The Father’s Day card is highlighted by an excellent renewal of the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf. 12 horses are entered in the body of the field with 4 AE’s also signed on. Six of the twelve races on the card are scheduled for the turf and three other races on the program are for two year olds, including two divisions of a 5 Furlong maiden special weight race. This is one of the stronger and most playable cards of the meet thus far.
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Race 1: Top Pick: 4
This is probably the most challenging Win-Early Pick 5 sequence of the meet thus far, as there are three evenly matched turf races in the sequence and two baby races, with little current form to go off of. The opener is an optional $30K claiming/N2X for fillies and mares, sprinting on the turf. The question in this race is what to do with Liana Susquehanna (3), making her first start of 2021 and only her 4th start since September of 2019. She’s a seven year old mare that has only raced nine times. She’s clearly had some physical issues as she ran four times in 2017, twice in 2019, and three times in 2020. She’s never run a bad race in a turf sprint, and she gets back to grass today after two dull efforts on the main track here and at Laurel. I don’t know if she can get back to her best races, but I think she’s worth including on the multi-race tickets. I made Catsoutofthebag (4) my top pick here as I think she’ll get the best trip in a sprint where there isn’t a ton of early speed. She’s won her only race on this course and is 3 for 6 at this distance. Paco Lopez, coming off a three win Saturday afternoon, gets the call after she ran in to some trouble when facing some of these at Tampa last out, when she was the beaten favorite. I talked about Beaux Arts (2) last week on the Players Podcast when she entered in another turf sprint, but she was ultimately scratched out of that race in favor of this spot. She has eight starts sprinting on this course and has been second in all eight races. She has always shown up when she races here, and despite the serious case of seconditis on this course, some of those losses were just tough luck. She has won elsewhere, most recently over at the Meadowlands, and she’s second off the layoff. I can forgive her poor dirt efforts and will be expecting a better performance today.
Race 2: Top Pick: 3
Seven two year old maidens debut here, all running with a $25K tag. I made the Louisiana bred, Tambourine Star (3) my top pick here. He debuts for Jose Camejo and gets the leading rider, Jose Ferrer to pilot him in his first try. He was sharp in the AM on 6/6, and is sired by Star Guitar, who is probably the best current Louisiana bred sire out there. Camejo is typically based in Louisiana in the winter and the mid-Atlantic region over the summer. He may be destined for some state bred races down the road, but I think he can be a factor here. Wayne Potts has a pair of horses, and I’m a bit intrigued by his Mohaymen first time starter, Catch The Smoke (7), who draws the outside post here. His works are okay and Navarro, who has won three times at the meet when riding for Potts gets the call. I like that he has been working 5 Furlongs in his last two works, which might give him a bit of a stamina edge here. Sloe Gin Biz (2) is one of two going out for Claudio Gonzalez. He does well with two year olds and certainly can win with a horse on debut. Torres has won three of the seven mounts he has had with Gonzalez here over the last two meets.
Race 3: Top Pick: 2
Fillies and mares sprint on turf in this multi-conditioned $30K-$25K claiming race. Saffie Joseph ships Social Exclusion (2) north from Florida in her third race off the layoff. She ran a very strong race in her debut going 5 Furlongs on turf last July, winning in gate to wire fashion as a two year old. She struggled in her next two starts, one in the slop and one here at one mile on the turf, both races in stakes company. She was given time off and moved into Joseph’s barn to start her three year old campaign. She was dull with better horses in her first try off the layoff, but looked better last out on a good course with state bred optional claiming/allowance horses. She drops for a tag for the first time and adds blinkers in hopes to get her more involved early like she was in her debut. There’s not a lot of depth to this field, so I’m expecting a bigger performance from her today. On deeper tickets, Successful Legacy (4) is the most accomplished runner in the field, winning twice on the grass, both times at two turns. She was going to try a turf sprint for the first time at Delaware last out, but Mother Nature had other ideas. She did run well with better on the sloppy main track at 5 Furlongs, so there’s reason to believe her form can transfer to a turf sprint. However, she’s the morning line favorite, and she’ll be asked to do something she’s never done before (competing in a one turn turf sprint).
Race 4: Top Pick: 8
The first division of this two year old maiden special weight race drew eight two year olds, only one of which was has a race under his belt. I think Buff Hello (8) on the outside is live for Claudio Gonzalez in his debut today. He’s a Pennsylvania bred son of Buffum, who worked a solid 5 Furlong workout on this track last week in preparation for his debut. Gonzalez has named Tomas Mejia as the rider, who has never ridden for him in the afternoon. Mejia has been riding very well at this meet, and picking up mounts for this barn, which already has 61 wins in 2021, could be a good thing for his young career. Todd Pletcher is represented with the morning line favorites in both divisions of this maiden allowance, and both colts look live. Loose Goose (2) is the one that is entered here, after drilling a bullet at Saratoga last week. The pedigree is interesting with him, as his dam is Click Your Heels. Click Your Heels was foaled by Tap Your Heels, who was also the dam of Tapit. There’s obviously expectations for this Calumet homebred son of Will Take Charge. Due Vini (1) draws the rail, which may not be ideal for this son of Treasure Beach. The sire was definitely a turf horse, but Dobra, his dam who was sired by Smoke Glacken, won multiple dirt sprints. I’m sure he will likely try the grass at some point in his career, but his works are good enough to dirt to contend here.
Race 5: Top Pick: 4
I’m two deep in the last leg of the Win-Early Pick 5 here, and I considered using 8-1 shot, Sheknowsthedrill (4) as a single in this race. She is a horse that has improved since changing tactics to front running horse. She tried the turf for the first time with better last out at Parx, and I thought she ran a strong race, clearing the field early from post 10. She had to be used a little hard to get that early lead, and she was caught late, finishing 4th, beaten 3 and ¾ lengths. She gets a better post and, on paper, she should be able get to the front rather easily. I think she definitely could be a gate to wire threat. I ended up also including Lady Fatima (2), the class dropping morning line favorite, on the ticket as well. James Begg, who does not have a large stable, sends out her and Stuy Town Baby (1), in here, both for the same owners, CTR Stables. I’m not suggesting Stuy Town Baby is entered as a rabbit in a $25K N3L turf race, but I do worry that she’ll be sent to the front from her rail post, assuming both fillies start. You can assume if they both go, they won’t use tactics that could compromise each others’ chances. Stuy Town Baby has shown early speed in the past, but her best efforts have been when she’s been able to track the leaders. Lady Fatima has consistently kept better company, and she’s dropping to the lowest level of competition yet. She hasn’t won since 2019, when rallied from off the pace to clear the N1X allowance condition at Woodbine. She may benefit from a stronger pace to run at.
Win Early Pick Ticket: $27 Ticket
Race 1: 2, 3, 4
Race 2: 2, 3, 7
Race 3: 2
Race 4: 1, 2, 8
Race 5: 2, 4
Race 6: Top Pick: 3
I’m going to try a bomb in this maiden special weight race, and use the New York bred, Prince of Troy (3) on top. This is strictly a pedigree play for me as his works aren’t great, hence the long odds. His sire, Munnings has become a very good North American sire, producing winners in all sorts of races and surfaces. His dam, Old Harbor, was best known for winning some New York bred stakes races on the turf, however, she was a winner in her second career start at Saratoga in a maiden special weight sprint, and she was second in her debut in a five furlong maiden special weight race here. I definitely think we’ll see her on the turf in the near future, but her trainer Russell Cash is capable of blowing up the tote board with longshots every now and then, and this one will almost be certainly overlooked in the wagering. Hoboken Jack (5) debuts for Kelly Breen after some respectable AM drills. His sire, Union Jackson, had his career was cut short after winning the Iowa Sprint Stakes at Prairie Meadows. He was a talented sprinter though, so there’s reason to believe that as a sire, he can pass on his speed, with his sire’s (Curlin) stamina influences. Uninvited Guest (1) is the morning line favorite for Todd Pletcher. Like his stablemate in the 4th race, he’s been working consistently at Saratoga. One of the two Pletcher wins at the meet came with a debuting juvenile that was working at Saratoga.
Race 7: Top Pick: 7
Not all N1X allowance races are created equal and that is the case with this turf sprint, which drew a solid field of ten. Unprecedented (5) was sent to post as the favorite in a race at this identical condition two weeks ago. He finished second, beaten by Mr. Edgar, who was a winner again on Friday’s card. He’s listed at 10-1 on the morning line today, which tells you how much deeper this field is as opposed to the 6/6 race. There are two horses scheduled to race for Lindy Farms and Ice Wine Stable, both trained by Philip Antonacci. Antonacci recently went out on his own as a trainer after working under Wesley Ward. Ice Wine Stables has been a Ward client for years and Antonacci has family connections to Lindy Farms, as his grandfather trained multiple Standardbred horses for them, including some Hambletonian winners. All of which is explains how the talented colt, Fauci (4), ended up with Antonacci, making his second start since being moved to his barn. He tried the Paradise Creek at seven furlongs at Belmont, and he faded badly in that race, which was taken off the turf. He returns to the grass and gets some class relief after running in four consecutive stakes races. He should be tough to beat here, but I’m thinking there might be more value with his stablemate, Charmed (7). He is making his first start of the year, his first start for Antonacci, and his first start in North America. He had a decent foundation as a two year old, running seven times in races in Europe. He has been working quickly in the AM on the dirt here, and Albin Jimenez, who has ridden many winners over the years for Wesley Ward, gets the riding assignment. All of his turf starts have come on soft or heavy courses. His lone win came on a synthetic course at Dundalk in Ireland. I’m thinking he’ll prefer the firmer going here and offer some decent value, hopefully near his morning line odds of 10-1 or better. On deeper tickets, U.S. Steel (9) is worth another shot after fading badly in allowance company on the dirt last out at Churchill. That was an absolutely loaded allowance race, with a ton of early speed signed on, so I can forgive his dull effort there. He finished third in his lone turf race when making his first start off a nine month layoff back at Gulfstream. He’s sired by Cairo Prince out of a Badge of Silver mare, so I’m thinking he could be better on the grass. Godlovesasinner (8) is a seven year old gelding that is a four time winner, but he has never cleared the N1X condition. That isn’t necessarily a great thing for a horse his age, but he has been sharp with Maryland breds when sprinting on the grass. He makes his second start off the layoff today after a respectable return at this level at Pimlico. There are a lot of three year olds and less experienced horses in this race, and this veteran could pick up the pieces if this race falls apart.
Race 8: Top Pick: 7
The late Pick-5 starts here with a starter allowance race for fillies and mares that have started for a claiming tag of $20K or less and have never won three races. I think the speedy Bastet (7) is going to be tough to beat in this spot. She broke her maiden emphatically at Aqueduct in her 11th career try two starts back, beating $40K maiden claimers. Jeffery Englehart opted to protect her by shipping her to Finger Lakes, where she dominated a N2L allowance field by 7 lengths when going 4 and ½ Furlongs. This is a clever spot that he picked out for her, as she became eligible for this race after running once with $20K maiden claimers in January, when she threw the rider at the break. Englehart claimed her that day and she has made serious improvements ever since. I think she’ll be a tough customer to run down late based off of her current form. Peaceful Way (4) was claimed for $16K last out when she finished second with N3L claimers at Tampa. Gerald Bennett has won with 10 of 30 horses in their first start off his claim in the last 18 months. He keeps the services of leading rider, Jose Ferrer, who rode her in her last two tries at Tampa. On deeper tickets, I’ll play Ms. Malevolence (1), who is the morning line favorite. She was second in a four horse field here two weeks ago, and she’s making her second start off the Jerry Hollendorfer claim. He likes her enough to keep her protected in this spot, and she is a very solid horse. However, at a short price, I’ll try to beat her as I think the other two above have a higher ceiling today.
Race 9: Top Pick: 12
For as long as I can remember, Monmouth Park has carded the Malouf Auto Group Starter Handicap Series. This is a series of four starter handicap races, at 1 Mile, 1 Mile and 1/16, 1 Mile and 1/8, and 1 Mile and 3/8, restricted to horses that have started for a claiming price of $16K or less in 2020-21. There are trainer bonuses available, eligible for horses that start in at least three of the four races in the series. These races always seem to draw big fields and are always great betting races. The kickoff leg to the series is no exception, as 14 horses have entered and can run in this 1 Mile event. I’m going to try a price, and use Son of Aponi (12) on top in this spot. He’s a modest son of El Padrino who was improving in his three year old campaign in 2019 on the dirt at Laurel. He tried turf, going 12 Furlongs in N1X allowance condition in September of 2019, and ran a strong race to get up for 4th, while going off at 28-1. That effort propelled him to try the Maryland Million Starter Handicap in 2019, when he just got nipped on the wire after encountering traffic trouble in that race. He went to the sidelines until last month when he demolished a field of multi-conditioned $16K claimers at Delaware. He is a closer that will definitely get some pace to close into. This is a big step up in class, but this looks like the kind of horse that series was designed for. Both Abiding Star (7) and Mid Day Image (10) are very familiar with each other, recently trading wins in $16K starter allowance races at Gulfstream this spring. Abiding Star is a 15 time winner that has banked over $700K in his career. This gritty eight year old gelding is all about early speed, so Paco Lopez is going to throw the gauntlet early and see if he can keep going. Sometimes, even with a fast pace, on the front end is the place to be with a big field. Mid Day Image stalked and nailed Abiding Star on the wire three starts back at Gulfstream when going 1 Mile and 1/16. He was a little too close to the early pace when going 7 and ½ Furlongs there two back and you can toss his last in an off the turf N1X allowance race here three weeks ago. He should get back to better form today, but he might be more dangerous next out when the races get a little longer. On deeper tickets, Kitten’s Spa (2) is another closer that may appreciate a lively tempo. He’ll have to work out a trip while starting near the rail here. He ran well, winning the 11 Furlong edition of a series similar to this at Tampa in March. He is capable at shorter distances though, especially when there is a decent set up for him.
Race 10: Top Pick: 8
The two favorites seem to be the logical options in this multi-conditioned $5K claiming race. The matchup is between a Kelly Breen horse, It’s A Risk (2) versus a horse that was claimed from Kelly Breen two weeks ago, Royal Asset (8). I’ll give the edge to Royal Asset, who now runs for Wayne Potts. Potts has been very good first off the claim (24%), and he is keeping this eight time winner on the main track, which is where he’s had most of success in his 43 race career. He was clearly second best to Batterbatterswing, who ran a big race while getting a heads up ride two weeks ago at this level. I still think this nine year old gelding has some gas left in the tank to beat a field like this. It’s a Risk is the logical alternative, dropping in from $7,500 N3L company here, where he was recently second while sitting off a more relaxed pace. Outside of the top pick, this is a pretty soft field for the condition, so it’s reasonable to think he’ll be right there with these.
Race 11: The Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes: Top Pick: 9
This is a very solid and deep Grade 3 event for fillies and mares going 1 Mile and 1/16 on the turf course. 16 have entered and only 12 will run today. There’s not a lot separating the four horses I’ll be using in this race which are; Micheline (5), Nay Lady Nay (6), Sweet Bye and Bye (9), and Crystal Cliffs (10). However, of this quartet, I think Sweet Bye and Bye is the one that is best suited to the 1 Mile and 1/16 distance, and her running style that is typically on or near the lead, should play very well in this large field. I made her the lone A horse, as I think she has an advantage over the other three today, but probably doesn’t have a ceiling as high as thy do. She was very good winning the Sand Springs Stakes on the Florida Derby undercard. She has run well with some spacing in between her starts and that is what Saffie Joseph has done with her today. I think Ruben Silvera, a very successful rider at Parx, will be able to get her over near the rail from her wide draw since there’s not much speed inside of her. Myheartbelongstodaddy (11) and Vigilante’s Way (12) may want to go from the outside. If they are aggressive, Silvera can sit back and let them go up front, but if they’re just looking for position, he can put this mare on the lead and control the tempo. Either way, I think she gets the jump on the other three that will be closing late, but all might be more effective at 9 Furlongs. Micheline has a bright future in front of her as a four year old filly. She beat Harvey’s Lil Goil in the Dueling Grounds Oaks on a very firm course at Kentucky Downs last fall. She runs her best races on drier, harder turf courses, and that should be what she’s working with today. Nay Lady Nay is the morning line favorite, and one of many live mounts for Dylan Davis on the Sunday card. She’s a two time winner on this course, winning the Grade 3 Matchmaker here last year on the Haskell undercard. That race may be in her plans this year as well. She made her first start of the year in the one turn Beaugay at Belmont when she finished a respectable 4th behind Harvey’s Lil Goil. She had a miserable post in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and wound up much further behind than usual, but she still ran a credible race. I think she’s at her best at 9 Furlongs, but is certainly live in this race. Crystal Cliffs is a lightly raced 4 year old for Graham Motion who was just nipped at the wire by Xanthique (8) in the Dahlia Stakes last out Pimlico. She was making her first start in 10 months that day and looked just as sharp as she did when she narrowly lost to Harvey’s Lil Goil in the Regret last June. She has more tactical speed than Micheline and Nay Lady Nay and may wind up in the garden spot if the two outside runners decide to get aggressive.
Race 12: Top Pick: 7
The nightcap is a maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares running with a $10K tag. I’m not convinced many of these runners are better while going two turns. On paper, I was convinced that I wanted to bet against the 7-5 morning line, Nikki’s Dream (7), but when you watch her last race at Pimlico on tape, she was done no favors at all by her apprentice rider that afternoon. She was very wide on the first turn, then he brought her over to the two path while on the backstretch, where she ran up on heels and had to steady. He then swung her 5 wide again on the final turn where she briefly took the lead, before the 4-5 favorite, surged through on the rail after getting a significantly better ride and trip. Paco Lopez takes over and she finds a very soft field for her fourth career try. It’s hard to see anyone beating her here if she can run back to her last two efforts. Bodacious Blend (1) is one to consider, as she’s one of the few that have run better races at two turns. Her best race to date was at 1 Mile and 40 yards at Tampa two back. She tried the grass last time out at Delaware and showed no interest while also getting a wide trip after drawing the outside post. She draws inside today and is the logical contender if the favorite misfires. I put Daresca (2) as a C horse, and I could try to use her on the deepest multi-race exotics, however, she might be a sneaky longshot that is better used underneath in the vertical exotics. She’s an 0-20 maiden, which at this level, is never a great thing. Her two best races have come at two turns though, one at Gulfstream Park West (where the one mile race is a two turn contest) and her subsequent effort at Tampa. Her local debut was dismal, but perhaps she can rebound in a race where many others don’t really seem interested in going this far.
Meet Stats: 32/111 (Top Pick Winners) – $228.80 / $2.06 ROI per $2 win bet
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