joy in using them as singles, however, I’m not really seeing a viable alternative in either race. If we’re going to get a price home, I think it’s going to be in one of the last two races.
The Late Pick-5 starts with a conditioned $5K claiming race, which feels like the most wide-open race of the afternoon. I’ll try Camptown Races (#1) on top, as a horse that might be able to pass them all in the stretch. There’s a lot of speed signed on for this 5 and ½ furlong dash. He’s cutting back in distance, but he did break his maiden while coming from off the pace at this distance at Gulfstream back in October. He had a pair of wins over the winter at Tampa, but he started to go off form for about a four race span. His local debut wasn;t bad, finishing well to be third at this level when going six furlongs. He looks like a horse that is rounding back into his better form. While he won’t be 40-1 today like he was last time out, I can see his odds floating above the 10-1 morning line figure. Starlite Walker (#2) might be the speed of the speed in this race. He was making his first start since December last month, which was also his first race on this course. He was keen early, but faded late, which isn’t entirely uncommon for horses coming back from a layoff. I like this distance for him and I expect him to be more fit this time around. J Wass (#6) is making his first start since October for Kathleen DeMasi, who has good numbers with runners coming off the bench. His lone effort on this course came last year, off a similar break. He just missed in a photo at this distance that afternoon. He seems to be his best work when fresh, so getting 6-1 (ML) on him, seems like a fair assessment. On deeper tickets, I’ll include some of the shorter prices. Commanding General (#8) was caught in a duel with Starlite Walker last out. He won the battle that day, but ultimately lost the war, fading to 4th. Silvino Ramirez claimed him for this price, in hopes of getting him back to his 2022 form on this course. He seems to have lost a step though, which makes 3-1 feel like a tough number to take. In The Loop (#7) is 9-5 on the morning line, and dropping to the bottom. He clearly wasn;t the horse he was back in 2021 when he won four of his six races that year. He was away for a year and a half when he resurfaced at Tampa. His last was strong, but now he’s been away for another three months and he takes a sharp drop. This barn has been cold at this meet, and taking that kind of price on a runner like this feels very risky.
This is another race where the favorite is going to be very hard to beat. Carlin Clan (#5) was caught late at this $40K-$30K maiden claiming level last time out. He set moderate fractions that day while leading the pack. I think he can get away with a softer tempo in this race because on paper, there is no one that appears to be quick enough or interested in taking command early. He has a major pace advantage for barn that has been very sharp with the limited runners they have brought to town. John McAllen had slingshot winner last week and he sends out American Day (#4), who definitely fits at this level. He’s 0-13, which is never a great thing in a maiden race, however, most of those turf races have come against maiden special weight company. He was 4th behind a very sharp Chad Brown runner in his first start of the year. He gets class relief and has a little more tactical speed than some of the other runners in this spot. 6-1 feel fair, and I’d think about upgrading him if those odds climb up. A longshot that makes some sense underneath is Equaljusticeforall (#2). He needed his last start, which was the first start for him in 2023. He got better with additional races last year when facing maiden special weight runners. Joan Milne dropped him to this level, which is likely a better fit. He doesn’t get much in terms of a pace setup here, but if Carlos Rojas can keep him engaged early, he could be closing into the bottom of half of the vertical exotics.
Race 8, The $85K Friendly Lover Handicap:
New Jersey breds go a mile on the main track in the featured race of the afternoon. The one they’ll be trying to beat is He’spuregold (#2), who was the winner of the Charles Hesse Handicap here on the dirt last summer. He’s a talented son of Vancouver who has done most of his work on grass in his 19 race career. Four of those 19 races have come against state bred company and he is undefeated in those races. He’ll make his first since April when he had a rough trip in the Appleton Stakes on the Florida Derby undercard. He might simplay be a better horse than his six rivals in this race, however, he’s been more effective on grass in his career, running stronger figures in those races. I’ll definitely use him, but I’ll try Last Romance (#6) as the top pick in this spot. He’s one of two horses owned by Isabelle de Tomaso and trained by Cathal Lynch. He was no match for Speaking in the John J Reilly Handicap last month at six furlongs. However, he was making his first start since September that day, and he was trying to come from behind on a course that was very speed friendly, while also facing a superior opponent. Speaking opted not to rush back for this race, so he doesn’t have to deal with him. I thought his first two turn race was excellent last year. He ran much better in his second start off the layoff in 2022 and horses in the outer flow have had much more success over this course this past week. I think this is a spot where he can thrive. Amatteroftime (#1) is also worth using in this spot. He;s capable of putting up huge efforts from time to time, running three races last year with a mid-90’s Beyer Speed Figure. It’s been five starts and five months since he last put up those kinds of numbers, giving Riding With Biden all he could handle in the Kris Kringle Stakes back in January. It remains to be seen if this eight year old gelding is still capable of putting up those kinds of figures. He finished five lengths behind He’spuregold in the Charles Hesse last year, when that one was allowed to dictate a very leisurely tempo. Angel Rodriguez usually lets him drop back and make one run, but he might be a bit aggressive and try to take it to He’spuregold in the early stages of this one.
I think there’s some cheap speed signed on in this N1X allowance race for three year olds and up, going 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. Two Steppin Kluki (#3) was flying late at the end of the meet last year, entered in a race with these conditions. She came up just a bit short that afternoon, but he would go on to the clear the N2X condition in a five furlong sprint at Tampa in his next start. He’s eligible for this race due to the purse structure there. He was a little flat in his last start, but slamming into the side of the gate at the start could have been a reason for his less than stellar effort. I’m looking for a rebound in a race where there is some cheap speed signed on. Ikigai (#8) is likely the speed of the speed in this race, however, Jorge Vargas is likely going to have to work to get him there as there are some speedy runners slotted to his inside. While he’s only finished in the money once in six tries on the turf, those efforts weren;t bad.
The nightcap feels like another race where spreading might be the right play. I’ll try the longest shot on the board, Mr. Penny Pincher (#7) to upset this $25K-$20K maiden claiming group. He broke poorly when facing a runaway winner with $40K-$30K maiden claimers in his debut last month. That felt like more of an educational experience for him in a spot where he as overmatched, Having a runner to his outside should help him at the start. Barfly (#1)comes back to the dirt after trying turf and synthetic in his first two starts of the year. His debut last fall at Delaware with maiden allowance types on dirt wasn’t terrible. He’s paired his last two Beyers, so he could eligible to take a step forward here. Polish Up (#3) is a first time starter for Jorge Duarte and Colts Neck Stables. This barn doesn’t usually put their debut runners in maiden claiming races, but they’ve done well when doing so. Paco Lopez taking the mount tells me that he thinks this horse is well-spotted for his first try. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with Wasabi Boy (#8) who was disappointing last time out. He drops in for a tag for the first time in his career, which may make a difference. I just think 3-1 (ML) feels too low for this group.
Top Pick Winners: 29/115 (25.2%) – $179.00/ $1.56 ROI
Shotgun Hottie won her second career stakes race and her first stakes race at two turns when winning the Lady’s Secret yesterday. It was a change in tactics and a heads up ride from Paco Lopez that made the difference, as she was much sharper from the gate than she was in the Serena’s Song. As anticipated, the tempo was even slower in this race, but the difference was that this Gun Runner filly was dictating the terms. The favorite, Leader of the Band, was not as sharp from the gate, and steadied briefly in the first 100 yards. As a result, she lost her position and was backed up behind horses slowing the tempo down.
Speaking of Paco Lopez, the jockey race between him and Samy Camacho is heating up, as these two riders won seven of the eleven races on the afternoon. Lopez visited the Winner’s Circle four times, as Camacho had a three win day and still lost a spot in the standings. The were some interesting wagering notes, especially from the second race yesterday. Lopez rode Knowing Glance, who was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite and Camacho rode Beauty Quist, who started at 2-1. In past years, 8-5 morning line on Lopez has typically meant to expect his mount to be closer to even money when they break from the gate. I thought Beauty Quist was slightly better and coming out of tougher races, and I thought it was likely that she would have stayed closer to the 2-1 price or possibly have her odds float up a bit thus making her the best value in the race. However, I was very surprised to see that Lopez’s mount went off at 2-1 and Camacho’s mount went off as the even money favorite. Lopez was able to work out a perfect trip, letting his stablemate do the heavy lifting up front. Knowing Glance got the job done, but even in defeat, this race told me the public is tuned in to how good Samy Camacho is riding right now.
One other interesting runner from yesterday was the first time import, Kingmax who was extremely impressive when winning a first level allowance yesterday. The fact the he was the post time favorite in that race where there were two Todd Pletcher runners and a Chad Brown horse, might have been a little telling in regard to the ability of this horse. The early pace was aggressive in that race and he sat in 4th, about three lengths off the dueling leaders. He got the first jump on the back markers and exploding down the stretch to win by a little more than four lengths. He was well clear of the other runners that were close to the hot and heavy pace that was being set. This was a big time effort against a very nice field, so I’ll be interested to see where he goes next. He is Group 3 placed at 10 furlongs in Europe, so he could be a candidate to take a big step forward and try the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on the Haskell undercard next month. My top pick, Affable Monarch, went off at 26-1, and rallied well to just miss second place, as Irwin came with a wide bid to nail him on the wire. Even though both were aided by the quick tempo, I would think both runners could be very competitive at this level in their next start, however they just ran into a buzzsaw yesterday.