Kudos to the racing office at Monmouth Park as they have put together an excellent 14 race card for Haskell Preview Day this afternoon at Monmouth Park. There are four stakes races, all of which are designed to produce local contenders for the major races that are offered on Haskell Day next month. The winners of the Grade 3 Eatontown and the Grade 3 Salvator Mile will earn a free entry in the starting gate for the $300K Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker and the $400K Grade 3 Monmouth Cup. The top two finishers of the Pegasus and the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes will earn a free entry for the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell and the $600K Grade 1 United Nations Stakes. All of those races will be contested on Saturday, July 22nd. Luis Saez, Joel Rosario, and Florent Geroux are all expected to be on site to ride this afternoon. Unfortunately, weather could be a factor this afternoon as some rain and storms are in the forecast. I’ll handicap the stakes races for turf only, but the other four turf races might be in jeopardy of being moved to the main track. I’ll handicap those races for both surfaces. First post for this super-sized program is 12:40 (ET).
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!
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New Jersey bred fillies and mares are going to start the day off in a one mile race on the turf. For horses to be eligible to compete, they’re either entered with a $15K claiming tag, or they qualify for the state bred N1X allowance. On either surface, I expect a big race from Bikini Baby (#8), returning to New Jersey after being on a steady diet of open N1X allowance races at Tampa. She was a longshot in those races, but she outran her odds in most instances. She finished second three starts back when she was sent off at 98-1. Her speed figures since John Pimental claimed her are better than the majority of the field. She’s getting class relief while racing for more money. She was competitive on the dirt, finishing in the money in similar races here last season. She’ll be the one for me on either surface. There’s not a lot of speed signed, which could benefit Politely Crowned (#7) if this race is run on the turf. She was a winner here at a similar level last year, scoring in a turf sprint. She has been competitive at two turns in the past through. She was most recently seen fading late at two turns on synthetic at Gulfstream. A softer course will be a question mark, however, she definitely fits from a pace standpoint. The Classy One (#2) is the morning line favorite in her three year old debut. Her only start against fellow New Jersey breds was an open length win in her debut in maiden allowance company. She ran in three consecutive stakes races after that effort, never finishing better than 5th. She was given time to mature and she makes her first start since November. I actually prefer her on dirt in this race if it is transferred, but I’ll still cover my bases with her on the grass. Midnight Heiress (#9) was good on dirt last out, fighting hard to be second. She is a filly that has lacked a lot of that heart in the stretch in prior races, so perhaps she is growing up. Despite her respectable effort on grass last fall at the Meadowlands, I don’t love the move to the turf, but she’s a player if this race comes off the grass. Sea Maiden (#6) stretches back out to a mile for the first time since finishing off the board in the Sorority Stakes last year. That was an ambitious spot for her second career start, and she ran like a filly that was overmatched. She’s started twice in sprints this year and now gears up for her third race off the layoff. I get trying the turf, but she’s more appealing to me if this race stays on the main track.
Fillies and mares will go 1 mile and 1/16 on the dirt in this optional $16K claiming/conditional allowance. The allowance condition is for horses that have never earned more than $17K in a race other than maiden, claiming, or starter. Despite the change in condition, this race is very similar to the N1X allowance level here as that $17K purse provision has been written into every race at that condition that I’ve seen here. It’s going to be hard to look past Inventing (#2) in this race for Todd Pletcher. She has been keeping better company than her five rivals as she tries to clear the N1X condition in her 4th attempt since breaking her maiden at Keeneland last fall. She ended her three year old season with a second place finish in a 10 furlong race at Churchill. She’s been beaten by a pair of Chad Brown fillies in her first two starts this season. Distinctlypossible, who beat her at Keeneland last time out, went on to win the Serena’s Song Stakes here last month and is likely going to be considered for the $500K Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes here, which is also on the Haskell Day Undercard. She comes into this race, which is devoid of any real early speed. If Saez wants the lead with her, he can probably take it rather easily. She has a post advantage over Desert Dalliance (#4), who is coming off a strong win in $50K starter allowance company at Aqueduct. I think when the real running begins, Pletcher’s filly will show her class. If the rain causes a wet track, I’ll upgrade Rose E Holiday (#3), who is sired by the off-track specialist, Exaggerator. She’s 2-2 on off tracks, both labeled good, one of which was a sealed track. She has limited two turn experience, but she was a winner at two turns in allowance company at Finger Lakes earlier in her career. She also was a winner here against much softer competition at two turns last season. She’s run well here and improved over the winter at Gulfstream. A wet track might be enough to neutralize her opponents in this spot.
Fillies and mares will sprint six furlongs in this conditioned $5K claimer for horses that have either never won four times or have not won twice in six months. Arrow Shape (#5) figures to hammered at the windows after winning easily with conditioned $5K claimers last week. While there’s not a ton of depth to this field, it’s worth noting that race was restricted to horses that have not won once in six months or have not won three races. By virtue of her win with time restricted $10K claimers at Parx in January, a horse like Take Charge Erica (#6) would not have been eligible last week. She’s taking a big drop in class and I think she’s going to be tough in this race. She’ll get the services of Gherson (Jason) Huayas, who is an apprentice based at Parx. He’s ridden well there in limited opportunities. His local mounts thus far haven’t been great, as he’s looking for his first win on the Oceanport oval. He is a capable rider though, and I’m hoping that his presence might increase her wagering value in this spot. She has a lot of back class and she should be able to get an easy lead. Her best races come when she’s able to dictate the terms. Huayas rode her for her last score at Parx and I’m wagering that she can rebound here. I liked Unified Ride (#4) a lot in her race two weeks ago, but she was absolutely empty that day. Perhaps the speed in front of her at the 5 and ½ furlong distance was too much and being that far behind was discouraging for this filly that had won her previous two starts. She drops in class a bit, and she’s another horse that would not have been eligible for the race that Arrow Shape won last week. I think six furlongs will suit her better, especially in a race where there is less early speed. If Take Charge Erica falters late, I could see her hanging around to get the nod. She’s obviously the one to beat, but I can’t see getting anything better than even money on her, which at this level, feels way too short of a price.
Last year, the racing office carded this same maiden special weight race for two year olds, and the winner, Major Dude, has gone on to be a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf, most recently winning the Grade 2 Penn Mile last month. None of the New York barns are represented in this year’s maiden race, which drew a field of seven. Dont Rock the Boat (#3) was narrowly defeated by his stablemate at this level two weeks ago. Those two Eddie Owens’ runners were 10 lengths clear of the next runner, which was Bingo Was His Name (#4). These Sea Wizard New Jersey breds are turning out to be competitive runners, and while he didn’t face much that day, there’s not much else jumping off the page in this race. He’ll likely be well-backed and will probably be a short price. Sebastian Run (#5) might be a horse to watch out for on an off track. His dam was 4 for 5 in her career on off tracks. She was competitive early on, winning her debut and three of her first four career starts, all in lower level races though. She would go on to be a successful Louisiana bred sprinter, winning six straight stakes races, five for state bred runners and one score at Oaklawn in the Carousel Stakes. She would go on to finish 3rd in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga. This is her first foal to race, and while Jose Delgado has not had a two year old debut winner in at least over five years, Paco Lopez taking the mount is encouraging. I’ll make him the top pick, thinking a possible off track could put him over the top. Crazy Mason (#7) draws the outside for his debut. He’ll be the third runner to race from the freshman sire, Coal Front. Coal Front was a very good one turn horse for Todd Pletcher who did win on debut as a three year old. Trainer Greg Sacco had a two year old maiden winner last year, with Freedom Road, who blew up the toteboard on Haskell Day.
This 12 horse $16K-$14K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares might be the most wide open race on the card today, regardless of surface. Dixie Groove (#5) is a horse that I’ve been interested to see in her next start. She was a fast closing third at this level last month after a brutal first furlong where she slammed into the rail and conceded several lengths to her rivals. She still rallied well to get up for third, beaten only a length. The Beyer Speed Figures for that race came back very low, however the Equibase numbers are proportionally higher, which tells me there might be some value to be had there. She’s shown that she can be competitive on either surface, but I do prefer her on the grass. Mo Town Annie (#10) is another runner that is well suited for both surfaces. She ran well two back on grass when she just missed with straight three year olds for this tag at Tampa. She went back to the dirt when racing here for the first time and she just missed again with $10K maiden claimers. I will give her the slight nod on the dirt, but she’s another one that will be on my tickets regardless of surface. Welcometomyworld (#7) falls into the same category, shipping in from Belmont and joining Carlos David’s stable. Her turf figures are better than her dirt figures, and the change in circuit is likely going to make a difference. What’s Good (#2) is the morning line favorite, and if she can run back to her Gulfstream races in February and March, she is going to win. However, her last two races against better have been poor. She’s a speed and fade type that I would be much more keen on if the course was going to be firm. At short odds, I’m not sold that she can carry her speed from gate to wire at this level on softer ground. I think she’s better on turf than she is on dirt, but I’ll use her on an off track as well, knowing that her early speed could be a more valuable weapon in thar scenario. If this race stays on the turf, I’ll include Fancy LIke (#8) in her second start off the layoff. She was hit hard out of the gate when making her first start in almost a year last month. She finished 8th in what was a slow race. Her debut figure last year was good enough to make me think that she will be able to compete at this level. She might need another race or two to be at the proper fitness level, but I see her as a live longshot at 20-1 or better.
WIN-EARLY Pick-5, $67.50 Ticket:
I’ll put together a larger All-A & B ticket, knowing that some editing will be required once track conditions and scratches are announced. Inventing (#2, R2) is going to be the logical and popular single for me in this sequence. I think she has too much going for her in that spot to try to beat her. I think the turf races that bookend this wager could produce some decent prices. The graphic will be for the turf, but if the races come off, the horses in the grid on the second line would be where I’d look to make some edits.
$12,500-$10,500 N3L claimers will go six furlongs in this race. Advance Cash (#6) drops in class and gets back on the dirt after a dull effort on the turf last week when facing better horses. He was a beaten favorite two back with $20K-$18K N3L claimers on a day where it was hard for horses to come from off the pace. Apprentice Luis Rivera Jr. has made the most of his limited opportunities to ride here, winning twice and finishing in the money with five other runners from his 12 starters. I think he’s going to be tough to deal with here. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with both Bayou Shack (#3) and One Whirlwind Ride (#2). Bayou Shack has two strong races at long odds for Anthony Foglia. This will be his third start in four weeks, but a lightbulb could have clicked. From a pace standpoint, I think he fits well in this spot. If he goes unnoticed at the windows again, I’d be willing to try him. One Whirlwind Ride is much more consistent than many of his rivals in this race, however, he doesn’t seem to have that killer instinct to win races. He’s 2-37 in his career with 11 second place finishes. Paco Lopez gets the call first off the claim for Patricia Farro, so I’m sure he’ll be well-backed at the windows. He certainly has a shot, but if the number is too low, I’m going to try to beat him on top.
This maiden special weight looks fairly deep if it stays on the turf. Balthazar (#2) feels like he is the one to beat on grass. I’m willing to toss his last at Belmont because some horses don;t run their best race with the one turn configuration there. He wound up on the lead, which was a new experience for him, and he didn’t seem comfortable. Between his pedigree and his efforts on good courses in Southern California, he would be the one that moves up the most on a softer course. I’m expecting a rebound with Paco Lopez picking up the mount. Feral’s Joy (#7) outran his odds against a very good field going nine furlongs at Belmont last month. The winner of that race came back to win right away with N1X allowance types. He ran well at Laurel two back and was a decent second in his debut on this course last summer. I expect him to move forward in his third race off the layoff today. Coast Along (#4) is one that will take money, but feels more like a saver to me, especially on softer ground. He ran into a very good Chad Brown runner last month on this course, finishing second, but beaten five lengths. He’s had trouble finishing races in the stretch, which doesn’t always bode well when running on a more demanding surface.
On dirt, Rule Breaker (#9) becomes an instant upgrade. He’s a newly gelded son of Into Mischief out of the two time Grade 1 winning mare, Artemis Agrotera. He debuted in open company at the Fair Grounds when Bo Cruz freaked and won by 12+ lengths. He went to New York to face fellow NY Breds where he was 5th, beaten four lengths. He was moved to Liundsay Schultz’s barn after being with Brad Cox for his first two races. He is the logical player on the dirt in this race. Askari (#10) is a first time starter for Todd Pletcher, with Luis Saez aboard. The dam has produced winners on both surfaces, so I’d be okay with one on dirt, despite the intent to run on the grass. She was debut winner and her best runner, Promise Me Silver, was a Grade 3 stakes winner on the dirt, who also won on debut. Since coming up from Florida, he’s been based here for the past six weeks, so he’s had plenty of time to get familiar with the surface.
An interesting field of seven has been assembled in this optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance race going one mile on the main track. Antigravity (#2) figures to be tough at this level, getting back to Monmouth, but he’s struggled to run his best race on off tracks. I’ll slot him on the B line in this race, upgrading up to the A line if the track is dry, and downgrading him to the C line in the slop. I’m going to use a pair of Parx invaders on top, making Irish Exit (#4) the top pick. He had inside position on Expensive Cut (#5) which was the difference maker when he carried the field to a gate to wire win on April 11th. Four horses battled to the finish and he prevailed, with Expensive Cut finishing 4th, less than a length behind. Both runners have recent wins in the slop, but are also quite capable on a dry main track. I don’t think Night Jumper (#3) is as quick on dirt as he is on turf, so I expect these two to set the early fractions. Irish Exit struggled with better last out, but he has shown the ability to rebound in the past. Expensive Cut is coming off a career top Beyer Speed Figure when clearing the N2X allowance condition last time out. I do worry about a possible regression, but his win in the slop on 12/6 was good enough to play him back. Whelen Springs (#6) is an interesting longshot, especially on off track. He’s an Arkansas bred who has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but has also been frustratingly bad in other instances. Lindsay Schultz takes over the conditioning and she tried this Street Sense colt at two turns for the second time in his career. His first two turn try was a disaster, but he’s a better horse since that failed effort. He was a stakes winner in open company at Oaklawn last year when sprinting, but has yet to run back to that effort. His dam was a multiple stakes winner in route races and loved an off track. He’s eligible for the N2X condition, so this is a salty field for him, however, the conditions and the price might be right to take a shot.
Another full field is scheduled for this conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race, scheduled to be run over the turf course. Larger Than Life (#14) could become a problem for this field on the turf if she’s able to draw in. He’s run several credible efforts on this course in the past, all when facing better fields that what he’s up against here. He’s run well on a softer course in the past, breaking his maiden on a good course here in September of 2021. He was a bit dull in his first race off the layoff, but that was the case for him last year too. He was much better in his second try, finishing 4th in allowance company, only a length and half behind some good horses. He’ll need to work out a trip from a wide draw, but I think he’s a horse that could be overlooked if he draws in, and there’s a good chance we’ll get better than his 6-1 morning line figure. Hard Mission (#11) is a lightly raced three year old who had a spot of trouble at the break at this level last month. He makes his second start off a three month break. I think this is the right level for him and I expect him to take a step forward here. Trupia (#5) is the favorite and one that should be covered on most multi-race bets. He came up a bit short at this level last month, but has shown a steady pattern of figure improvement for Carlos Perez. He gets a noticeable rider upgrade to Paco Lopez for his second local try. Flatter Me (#9) is a longshot that might be interesting to use on some deeper tickets. He’s 1-20 in his career, so I’ll need 10-1 (ML) or better as he comes back to a two turn race. I thought his two routes at Gulfstream over the winter were decent. He could be forwardly placed in this big field, which might be advantageous.
I’ll go in a different direction if this race is transferred to the main track. The Arkansas bred, Westover (#6) interests me here on dirt. He struggled in a tough starter allowance race for state bred runners in his last start in April. That was an odd race, and he was hit hard coming out of the gate. He was beaten by some talented state bred runners that day, as the runner up in that spot went on to win the Arkansas Breeders Champion Stakes at the end of the Oaklawn meet. Prior to that race, he has ripped off two straight wins in state bred company with ease. I’m not sure what will be leftover if this race comes off the turf, but I think this feels like a good spot for him. Rerally (#13) is a main track only entrant, who will be facing winners for the first time. He won with $10K maiden claimers two weeks ago on this oval. He could be forwardly placed with this group, where many of his rivals that he’d likely be facing are unproven on dirt. Verbier (#10) shipping in from Parx would be one I’d consider using as well on the dirt. He had a decent string of efforts there over the winter on the main track, breaking his maiden in December. This would be some class relief for him while making his first start for trainer Ramon Martin.
Race 10, The $150K Pegasus Stakes:
The name in the first of four stakes races this afternoon is Kingsbarns (#8), making his first start since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. He was a gate to wire winner of the Louisiana Derby in March, setting slow fractions and running away late. Disarm, who was second that day, did just win the the Matt Winn at Ellis last weekend, but that field lacked some of the depth of the other prep races this year. He went to the front in the Derby and set fractions that were four seconds faster than his Louisiana Derby half mile time. Obviously, that’s not an apples to apples comparison, but the tempo was significantly faster than anticipated in the Kentucky Derby and Kingsbarns and many of the other front runners paid the price that day. He was successful in Florida in his first two races sitting just off some aggressive paces and making his move on the turn. It’s tough to gauge how the pace scenario is going to unfold here. Longshot NMo Confession (#3) has sprinter speed and was able to make the early lead in the Long Branch Stakes before backing out of the picture that day. Moreau (#2) and Subrograte (#6) are both stretching out from one turn races, so we may see both of them be forwardly placed here, as there isn’t a ton of other speed signed on. Joel Rosario may also want to ask Salute the Stars (#4) for early speed as he was very sharp from the gate when clearing the N2L allowance condition last out in an off the turf race at Churchill. All of these factors could force Luis Saez into going four or five wide on the first turn with the heavy favorite. I think that scenario benefits both Classic Catch (#1) and Howgreatisnate (#7) here. I’ll make Howgreatisnate the top pick because I thought his win in the Long Branch Stakes was very gutsy, and I don’t think that big effort was a one-off performance. He won his first four starts as a two year old, winning twice in stakes company when trained by Andrew Simoff. He made his three year old debut in the Gotham Stakes in the mud. However, he stumbled and lost J.D. Acosta at the break that day. He came back two weeks later in the Private Terms where he was a little too forward in the early stages when making his first start at two turns. That race concerned me somewhat, as I played against him in the Long Branch Stakes. However, Jairo Rendon was able to get him to relax behind the early leaders that day. He moved early in that race and took command going into the far turn. Offaly Cool, who came back to win an allowance at Parx last week, took the lead at the top of the stretch and looked like he was going to run by. However, this Speightster colt dug in gamely and battled back for a hard fought win along the inside. I think this gelding has some upside and could actually improve off that last effort. I think he could get a similar trip in this race and might be able to get a jump on the favorite, who is unproven in a dogfight. Classic Catch ran into the Belmont winner, Arcangelo, in the Peter Pan last month. Despite being a nine furlong race, that race is a one turn contest, and I don’t think that’s what this horse really wants to do. His 5th place finish two back in the Wood Memorial is better than it looks on paper. I see a chance for improvement here and the pace setup could favor him .However, I do think he’s cut below the top two, and with Paco Lopez riding for Todd Pletcher, I don’t think we’re going to get the value that I’ll need to back him on top.
Race 11, The $150K Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes:
This is a super competitive edition of this race, where none of the eight runners winning would be a real surprise. The depth to this field certainly makes this an above average Grade 3 contest, assuming that the weather cooperates and this field stays intact. The pace should be fair as both Scottish Star (#4) and Katies a Lady (#7) want to be on the lead. Vergara (#2) has some early foot and looks like she can tuck right before the frontrunners. The others are tactical enough to be well-positioned regardless of how fast or slow they go up front. I tend to think that the pace scenario in the Plenty of Grace made Malavath (#6) very uncomfortable last out. There was no speed with the expectation of Evvie Jets, who loves the Aqueduct turf course. That one walked on the front end and held off Chad Brown’s Whitebeam, who came back to win the Gallorette in her last start. Malavath was a close third that day early on, but never quickened with the others, running much closer to the front end than she’s used to. I’m willing to draw a line through that race, as I think she runs her best race when she’s off the pace and able to make one sustained run toward the leaders. She came close when finishing a fast closing second to Pizza Bianca in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2021. She was less than two lengths behind Modern Games in the Breeders Cup Mile last year, when she was flying late to finish 5th. She appreciates a course with some give in it and should be flying home once again today. I’m hoping her last effort will scare off some potential backers here. Consumer Spending (#3) was second to her stablemate, Marketsegmentation in the Grade 3 Beaugay last out. That one went on to win the Grade 1 New York Stakes at Belmont last week. She was a winner of the Grade 2 Wonder Again on a yielding course last year and was a good third in the Belmont Oaks behind McCulick and With the Moonlight. I thought her return effort was game in a race that lacked pace, so she’s another one that should benefit from a little more early interest from her competition here. Chad Brown also sends out Gina Romantica (#8) in this race, making her first start as a four year old today. She was the winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland in October when she was last seen on the racetrack. This field came up very strong, so this is not the easiest spot for her return. She’s also likely to be competing on a course that will be less than firm, which she has never done. She has been excellent since trying the turf three starts back at Saratoga, so anything is possible here. I think I might prefer her in the Diana next month, but this is a good measuring stick for this Into Mischief filly. Scottish Star (#4) was a heavy favorite and had everything her own way in the Miss Liberty Stakes on this course last out. She was caught late though, but Spirit and Glory (#5). She has struggled a bit in graded stakes company, but I loved her effort in her North American debut on a good course at the Spa last year. She’s classier than Katies a Lady, and she has inside position on her. Luis Saez will have some options. I think she’ll be a lower price than she should be, but I do think she’s another one that could move up on a slower course.
Race 12, The $150K Grade 3 Salvator Mile:
A field of 10 has entered this race, but there are two runners that are cross-entered in an allowance race at Parx tomorrow. Ridin With Biden (#2) is one of them, but I expect him to run in this race, as his owner and trainer have another horse, Eloquist, in that same allowance race tomorrow. Far Mo Power (#4) is the other runner that is cross-entered there, which as a Pa Bred, might be more appealing. What also makes this race a little interesting is that between the ten starters in this race, only one of them has raced on the main track at Monmouth, and that was only one time. This is a spread race for me and it’ll be interesting to see if the rain this weekend changes the way the track has been playing. There’s a lot of speed signed on here, which could benefit a versatile horse like Nimitz Class (#8), who is looking for his 6th straight victory. He’s won stakes races in Maryland at one and two turns, and on the front end and from off the pace. I think Jevian Toledo can get him to tuck behind the early speed, as there appears to be several that want the lead from the inside. He might be able to make an early move if they try to slow things down after what should be a lively opening quarter. He has 10 wins in 16 career starts and has been unchallenged of late. This will be his toughest test yet, but I think the classier horses in this race are coming off layoffs and might be the absolute best versions of themselves at the moment. Artorius (#9) and Bourbonic (#10) come in for Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, respectively. Both are runners that are content to let the early leaders duel up front and make their run late. Artorius romped in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga last year and was a respectable 6th in the Travers behind Epicenter. The Perryville seemed like an odd spot for him as he was a well-beaten 4th behind the talented sprinter, Gunite in that seven furlong contest. I like him at two turns and the pace scenario suits him in what will be his four year old debut. If the name Bourbonic seems familiar, it’s because he was the 72-1 upset winner of the Wood Memorial back in 2021. He’s only won one time since, and all four of his career victories have come at Aqueduct. He’s never had a fast pace to close into, which he should be getting today. He’s certainly not the most consistent runner, but he can definitely compete on his best day. On deeper tickets, Petulante (#1) is the up and comer to watch here. He’ll be going two turns for the first time, and this is not the easiest spot to do so. He might benefit from some of the other speed runners scratching out of this race. He was very good when winning an allowance race on Derby Day though. He’s by Arrogate, so improving as he gets a bit older and as get goes longer, should be expected.
Race 13, The $150K Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes:
It’s hard to look past the class of Tribhuvan (#1) in this race. He’s made his last eight starts in Grade 1 company, so this is some serious class relief for his seven year old debut. The last time he ran in a Grade 2 race, he was an easy gate to wire winner of the Fort Marcy at Belmont. He was the 2021 winner of the United Nations on this course, and he’s looking to run in that race for the third straight year. He has been a tricky horse to ride in the past and Florent Geroux is going to try for the first time today. I just think he’s better than his five rivals in this race, where no one really seems interested in challenging him for the early lead. He does have a few clunkers in his timeline that makes me want to have a little bit of coverage. Commandeer (#5) ran a monster race when trying the turf for the first time at Keeneland last out. He was flying to be a close up second in a very contentious N3X allowance race. He’ll need to show he can have the same burst on softer ground, especially if the rainy forecast comes to fruition. He seems like the best possible alternative.
This marathon afternoon will wrap up with N1X allowance sprint for three year olds. Value is going to be important to me in this race, as I see this as a fairly evenly matched contest. I think Notah (#5), who just missed at this level last month, might be finishing the fastest of them all. He came through an opening on the rail, but just came up a bit short. He’s been good in his one turn races, with his figures staying competitive. Samy Camacho continues to ride at a high level at this meet. Torrone (#3) was a debut winner on this course when he was trained by Kelly Breen last year. Mr. Amore Stables owns this colt and typically sends most of their runners to Breen. I find it interesting that he was transferred to Carlos David’s barn after finishing 4th at this level two months back at Aqueduct. David has scored with 24% of his new acquisitions since 2022, this runner may represent an opportunity to get some better locally based horses in his stable. He was competitive in the slop at Laurel last year, running a career best figure. Luis Saez taking the mount might reduce his value, but I see him as a player here. Smooth Flyin Mike (#2) was nailed on the wire as the favorite at this level in a one turn one mile race at Belmont last month. Cibelli ships him here for his 4th career start at the 4th differ track. The cutback in distance should be favorable and having Paco Lopez as his 4th different rider certainly won’t hurt his chances. I don’t want to take too short of a price on him as he has come up short in the stretch in the past, however, he’s too good to ignore.
Top Pick Winners: 31/131 (23.7%) – $185.80/ $1.42 ROI
Strong rains came through right before first post and caused for a wet afternoon. The first race was run on the turf in the rain. The course was labeled firm, but it was likely closer to good or yielding when the race began. The weather seemed to neutralize the shorter priced runners as many seemed to struggle with their footing. I’d be willing to forgive below average races coming from some of the runners in this race.
Great Navigator and Precious Avary were popular winners in the co-featured state bred options claiming/allowance races yesterday. It was bombs away in the two year old race, where Kent Sweezy’s filly, Mila Junes got the job done at 54-1. Despite longshots winning the first and third legs of the Win-Early Pick-5, there will be no carryover. The 5th race was taken off the turf after the sequence began and paid out to all runners in that race. If you were lucky enough to have the first four winners, the payout was a solid $1,967.