The first card in the month of June at Monmouth Park is also the first Friday card of the meet. There’s a pair of claiming races on the turf, and on Fridays at Monmouth, the rails are typically slotted at 36 feet. The featured race is the 6th race, which is a competitive optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance race. This eight race program kicks off at 2:00 (ET).
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the third straight year on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||4||4||7||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||5||5||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||2,3||7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||4||4||2,6||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||3||1,3,6||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The afternoon starts off with a $30K starter allowance race that drew an eclectic field of seven. If you’re keeping track of these things, this race is also restricted to horses that have never won two races. There are five three year olds and two four year olds in the group. No one in this field has faced better fields that what Lil Bro Coop (#4) has been up against. He’s one of the four year olds in this race, and he’s making his local debut. He began his career as a turf horse in Southern California, which didn’t pan out. Ruis Racing sent him to Oaklawn where Chris Hartman oversaw his training. He ran two strong races there on dirt in above average maiden claiming races, breaking his maiden with ease back in March. He was claimed for $75K at Keeneland where he finished 3rd, beaten 10 lengths, when again facing a field that is significantly better than this group. He ran poorly in his first start for Jose Camejo when he was entered in a $50K starter allowance race (this race was also restricted to horses that would qualify under the N1X allowance condition) at Belmont last month. There were four horses in that race, including the first and second place finishers, that had multiple wins, whereas today, everyone has only one. It is also worth noting that his last race was a one turn race, and I don’t think that’s his kind of race. He was much better in his two turn starts, but he will have to prove he can run that kind of race for Jose Camejo, who has gotten off to a slow start at this meet. I think he’s fast enough to set the early fractions and his class should be able to carry him home. The other four year old is Your Analysis (#7) who is coming off a strong performance at Pimlico when facing winners for the first time last month. He drew post 10 for a nine furlong N1X allowance race. He was caught four wide on both turns, but was only beaten five lengths. Claudio Gonzalez, who was the leading trainer here last season, is also off to a slow start, but I do think this gelding is well-spotted in this race. On deeper tickets, Hexagon (#3) is one that might be worth a look. He was pulled up in his debut on the Tapeta at Gulfstream. He came back to run well enough to beat $12,500 claimers at Gulfstream on the dirt five months later. He was very wide on the turn in his first try against winners there last month, closing well enough to get into 4th though. I think he’s a horse that could improve at two turns, but the price is going to have to be right for me to invest. He’s listed at 5-1 on the morning line, but I’ll need to get a better price than that.
It’s been a while since Icy Storm (#5) has gone two turns, but he’ll get the chance to do just that in this conditioned $5K claiming race. He was very good in the Mid-Atlantic region last summer and fall. He won four races in 2022 at four different tracks, including a score here at this distance when facing conditioned $16K claimers. He went to Aqueduct this winter where he was claimed out of a nine furlong race against open $12,500 claimers. He was wide going into the first turn, which didn’t help his chances at all. Since then, he’s faced open claimers in New York, all in one turn races. He’s been flat in those races, showing little early interest. I like the addition of blinkers for this one, and I think getting back to a two turn race gives him an edge over his competition here. Bourbon Thunder (#3) is the backup plan in this race. I don’t think he’s the same horse that he was in 2021 and the spring of 2022. His last three dirt starts have not been good, losing those races by a combined total of 42 lengths. This is a hearty and necessary drop in class, so perhaps that will be the cause of his form reversal. However, if the price goes too low, my interest will diminish. The 2-1 morning line is already a little lower than I was thinking.
Six of the seven fillies and mares faced off against each other in a race at this level on Opening Day. They were soundly defeated by Girl Trouble, who should have been lower than her 3-5 odds in that race. Some of these runners probably needed that race, and it was critical to be close to the front end on that day. Sadie Baby (#2) was one that wasn’t keeping up in the early stages of that race, which was not the kind of horse we saw in her two starts last year. Making up ground on that course was very difficult, and I think Rendon went easy on her toward the end. I expect her to be more aggressive in the early stages, sitting just off Proud Mule (#1), who couldn’t keep pace at all with Girl Trouble or Amazing Graces Joy (#3). I think she’ll rebound nicely in this spot. Amazing Graces Joy stalked the frontrunners on that curse, so she was definitely aided by the track bias in that race. However, she was competitive in maiden races last year and at this level once she finally broke through. When you draw a line through her August race last year where she lost all chance at the break, she gradually improved throughout her four year old campaign and she picked up right where she left off. I expect her to be right there with this group today. Sea Maiden (#7) made her three year old debut against older foes in that same race last month. She struggled to keep pace and retreated to finish 5th. Rory Huston’s runners tend to get better as the meet goes on, so I think she’ll run better in this race. Paco Lopez gets the call today, which may put a definitive cap on what kind of value you’ll get on this filly, however, I do see her as a candidate to improve. I’m going to be squarely against Proud Mule, who is the morning line favorite. She was not able to keep pace at this level last month when there was a pronounced track bias. The track has been playing a little more evenly since then and Amazing Graces Joy was six lengths better than she was on that day. I haven’t seen nearly enough growth from this filly to consider her as the favorite today.
There’s a lot of cheap speed signed on for this $8K-$7K claiming race. Unified Ride (#4) has two wins in a row at Tampa and is well-spotted for her third consecutive score. She set the pace when beating $8K N3L claimers at seven furlongs last month. Two starts back, she stalked and pounced when going the same 5 and ½ furlong distance as she’s getting today. All three of her career wins have come at Tampa, so she’s going to have to show that she can win outside of Oldsmar, Florida. However, I think she fits very well with this group. Ninja Abarrio (#6) has the most consistent speed figures in this race, but I do wonder if she’s going to be able to get home at this distance. She is taking a significant drop in class today, while looking for her first win since Kent Sweezy claimed her back in August. She won her first three career starts prior to that, so there is some back class here. I would have liked to see her run better at Pimlico last month, I still think there’s hope for Miss Casey (#2) to reverse her current form. She’s getting class relief and cutting back to a distance where she’s been successful in the past. She was very good over the winter at Laurel and her recent struggles have been when facing starter allowance foes. She’s getting class relief in a spot where she should sit a favorable trip.
All nine runners entered in this conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race qualify under the N2L condition. This is the first of two turf events today, and as per usual on the Friday cards, the rails will be all the way out at 36 feet. Historically, horses running closer to the lead have tended to have an advantage on this configuration. I think the three year old fillies have a slight advantage over the older runners in this one. General Robinson (#3) gets the nod from me, in hopes that she’ll be able to rebound from a tough trip when facing three year olds in a $20K claiming contest at Tampa last out. She broke from the outside post and was five wide into the first turn and four wide into the final turn. Batista moved early with her to try to salvage some position, but she was tiring late. She was interfered with in the stretch, but that was as she was retreating. Perhaps that caused the speed figure to be a bit lower than it should have been, but the ground loss on the turns prior to that is what did her in. She was also facing some better runners in that race. Super Caro, who caused the interference and was disqualified back to 6th, came back to win in her next start at the same condition. She defeated Collective Gold (#6) who ran a strong race to be second in the 4/12 race at Tampa, when facing winners for the first time. Paco Lopez gets the assignment here as Samy Camacho is on General Robinson. In a field where inconsistency is a hallmark of many of these runners, Collective Gold has five respectable efforts in a row on the turf, never finishing worse than 4th. This is likely the right level for her, but Ifear she’ll be overbet in a race that is very wide open. Holy Berries (#1) is a bit of a wild card in this race. She has figures that are generally better than her rivals, but all of those races have been on the Tapeta at Gulfstream. She hasn’t been on the grass since her debut in September of 2021, which was an 8th place finish in an effort that looks better than it does on paper. She moves up in class, but she’s likely facing a comparable group to what she was up against in South Florida. If she takes to the turf, she’ll be dangerous. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with Rainout (#5) who is a longshot that I was chasing in races like this last meet. I’ll still hold out hope that she has a better effort in her. Pedro Cotto will ride her for the first time and will be tasked with trying to get that better effort out of her. Watching some of her past efforts, I do think blinkers are going to be helpful for her, and she’ll race for a new barn for the first time today as well. I don’t think there is much separating top and bottom in this race and she’s one of the longer prices that is more appealing.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $36 Ticket:
I’m going to take a stand with Icy Storm (#5, R2) in this sequence. It’s a fairly wide open race, but I think he had an advantage at this distance over his six rivals. That also gives me a little more flexibility to cover my bases against some of the shorter priced runners in this sequence that could be a bit vulnerable.
Most of the money is going to be on Power in Numbers (#1) and Judge Davis (#3) in the featured optional claiming/N1X allowance race today. They might be the best colts in this race, however, neither are proven at two turns. I’ll use both on the B line, but I think Rhumjar (#6) has a big shot in this race. She’s coming back to the main track after a pair of turf tries at Tampa. He was a strong winner at this level at Tampa in December on the dirt, but remains eligible for this condition due to the purse structure there. He ran races last season that would put him right there with this group, and I think his foundation gives him a decent shot at fair odds in the one. Judge Davis has a pair of big efforts for Shug McGaughey that will attract a lot of attention at the windows. However, both of those races were sprints. His lone win came in a one turn race at this distance in the mud as a two year old. He was competitive at this level at Keeneland, so he’ll be getting some class relief, but I don’t completely trust him to string together two big races. Chad Brown started off winning with 4 of his first 6 runners at this meet, but since then, he’s only 1 for his last 7. He’ll send out Power in Numbers for his first try against winners after a front-running victory against $75K maiden claimers at Aqueduct in his last start. There were only four rivals in that race and he and the second place finisher were well clear of their rivals. He’ll be bet because of his connections, so the value is unlikely to be there. I do like betting horses sired by 2017 Haskell winner, Girvin, on this oval, however, I’ll need to get better than his morning line to entertain that thought.
Romantic Fantasy (#6) is almost certain to be the post time favorite, based on her strong victory two starts ago at Tampa. She was no match for her allowance rivals last out in a very speedy N1X race on Opening Day. I don’t love that she had nothing to offer late after sitting off a fast pace. She drops in class to a level where she should be competitive. I’ll use her on the A line, but I want to have some options that will offer better value. I’ll try Influentialous (#8), who was claimed after a strong 6+ length victory when facing three year olds, in a $20K claiming contest. Like Romantic Fantasy, she’s a three year old that has won twice, whereas their older rivals only have one win. She is dangerous in this spot, because she should be able to control the pace, and with the rails at 36 feet, that may give her an advantage over Lopez’s mount. If the price differential expands between the two, I’ll be more aggressive using her. Ginette’s On Fire (#4) coming to town off a decent maiden score at Tampa last out. She has improved since she was claimed by Jesus Cruz, and while she didn’t beat much last time out, she looked good while tracking a runaway leader. While this barn is still winless at this meet, they have done well with some longer priced runners here over the last few years. They also excel with horses coming in off a victory. I don’t love the 4-1 morning line price, but I think she has a shot.
Shea On the Lam (#1) was collared late when facing $10K maiden claimers in his first start of the meet last month. That was his first career effort on the dirt after racing on turf and synthetics to start his career. The pedigree is there for the dirt and he appears quicker from the gate than his other six opponents in this race. I think he can wire this field. Bodontknow (#6) is the heavy 3-2 favorite on the morning line. He debuted for Lindsay Schultz in a $20K maiden claiming race at Churchill on 5/11. He took some money at the windows, but finished a non-threatening 5th. The speed figure certainly stacks up with this group, and he’s certainly eligible to improve in his second time out. I am a bit concerned about the cutback in distance and the drop in class after that effort. New faces at this level are usually dangerous, so I’ll definitely include him, however, if the post time odds are close to the morning line, I think the 7-2 price on Shea On the Lam offers considerably more value.
Top Pick Winners: 19/67 (28.4%) – $133.00/ $1.99 ROI
After strong days last Saturday and Sunday, Monday’s program reminded me of the late John Piesen, who was a writer and public handicapper for the New York Post and the Daily Racing Form for several years. One of the things Piesen was most proud of was having at least one top pick winner in 207 consecutive cards at Monmouth and the Meadowlands. I was a fan of Piesen’s work growing up, and whenever I was going to be playing Monmouth or the Meadowlands, I needed to know what Piesen thought about the races there. His “Thru the Binocs” column in the Post was always a must read for me.
I had multiple top pick winners in the first six days of the Monmouth meet, but was shut out for the first time on Monday, going 0-10. Some races, I had good ideas and horses that I gave out as A or B line runners were winners, but I couldn’t connect with any of the top picks. It wasn’t until I started writing for the ITM Blog that I realized how special and rare that kind of streak is. I try to have my picks posted the night before race day or early in the morning the day of the races if life gets really busy. Piesen had harder deadlines to meet than myself. Regardless, we’re submitting our picks prior to having full knowledge of the weather and track conditions. We have to endure key scratches that may totally change the landscape of how a race is going to be run. Those are the little things that handicappers adjust on race day, after putting in the work in the time leading up to the race. Public handicappers never have that luxury, which certainly makes our task more difficult. So whenever I have a day like I did Monday, I definitely have to tip my cap to Piesen as the longevity of that streak absolutely resonates with me.
The featured race was the Mr. Prospector Stakes, and I was floored to see that Lightening Larry was hammered down to the 4-5 favorite in the wagering from his 7-2 morning line. He didn’t run well here last year in the Jersey Shore Stakes, and his only wins came when he was racing on the front end. I didn’t think he was quick enough to go with Feast or Hollywood Jet in the early stages. Paco Lopez allowed him to rate behind them, which he seemed much more comfortable doing on Monday than he had as a two or three year old. I didn’t have him, but he was the best that day, stopping the clock in 1:09:28 for the six furlongs.
The Malouf Auto Group Starter Series kicked off in the 9th race on Monday, and Rough Sea, who was the winner of the last leg of this series in 2022, going 11 furlongs on the turf, picked up right where he left off in his last turf race. In between those starts, he had three wins in eight starts, all on dirt. We know he can win at multiple distances, especially longer ones. I thought other horses at longer odds in this race were better suited to the mile distance. However, he showed his class here, which makes him a major player in the upcoming legs of this series.