After a tremendous day of racing yesterday, there’s a 12 race Sunday program that ends the week of racing at Monmouth Park. Half of the races this afternoon are carded for the turf, including the featured race, which is the $100K Select Stakes. This 5 and ½ furlong turf sprint for three year olds and up will be the 11th race on the program. The Critical Way looks to win his second stakes race of the meet, but he’ll have to deal with the Maryland invader, Carotari, along with eight others. As usual, the first post is 12:15 (ET) on what should be a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore.
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||5||3,5||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||5||1,3,5||4||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|8||1||1||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||9||3,9||11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off with a competitive open $12,500-$10,500 claiming race for fillies and mares on the turf, going 1 mile and 1/16. Speed Salsa (#4) might be the value play here in her second race of the meet. She was with Joseph Mazza down at Tampa, where she didn’t run well in four starts. She reunited with Joan Milne, who was her trainer last year when she was racing in New Jersey, and ran a competitive 4th two weeks ago with $16K-$14K N3L claimers. She fits at this level and could be tough if she can improve slightly off her last try. Twisted Treasure (#1) and Kitten With a Whip (#6) dueled to the wire at this level last month, with Twisted Treasure winning narrowly, earning her third straight win. She is in excellent form and figures to be right in the thick of things once again. Kitten With a Whip was claimed by Douglas Nunn, who has gotten off to a slow start at this current meet. However, he does have good numbers off the claim, and Paco Lopez gets the mount. She was the heavy favorite that day, and she figures to be in the mix again today. On deeper tickets, Nunn’s other horse, Strong Gem (#8) is worth some consideration. She’s been off since February, after being beaten by Kitten With a Whip at Tampa. Her form was up and down on this course last year, however, she ran some big races with better fields. Nunn also has decent numbers with horses coming off the layoff, so she could be a player if the price was right.
Seven three and four year old fillies sprint six furlongs in this maiden special weight. Drifaros (#5) debuted in a $50K maiden optional claimer at Gulfstream back in December. She moved well late to get into third at long odds. She’s been off since, but has been working well locally for Terri Pompay. With four first time starters and some cheap speed on the outside, she might be able to be surging into the picture late. Glitter Up (#3) is likely to be a part of the early pace in her first start since a narrow defeat at this level at Aqueduct in her last start back in January. She drilled a bullet work here earlier in the week, signaling that she’s ready for her return to the races. Navy Girl (#2) ships in from Saratoga for Todd Pletcher to make her debut. Going into the weekend, Pletcher had only two winners from 13 starters at the meet. However, he’s sent out three winners over the last two days, including a pair of debut winners. He’s had his share of successes with these kinds of horses here over the years, however, I’m always a little leery of them, knowing that his “A string” is running on the NYRA circuit. With this barn heating up at the meet, she’ll likely be overbet. I’ll cover her, but I feel that she’s worth trying to beat.
I’m going to try to beat Paco Lopez and the morning favorite, Moon Party (#2) in this $16K-$14K maiden claiming contest. She is dropping in class and her synthetic form fits with the group, but I wasn’t crazy about the way she was traveling on the grass at Tampa last out. She never looked comfortable, and faded to 9th in a maiden special weight race where she was 20-1. I just don’t see her loving the 5 and ½ distance on grass. I’ll use both of Jose D’Angelo’s runners instead, taking Designed to Dazzle (#8) on top. She makes her first start as a three year old after four races in her two year old season. Her debut on the grass when running for Kelsey Danner wasn’t bad. Her next three starts on synthetic were a mixed bag though. D’Angelo claimed her for $16K back in December and gave her time off. He has good numbers with first time claimers and horses coming back off layoffs. Next Tuesday (#4) had some trouble lines when she was a beaten favorite with $30K maiden claimers last out at Keeneland. However, the reality is regardless of that incident, she was never going to come close to hitting the board in that race. She takes a necessary drop in class and faces a considerably soft field while coming back to the turf. Her turf sprints at Saratoga weren’t bad last year.
There’s a bit of a rematch happening in this optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance. The top three finishers from a race at this same condition on 5/29 are back to face three new faces. There’s even less speed signed on this time than there was in that four horse race. To me, this is the kind of race where there’s value in watching the replays. It’s not mentioned in the trouble lines in the racing form, but Hard West (#6) bobbled a bit at the start and cost him early position when breaking in between horses that wanted to establish the pace. He ended up being last in a paceless race in the early stages, taking him out of his comfort zone. He rallied and nearly got even with Aequor (#3), but was turned away in the final stages, to finish second. I think from his outside draw, and with a smoother start, he can turn the tables on his rival today. Aequor still remains a player after nearly leading from gate to wire last time. He went off form at Tampa, but seems to be trending in the right direction again. He’s been a horse that stays in good form once he gets there. I’ll use these two, and side against the other short prices in here, Mi Tres Por Ciento (#4) and Nick the Cardshark (#5). Mi Tres Por Ciento has run okay in his two local starts, but I expected him to be better. Jeffrey Englehart is off to an ice cold start at the meet, so despite his solid numbers off the claim, I’ll be siding against this one. Nick the Cardshark is the morning line favorite after an upset score with $5K starter allowance company last month. He likes to come from off the pace though, and he had a swift pace to close into in that last race. I don’t see that scenario playing out with this group today, making his assignment more difficult.
New Jersey breds sprint 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf in this maiden special weight. Trainer Cathal Lynch has been very successful with his five starters thus far at this meet, winning with two and finishing second with the other three. He has a pair of geldings sired by Exaggerator, entered for Isabelle deTomaso that figure to be tough in this spot today. Irish Boolum (#2) gets the call in his first try on the turf. He ran well to be second in his first two starts of the meet at this level on the main track. Lynch worked him over the all-weather training track at Fair Hill last week, and that effort looked good enough to give him a shot on the grass. He gets a soft field for the condition for his turf debut. His stablemate, Exaggerateddefence (#9) draws the outside post for his career debut. He’s been working well in the mornings at Delaware for Lynch, really picking up the pace in his last two drills. Lynch has good numbers with firsters, winning 22% of his races since 2021. What’s Up Mr. Z (#3) is another one to consider using in this race. He’s run three times in turf sprints and has finished reasonably close in each one. He faced open company in each of those three races last year, so I believe he’s getting class relief for his first start of the year.
WIN-EARLY Pick-5 – $54 Ticket:
This was a tough sequence for me to nail down a single, however, I do see potential for a respectable payout here. I’m not certain how these races will be wagered, but I’m siding against the morning line favorites in the last three legs of the sequence, leaving them off the ticket completely. If you were going to pare down somewhere, I would look at Hard West (#6, R4) being the horse that I’d use to single. I think his start threw him off enough to keep him from winning last out. He faces a similar field where he should benefit from his outside draw in that race.
Three year old fillies sprint six furlongs in this N1X allowance race. There are three definite speed horses in this six horse race, and two of them, Zuboshi (#2) and Lady Milagro (#6) are coming off layoffs. It’s not uncommon to see a speed horse be extra keen in their first start back from a break, so this is another race in which I’ll handicap for a pace meltdown. I’ll try Moving in Stereo (#4) on top for Darien Rodriguez here. She won her debut when facing $40K maiden claimers on this oval a few weeks ago. She settled off the early pace before making a decisive four wide bid to take the lead. She was under pressure throughout the stretch, but showed some definite grit while holding off her rivals. Rodriguez has hit with 35% of his runners coming off a win since 2021. World Traveler (#5) comes in after pairing his debut Beyer when beating a hapless maiden special weight field here last month. Paco Lopez was more aggressive with her in that start. If he gets too aggressive, she could join a three horse pace battle that might do her in. However, I can also see her taking a step forward in her third career start.
The Jersey Shore 6 starts here with a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race for three year olds and upward. Everyone entered qualifies under the N2L condition. The morning line favorite is Red Mule (#4), whose only win came back in February of 2020. He has been a productive horse, hitting the board in 15 of his 26 career starts. He’s been close a few times during his last 14 races, including a narrow loss at five furlongs at this condition last month. He’s been favored in four of those of 14 races, sometimes going off at odds of less than even money. That tells me that he’s seen soft fields before and despite running an okay race, he hasn’t been good enough to break through. I’ll use him, but I’ll try to beat him with some others at better odds. I’ll try Merokee (#5) on top after finishing 6th, beaten 5+ lengths at this level last out. He had two minor points of trouble in the first furlong, which relegated him to the back of the field. He lost position and as a result, was widest of all while making his move on the turn. The rails were at 36 feet that day and when they are, that kind of move is tough to pull off. At longer odds here, I’m willing to look at that race as a learning experience for this three year old son of Long Island Sound. He broke his maiden in a turf sprint over at the Meadowlands last fall and I think the added distance here is a plus. Cajun Lover (#1) was also in that same race where he finished 5th. He struggled to go with Beach Warrior in the early stages of that contest. The winner would go on to a gate to wire victory. He was making his first start off a layoff, and his first start on the grass in that race. While he didn’t move forward, he certainly didn’t embarrass himself either. I don’t see him having to work as hard to get to the front in this race, and with the bend from the chute onto the main course, having rail speed isn’t a bad thing in a race like this. He’s another candidate to improve here. Jama Dillon (#3) makes his first start of 2022, trying to win for the second time in his 20th career trip to the races. Douglas Nunn has good numbers off the level, so I expect him to be ready to roll here. He was competitive when sprinting at this level last year.
Conditioned $30K-$25K claimers go six furlongs in the race that will start the Late Pick-5. I think Catch the Smoke (#1) along the rail will be very tough in this race. He was a winner three back at Aqueduct with open $20K claimers when facing just three year olds there. He ran into a buzzsaw when he came here in May, and lost to Little Vic in a N1X allowance race. He was more competitive at Belmont last out when running in optional $40K claiming/$40K starter allowance company. He returns to the track where he broke his maiden last year while dropping in class. He has tactical speed, which has been a good thing to have this weekend on this course. Forty Stripes (#6) is another class dropping three year old, dipping into a straight claiming race for the first time in his career. He was a winner with maiden special weight company here last season at first asking. He was second in a stakes race here at the end of the 2021 meet, but since then, he has fallen off the map. He was also in the Little Vic race in his last start, where he was chasing instead of rating off the speed. Perhaps the drop in class will help, especially, if Jomar Torres is able to get him to relax better, while sitting off the early speed.
We’re back to the turf with an open $12,500-$10,500 claiming race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16 out of the chute. This is always a competitive condition here, and this race is no exception. I’m interested in the new faces here though, as I think they are in better form than many of the familiar horses. Til The End (#9) is a ten year old gelding shipping in from South Florida for Jose D’Angelo. He was a winner at this level there two starts ago. He spent a lot of the winter running on the synthetic, as I don’t think they were carding many races like this on the turf at the Championship Meet at Gulfstream. He seems to be a much better horse on the grass and if he takes to the local course, I think he could be very tough in this race. There’s no secret in to what tactics John Hiraldo will be trying to employ with Gunslinger (#3) in this race. He’s coming in from Delaware on a two race win streak that dates back to last year. He wants to be on the front end, and his inside draw, and the lack of another serious speed threat, should make that task easier for the young rider. His last race off the layoff was strong, and he’ll be tough to catch if he can build off that race. Paco Lopez rides the lukewarm 4-1 morning favorite, Unleveraged (#11) who had some trouble late when facing Gunslinger last out at Delaware. He was widest of all on the turn and was herded out to the middle of the course throughout his stretch bid, finishing closer to the outer rail than the inner rail. The horse that was herding was disqualified, and while that action almost certainly cost him a placing, I don’t think the interference cost him a win. Lopez will have to navigate a trip from his wide draw here, but if he can find his Tampa form from earlier in the winter, he’ll be very tough with this group.
New Jersey bred three year olds and up, sprint six furlongs in an optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance race. I was all about Smithwick’s Spice (#3) at this level last month, and he ran a decent second to Lemon Creek Louie, who stepped up and ran a big race at long odds. Smithwick’s Spice is now third off the layoff, and this was the race where he was at his peak last year, when running a close 6th in a contentious stakes race at Delaware. That kind of effort would certainly get the job done with this group today. I’m interested in Lib’s Contento (#8) at long odds here, while cutting back to a sprint. Full disclosure; I definitely was chasing this horse as he was falling off form last year. He was a winner at the beginning of the 2021 meet, breaking his maiden in the slop. He ran a decent race when facing winners in his next start, when he ran into a spot of trouble against a strong field for the condition. He fell off the map for a bit, but ended his three year old season with a respectable effort in an open N1X allowance at Penn National. He returned here and was a decent third at the N1X state bred level when going two turns. He cuts back to a sprint today, which may be a good thing, seeing as how his lone win was at this distance. We’ll know today if he’s going to be better suited to one or two turn racing. However, at long odds, I’d be willing to chase him one more time today. The morning line favorite is Brother Chub (#9), making his first start of his ten year old season today. He was a winner at this level last year in the slop, and was running races that would be very competitive with this field. However, he took some time to reach his top form, so I’m not sure we’ll see one of his best races on this day. I’ll cover with him but I’ll be looking elsewhere in the vertical wagers. On deeper tickets, Counterfeitcurrency (#7) is a horse I’d consider using. I’m not sure how high his ceiling is, but he was getting better toward the end of his three year old season. He made his first start of the year at this level in the Lemon Creek Louie race a few weeks ago. He should be more fit after that race. He has some similarities to Lib’s Contento, who is a longer price on the morning line. I prefer the value on that one, but I could use him on deeper tickets or if his odds float up from the 8-1 morning line figure.
Race 11: The $100K Select Stakes:
The feature is a fascinating turf sprint, where the 5 and ½ furlong distance might be the equalizer in a race where there is a ton of speed signed on. There are two very good turf sprinters entered here. The Critical Way (#4) has won four out of his last five races in turf sprints, with all four of those races being stakes. Carorati (#6) has three straight wins, winning stakes races in his last two starts at Gulfstream and Pimlico. Both horses want the early lead, and both horses might be a touch better at five furlongs as opposed to 5 and ½. While they’ve kept similar company, this is the first time these two veterans will be meeting. There’s other speed signed on as well, so this race could easily fall apart in the final 1/16 of a mile. I’ll use both on the B line, as these horses are too good to ignore, however, I’ll try a pair of horses to come from off the pace and upset the apple cart here. Belgrano (#5) was my pick in the Get Serious Stakes last out when his rally wasn’t strong enough to get to The Critical Way. However, despite other speed being signed on, there was no one that could go with The Critical Way early, setting the table for a rather easy victory. I think there will be significantly more pressure on him today, and that should benefit Belgrano, who has never lost a race in four tries at this 5 and ½ furlong distance on turf. He won the Rainbow Heir Stakes at this distance on this course last season. He’s been on a steady diet of five furlong races, so the added distance is a definite positive for him. Proven Strategies (#3) is the other one I’m interested in, shipping here for Mark Casse. He hasn’t run this short since finishing second in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga as a two year old. He has early speed at longer races, so he’ll have to be able to be comfortable rating off the hot tempo here. He rallied well to be third in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup at Woodbine last year at seven furlongs on turf. I’d be willing to try him at this shorter distance today.
The Sunday nightcap is a maiden special weight at two turns for three year olds and up, but there are only three year olds entered. Todd Pletcher looks to have two very solid runners in this race, that I won’t be trying to beat. I’ll eat chalk and use Sukoon (#2) on top. He makes his third start after a pair of sprints on the NYRA circuit to start his career. I liked his debut effort when he had a significant amount of trouble early, and found himself 13 lengths off the leader at first call. He rallied well, making up a lot of ground on a wet track to finish 3rd, only three lengths behind the winner. He stretched out to seven furlongs and was beaten by some better horses at Belmont in a salty race last out. He’s bred to get two turns, and has a nice progression in his two starts. His main threat will be his stablemate, Palm Island (#6). His connections paid $1.3 million for him in March of 2021. He made it to the track once in February, and he had some trouble early on, when finishing 5th in a strong field at Gulfstream. He’s been working well over the local course for his second career start. Paco Lopez opted to ride Sukoon instead of him, but he’s certainly the other horse that makes the most sense here.
Top Pick Winners: 40/147 (27.2%) – $347.30 / $2.36 ROI