The racing office at Monmouth Park has put together a tremendous 14 race card for the inaugural Haskell Preview Day. There are four stakes races to conclude this oversized program, including an excellent renewal of the Grade 3 Salvator Mile. Five graded stakes winners, three of which are Grade 1 winners, are set to throw down in that race, which will be the nightcap. There are also highly competitive renewals of the Grade 3 Eatontown, the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, and the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes, which are part of an All-Stakes Pick-4 wager. “Jersey” Joe Bravo, who has won 13 riding titles at Monmouth in his career, is scheduled to return to Oceanport for the first time since 2020. He was an outspoken opponent of the crop rules that were in place in New Jersey in 2021, and opted to move his tack full time to Southern California. Mike Smith and John Velasquez are also in from California to ride here today. Florent Geroux, Manny Franco, and Jose Lezcano are also named on horses here this afternoon.
The week got off to an exciting start yesterday, as Todd Pletcher unveiled an exciting two year old filly, Munnys Gold, in the third race. She decimated her seven rivals, stopping the timer in 56:60 for the five furlongs, just 0:44 seconds off the track record. She earned a preliminary 101 Beyer for her 14 and ½ length romp. Pletcher has a pair of promising two year old colts, Delegated and Major Dude, set to debut this afternoon in Race 6. First post for the super-sized card today is 12:15 (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!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|2||1||1||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||3||3||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||2,5,6||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|9||1||1||10||2,12||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|10||2||1,2||4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|11||6||6,8||3,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This marathon afternoon begins with $30K-$25K N3L claimers that will go six furlongs. This is a challenging race that may require some coverage in the Win-Early Pick-5 sequence here. I’m expecting a better effort from Mystery Mo (#5) in his second race of the meet and his second start off the layoff. He came back from a four month hiatus last month and faced $25K-$20K N3L claimers in a 5 and ½ furlong race. He acted up before the start of the race and was uncharacteristically aggressive on the front end. He held second that day, but he’s better when he’s rating off the pace. The added distance, along with getting that first race in, should help his cause here. Branco Maria (#7) is an interesting entrant for Michael Stidham, making his first start in 11 months today. Joe Bravo gets the assignment aboard this five year old gelded son of Candy Ride, who showed some potential in his three year old season. He had some ailments in 2021 that limited his appearances on the racetrack though. Stidham gave him plenty of time off, and he’s been working nicely at Delaware, preparing for his return. This barn does well with horses running off the layoff. Meru (#2) takes the necessary drop into the claiming ranks for the first time in his career. He hasn’t been good enough when facing optional claiming/N2X rivals over his last several starts. He tried two turns last out for the first time, but leveled off at the top of the stretch. He might get some pace to close into in this race, which is his third start off the layoff. I’m expecting a better performance from him. Bourbon Rebellion (#1) has a pair of second place finishes in his first two starts at this meet. She was no match for the stakes placed Edie Meeny Miney Mo two weeks ago in a four horse, optional claiming/N2X allowance race. She was second two back at this level, when facing females. She tries facing the boys today, and this is a solid field for the condition. If she can run back to her last effort while making her second start for Jose Delgado, she definitely fits with these.
The first Pick-4 of the afternoon starts with an optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race going 5 and ½ furlongs on the main track. I think Spun and Won (#1), who broke his maiden on debut in a salty maiden allowance race on the Haskell undercard last year, is the one to beat today. Manny Franco gets the call for Jorge Duarte and Colts Neck Stables aboard this newly gelded son of Hard Spun. He ran some strong races this fall and winter before going on a three month break. He returned in April, running second at this level at Laurel. He was third last out at this level, against a stronger field at Belmont. He returns home, which will be his sixth consecutive start at a different racetrack. I think he’s better than his rivals here. The one that I’ll cover with here is Stratofortress (#4) who just missed at this level last month. He’s won two out of his last five races, and has lost in a photo finish in the other three races in that time span. He improved dramatically over the winter and spring this season at Oaklawn, coming back to New Jersey as a much stronger runner for Jerry Hollendorfer. He’ll likely need to match or beat his career top figure from his last start to come away victorious today.
Time restricted $8K-$7K claimers travel six furlongs in this race. I’m seeing a lot of speed signed on in this race, and I don’t think much of the frontrunners. That should open the door for the Gulfstream Park invader, Town Classic (#4) to run by them all in the stretch. He’s been consistently facing stronger, open claiming fields in South Florida. He’s been a popular claiming horse that has struggled a bit since moving to a lower percentage barn. Kathleen O’Connell takes over the training for his local debut, and she hands the reins over to the leading rider at the meet, Paco Lopez. This nine year old gelding may have lost a step, but I think he’s good enough to beat this group at this level of competition. You don’t often get horses with a 30% career winning percentage in races like this, especially horses with over 40 starts, but that’s the case with Love Nest (#1), who was a handy winner of his first race at this meet last time out. He had gone off form for a bit over the winter at Oaklawn, but he was facing some salty competition there, while running in open company. He beat open $5K claimers here last month, but because the tag was $5K or less, he remains eligible for this time restricted claiming race. Tapsolute (#3) is one to think about on deeper tickets. He was a winner with conditioned $5K claimers last month in his first career try on this oval. He’s primarily been a two turn horse in his career, his last race came at this distance. His few one turn races haven’t been bad at all, so I don’t mind him running in sprints. However, he’s never really had to deal with a rapid tempo in those races, which I think could be the case today. He’s been closer to the pace in his sprint races, where the early pace hasn’t been very intense. He has four times as many second and third place finishes as he has wins, so he’s probably better to use underneath. I will cover with him on some deeper multi-race plays though.
The first turf race of the day is a $16K-$14K maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. There isn’t much speed signed on here, so I’m hoping that Hector Diaz could be trying to steal this one on the front end with the Tampa invader, Any Port (#1) breaking from the rail. He’s bred top and bottom for grass, so it’s not surprising that she took a step forward in her first race on turf. She faded late after setting a solid tempo with $25K-$20K maiden claimers two months ago. Roy Lerman brings her to Monmouth and drops her in class. She’s got the shortest path around the track and if she’s able to set slower fractions on the front end, she might be very hard to catch. Pegasus in Flight (#8) ran six times in 2021, and finished on the board in five of those races. She ran very well in most of her efforts on the grass, all while facing better fields. She was a distant second in an off the turf race at this level in her final start last year. DeMasi has a good record with horses off the layoff, and while adding blinkers. Time Goes Fast (#2) makes her second start of the season after a useful return from a layoff last out. She was facing maiden allowance horses last season, but dropped to this level to start off 2022. This is probably the right level of competition for her though. She should be able to sit a bit closer to the front end with her inside draw. On deeper tickets, Grace in Motion (#9) makes her seasonal debut while running for Kent Sweezy for the first time. She was overmatched against state bred $40K maiden claimers and state bred maiden special weight company in 2021 in New York. I suspect she’ll be better next time, as is the case with a lot of Sweezy’s runners, however, she does look like a horse that could compete at this level.
New Jersey bred fillies and mares go six furlongs in this optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race. Note that this race will be the end of the Win-Early Pick-5 sequence, but also the beginning of a mid-card Pick-5. Mia’s Crusade (#3) has a pair of strong efforts at this current meet so far. She dominated a field of N1X allowance foes when making her first start of the year in the slop last month. She came back to run a strong second in the Smart N Classy Handicap for New Jersey bred fillies and mares, going one mile. She cuts back to a sprint, where she should be very competitive, assuming that she can rate kindly on the front end. Princess Georgia (#7) could be the beneficiary of a pace meltdown in this race as there are multiple committed frontrunners signed on for this race. She was a two time winner on this course last year, clearing the N1X condition when winning the Spruce Fir Handicap, when the pace collapsed in front of her. She was wide, but making up ground when finishing a little less than two lengths behind Mia’s Crusade last out.
WIN-EARLY Pick-5: $48 Ticket:
I’m going to build this ticket around Spun and Won (#1, R2), thinking that he is the best horse in that six horse contest. I think the 5 and 1/2 furlong distance suits him well, and he should be ready to run his best race in his third start off the layoff. I’m looking for decent coverage in the first and fourth races, using four runners in both of them. I’m betting on a pace meltdown in the last leg, thinking that both Mia’s Crusade (#3, R5) and Princess Georgia (#7, R5) could be beneficiaries of that scenario.
Two year olds go five furlongs in this maiden special weight race, which starts a mid-card Pick-4 wager. After sending out an absolute beasy yesterday in a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies (Munnys Gold), Todd Pletcher sends out two well-meant colts that could have their eyes on a race like the Sanford at Saratoga next month. Both Delegated (#2) and Major Dude (#6) are based at Saratoga and have been working well in upstate New York. Delegated is a Mike Repole homebred, sired by Uncle Mo out of the First Samurai mare, Nakano Takeko. Major Dude (#6) is from the first crop of Bolt d’Oro, who was sold for $550K at the Fasig Tipton April Sale in 2021. Joe Bravo gets the call on Delegated and John Velazquez gets the ride on Major Dude. I’ll give the slight edge to Delegated, but there’s not much separating these two on paper. Notah (#5) is another runner that John Terranova is bringing in from New York for his debut. He cost his connections $90K at auction at the Keeneland September Sale of 2021. Terranova doesn’t have great numbers with first time starters and two year olds, but he sent out Sweet Harmony to a debut win here two weeks ago in a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Ee Yah (#4) who was second behind a nice looking New Jersey bred, Great Navigator, in his debut two weeks ago. I think this is a considerably tougher field, but the raceday experience definitely counts for something, especially with these young runners.
We head back to the grass in the 7th race today, which is for conditioned $16K-$14K claimers going 1 mile and 1/16. All of the runners entered for the turf qualify under the N2L condition here. Five of the ten that are entered for the grass are tosses for me personally. However, even with some filler in this race, I’m going to have a hard time taking Hard Knocking (#3) at 2-1 (ML) or lower. He is definitely the class of the field, making his last start at Keeneland during their fall meet. He was a credible 5th in N1X allowance company at long odds that afternoon. After six tries in maiden special weight company to start his career, he finally broke through to break his maiden in his 7th start, when dropping in for a $30K tag at Indiana Grand. He ran a pair of respectable races with $30K N2L claimers at the end of the summer at Ellis and Kentucky Downs before shooting his shot in Lexington. He was only purchased for $7,500, so the $49K+ he’s earned on the track has covered his costs and then some. He still might need a race before he’s at his best, although 85-90% might be good enough with this field. He’s still a must use for me on the A line, but I’ll look to try Papi Bello (#9) as the top pick. He’s a three year old son of the Australian bred Astern, who has been improving on the turf. Rafael Schistl claimed him two back for $20K at Tampa and he tried him in a protected N1X allowance spot at the end of the meet there. He was a beaten 5th that day, but he wasn’t embarrassed in a race which he probably needed. If he can move forward off that race, that might be enough to pull off the upset with this group. On deeper tickets, I’m not willing to count out Bob in Our Mist (#1) in this race. He’s a seven year old who has one win in 35 career tries, so caution will need to be exercised here. However, from a figures perspective, he definitely fits with this group, which will likely be the softest he’s seen in a little while.
Fillies are mares travel 5 and ½ furlongs in this time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claiming race. J’s Indian Charm (#1) took pressure every step of the way in her first start off a layoff last month, beating time restricted $8K-$7K claimers. Since she ran for an $8K tag that day, she’s eligible for the time restricted claimer at this level today. Not many of these fillies and mares like to pass horses, so she becomes a very logical candidate to win her second straight race on the front end. Capturini (#3) might be a filly that could possibly sustain a rally if the pace falls apart in this race. She ships in from Gulfstream for Claudio Gonzalez. If you draw a line through her races against Florida breds, both of which appeared to be pretty salty, her dirt form definitely fits nicely with this level. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with the morning line favorite, Shackleford County (#7). She’s getting class relief after an inexplicably bad effort against optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance company last out, despite taking a decent amount of money. She definitely has a boom or bust quality to her, so I can’t fault anyone for trying to take a swing against her in the vertical wagers. She isn’t as consistent as she was in 2020, however, she is capable at this level on her best day.
There’s an overflow field of New Jersey breds, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course in this optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance race. I don’t like taking the favorite on top in a race like this, however, all signs are pointing to There Are No Words (#1) to get the job done today. He wants to be on the front end, and he should have a relatively easy time making the lead from his post. There doesn’t seem to be many significant threats that will force him to go too fast, which might be the way he could be beaten in here. He tired late in the Jersey Derby last month after setting moderate fractions in that five horse field. Despite going slow early, they flew home that day, so there’s no shame in his 4th place finish. He is getting significant class relief and he gets Joe Bravo to ride for the first time. Wolf ‘n Hawke (#10) is a six year old gelding slated to make his first start of 2022. He has run credible efforts coming off the bench in the past. He was a respectable 6th in an open allowance race on the Haskell undercard last year. He’s never finished worse than second when facing Jersey breds on the grass. He might be better next time, but is likely the most appealing of the longer prices in this race. On deeper tickets, I’d use both Leo Monte (#2) and Duquesne (#12) as savers in case the favorite doesn’t show up. Leo Monte was 7th in his seasonal debut when facing open N1X allowance runners. He ran some credible races with New Jersey breds last season, breaking his maiden in his second try on the grass. He makes his second start of the year and is getting class and post relief. Duquesne on the other hand is going to have to work out a trip from an outside draw. He wanted no part in racing on the main track in his seasonal debut last month. He broke his maiden on this course back in September with state bred maiden special weight runners. He might be more effective in his next start, but he’s not out of the question here.
Conditioned $12,500-$10,500 filly and mare claimers dash 5 and ½ furlongs here. With nice weather expected, I’m thinking that we’ll see a better effort from Expect to Be Ready (#2). When you draw a line through her off track races, she’s progressing quite nicely while racing on fast courses. She broke her maiden by seven widening lengths two starts back with $16K maiden claimers at Tampa. She tried facing $30-$25K conditioned claimers here last out when she caught a sloppy track. She was likely outclassed and uncomfortable that afternoon. This is a much more appropriate spot for her to face winners for the second time. Little Miss Sassy (#1) continues to drop in class for Jose Delgado. She beat an optional $75K claiming/N1X allowance field when facing straight three year olds back in February. She hasn’t fared as well in her three subsequent starts, but she hasn’t embarrassed herself either. She is likely the one to beat in this spot. On deeper tickets, Blind Sight (#4) might be a filly to consider at long odds. Her trainer, Mike Dini, is 0-27 at the current meet, in part because he’s placing some of his horses in some questionable spots. This Palace Malice filly tried two turns on the dirt at this level last out and came up empty. She cuts back to a sprint, where I think she’ll fare better. She doesn’t have a ton of dirt experience, but this seems like it’s her best surface.
Race 11: The $150K Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes:
The All-Stakes Pick-4 starts sequence, which is one of the better betting sequences in the country today, starts here with a competitive, eight horse edition of the Eatontown Stakes. Princess Grace (#6) is my top pick, with Florent Groux coming into town to ride. She makes her five year old debut today after ending her four year old season with a pair of third place finishes in graded stakes company at Del Mar. Geroux has been aboard for two of her graded stakes victories in the past. She was a winner on this course in her second career start and she has blossomed into a very nice mare for Michael Stidham. Chad Brown sends out a pair of runners in this race, and both look like they could be rolling late. I prefer Fluffy Socks (#8), who will be making her third start of the year today. She was the winner of the Sands Point Stakes for three year old fillies last year before running third in the American Oaks, which was taken off the turf. She returned at Keeneland in April and just missed in allowance company. She also was a close second behind her stablemate, Bleecker Street in the Grade 3 Modesty Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Bleecker Street came back to win the Grade 1 New York Stakes at Belmont last week. There should be a honest pace here to set up her late close. Brown also sends out Lemista (#7) who was very good behind Harvey’s Lil Goil in the Grade 3 Beaugay last year. She is still looking for her first North American win though, and I think she’s better on a course with some give in it. There hasn’t been much rain in the area this week, so she’s likely to get a firmer course today. Stolen Holiday (#3) is one of two that Shug McGaughey is sending here. His other runner, Vigilante’s Way (#1), is more accomplished, winning this race last year, but I think Stolen Holiday has more upside. She was a little flat in the Beaugay last out at Belmont, however, that was a one turn race. Her two turn turf races prior to that were very sharp. Jose Lezcano has always been a very sharp rider on grass, and he gets the assignment,
Race 12: The $150K TVG.com Pegasus Stakes
Of the four stakes races this afternoon, this 1 mile and 1/16 contest feels like the most likely race to produce a longshot. I’m going to try Cooke Creek (#8) on top in this spot for Jeremiah O’Dwyer. This three year old son of Uncle Mo started his career with a maiden win and a two turn stakes win at Delaware last year. He tried graded stakes company in New York and was a game second in the Nashua behind Rockefeller, when going a one turn mile. He caught wet tracks in his next three starts. He struggled to gain ground in the slop in the Jerome, and had a miserable trip in the Withers, going wide in the mud. He came back on a wet track in the Peter Pan, where We The People had a major pace advantage and dominated that field. There’s no standout in this race, and he should be competing on a fast track for the first time since November. Lasix is added for the first time and John Velasquez gets the assignment. Another horse that came out of the Withers Stakes, who has a live look in this race is Mr. Jefferson (#3). He was also wide in that race, which has produced a lot of talented runners, most notably the Preakness winner, Early Voting. He came back and ran a much better race in the Frederico Tesio at Laurel, narrowly losing to a next out winner, Joe. He was third behind the battle tested Ethereal Road in the Sir Barton at Pimlico last month. I can see him running a better race here today. Home Brew (#2) is one of three stakes winners in this field, most recently winning the Oaklawn Stakes. He was solid that day, but that field was fairly weak. The runner up, Kuchar, did come back to win a 10 furlong allowance race at Churchill last month, however, there really was very little depth in that race. He’ll likely be the second choice at post time here, and he definitely is a candidate to improve, but I think others will offer better value. Electability (#4) for Chad Brown is the morning line favorite that I’ll be trying to beat in this race. Brown has yet to win a race at this meet, and he usually has more success with his turf horses at Monmouth. This three year old son of Quality Road has three career tries on the dirt, all going one turn. He’s run well in each start, and now will be asked to try two turns for the first time. He doesn’t seem to be that far ahead of his rivals to warrant taking 9-5 (ML) on him in this spot, especially when he’s trying something new for the first time. I’ll use him as a saver on deeper multi-race tickets, but I’ll be playing against him in the vertical wagers.
Race 13: The $150K Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes
12 are entered in this 1 mile and ⅛ turf contest, which is another tremendous betting race. Note that Public Sector (#3) is cross entered in the Grade 3 Poker today at Belmont, which has a higher purse and only four other runners. Regardless of whether or not he goes, I like Safe Conduct (#7) on top. He is a four year old that might be flying under the radar despite being the winner of the Queens Plate at Woodbine last August. He ended his three year old season with two losses behind Never Surprised, who ran monster races both times. That one would go on to be second in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January. His turf form in races between eight and nine furlongs is very good, and would make him competitive with this group. He certainly is eligible to move forward off his allowance win at Belmont. Yes This Time (#1) is live in this race for Kelly Breen and Paco Lopez. He was privately purchased last winter by Edge Racing after a $30K maiden claiming win at the Fair Grounds. Kelly Breen brought him to Gulfstream where he finished 4th in his first race for him. After that, he would go on to reel off five straight wins on the turf, including a score in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware. He struggled against Grade 1 foes in the Saratoga Derby, but went on to finish in the money in three straight stakes races at the end of his three year old season. Breen brought him back in the Cliff Hanger Stakes here last month, where he ran a decent 4th. Breen’s horses improve with more starts, so I’m expecting a forward move from this four year old today. Sacred Life (#6) is the morning line favorite while getting some class relief for Chad Brown. He showed up on this course in August of 2020 and absolutely dominated the Oceanport Stakes that year. Since then, his only other win was in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont last year. He’s run in three tough races this year, most recently finishing second to his stablemate, L’Imperator, in the Fort Marcy at Belmont. He might be the best closer in the field, and he should have some pace to chase here. On deeper tickets, I’d use Public Sector, if he does show up here. I do expect him to stay at Belmont, where he’s based though. I’d be willing to completely toss the race at Churchill last month, as there were some horses that weren’t getting over that course at all. He won three straight graded stakes wins as a three year old before finishing a game 4th in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. Ever Dangerous (#5) is another horse that I’m interested in if he does participate. There’s no rider named on this son of Kitten’s Joy, so I’m not certain he’ll be making the trip. However, if he does, Weaver has good numbers off the layoff. He’s a competitive type that runs well sitting just off the pace and may get first run on the closers.
Race 14: The $150K Grade 3 Salvator Mile
Three Grade 1 winners, Mind Control (#1), Hot Rod Charlie (#3), and Shirl’s Speight (#4), a Grade 2 winner, Helium (#5), and a Grade 3 winner, Phat Man (#7) make for a very good renewal of the Salvator Mile. Dubai World Cup runner-up, Hot Rod Charlie is the headliner, making his first start since running second to Country Grammar. He outdueled Mandaloun to the wire on this course in the Haskell last summer, but was disqualified and placed last for his role in the Midnight Bourbon spill. This is obviously a tune up for some major races down the road, so he might not be fully cranked for this spot. Also, horses that run in Dubai, aren’t always at their best in the subsequent stateside effort. He is the class of this field and the one to beat, but this may be a spot to try to take a small swing against him. I’m siding with the six year old, Mind Control on top. He’s a two time Grade 1 winner that has done most of his best work at seven furlongs, winning prestigious races like the Hopeful and the H. Allen Jerkens earlier in his career. He’s only started twice at two turns in his 25 race career. The first time was as a two year old in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2018, where nothing seemed to go right for him. He didn’t try again until last September when he ran a career top speed figure, beating a solid field in the Parx Dirt Mile on the Pennsylvania Derby undercard. John Velasquez has been the pilot for all of his major wins, and he gets the mount today, where he should get a solid trip from his rail post. Shirl’s Speight is an interesting entrant in this spot. He was the winner of the Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland on the turf in April. Like Public Sector in the race beforehand, he struggled in the Turf Classic at Churchill over the new turf course there. His only career race on the dirt was a loss to the talented sprinter, Mischievous Alex, back in January of 2021. It’s definitely odd to see him in this spot, when the Monmouth Stakes or the Poker Stakes at Belmont seem like they would have been more viable options. However, he is a Grade 1 winner, and the favorite in this race might be a touch vulnerable. I’d be willing to take a chance on him at odds of 10-1 or better (he’s listed at 6-1 on the morning line).
Top Pick Winners: 37/135 (27.4%) – $331.90 / $2.46 ROI