Monmouth Park Racing Preview – 6/23/23 – By Eric Solomon

There’s another 8 race Friday matinee program at Monmouth Park getting underway at 2:00 (ET). The featured 7th race today is an optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance that drew a contentious field of seven. Sail By was the winner of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes as a two year old and Bahamian Club was a close up third in the Grade 3 Pebbles Stakes last year. A decent amount of rain came through the area on Thursday and the forecast is unsettled over the next few days, so keeping a close eye on the conditions throughout the cards this week will be necessary. 


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 4,5 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 3 3,4 7 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 5 5 2 6 DBL, PK3, PK6
4 3 3 7 DBL, PK3, PK 5
5 1 1,5 DBL, PK3, PK4
6 8 2,8 1,3 DBL, PK3
7 6 6 3 DBL
8 3 2,3 1



Race 1: 

One of the things I often talk about in this blog is that there is a notable difference between five furlong turf sprints and five and a half furlong turf sprints. When the rails are out at 36 feet, which is typically the case on Fridays throughout this meet, we only get the five furlong turf sprints, and that’s what we’re working with in this $12,500-$10,500 claiming race. If this race were run at 5 and ½ furlongs, like the race two weeks ago for this same condition, I’d make Balistico (#5) the single, and being willing to move on. He dominated that race, winning by three easy lengths, going off as the even money favorite. He figures to be that price or shorter once again in this seven horse race, while maintaining the services of leading rider, Paco Lopez. However, he is much more comfortable going 5 and ½ furlongs. He has two wins, two second, and a close third in his five starts at that distance in his career. His record at five furlongs on the other hand is just one for nine, with one second place finish, and three third place finishes. While he’s certainly capable, I’m going to try to beat him with Corduroy Road (#4), breaking directly to his inside in the gate. This will be the first time that he’s back on the turf since October at Woodbine, and the first time trying this distance on grass. He was a gate to wire winner last out on Tapeta at this distance, and he’s steadily improved since Carlos David claimed him back in January at Gulfstream. Jose Ferrer is an excellent gate rider, so I think he will land on top of Balistico in the first furlong, as that one doesn’t seem to be as quick early on in these dashes. I don’t see any other real threat to him early, so my hope is that he’ll get brave on the front end and carry his speed all the way home. 

Race 2:

I see Rapid Miss Tapit (#3) as an interesting player in this $25K-$20K maiden claiming race at 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. She debuted in a dirt sprint last year when she was dusted by Munny’s Gold, who earned a 101 Beyer for that effort. She improved somewhat in her next try at five furlongs, but still finished 15 lengths behind the winner. Her next three tries came in turf routes, all in maiden special weight company, never getting close in any of them. She takes a necessary drop in class for John McAllen, but my angle for her is that she’s getting back on the dirt and going two turns for the first time. Her pedigree says this is what she wants to do. She’s had one start off the layoff, so she should be more fit for this race. I’ll need to get a decent price, since she’s been beaten by double digit lengths in every start. However, I think she has a solid chance in this spot. In addition to Rapid Miss Tapit, there’s two other runners coming out of that same maiden special weight race here on the turf last month that fit well in this race. Cheru (#4) was very good at Laurel two back when finishing second, by less than a length in maiden special weight company. She drops after a dull effort in her turf debut last month. Juan Avila has been very good at this meet, winning with 20% of the horses that he’s sent out. Angel Castillo doesn’t ride here often, but he is winning 15% of his races this year, most of them coming at Parx. Kiss Me Hardy (#7) is the other runner coming out of that same race. John Servis had her steadily stretching out in distance while mostly facing $40K maiden claimers at Parx. She ran well two back in her first dirt route, finishing second to Social Lady, who was a decent second here last week. She lost all chance at the break on the turf and never got into the race. She is a candidate to improve while getting class relief and moving back to the main track. 


Race 3:

There are two horses that appear to be “need the lead” types in this $5K claiming race, which could set the table for a horse that can come from off the pace. I’ll try Miracle Silver (#5) to be that horse, shipping in from Delaware for Pedro Nazario. His race three back on the dirt was solid at Parx with time restricted $7,500 claimers. He struggled two back at that level when the front runner walked on the lead early on that day. He went to the turf when he was sent off at 151-1 in a starter allowance race last time out. After a rough start, he raced behind a livelier pace, and finished well to be 5th. Most of his races in his career have been on turf or synthetic, but he has a decent record in his 12 dirt races on fast tracks (2 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds). While this barn has been ice cold in 2023 (one win with 55 starts), I think this runner lands in a good spot. Lord Mio (#2) is the logical favorite, coming off a second place finish at this level three weeks ago. He led most of the way before being passed by Icy Storm, who came back to win a similar race last week. His last three starts have been solid, and all three of those races put him right in the mix with this group. However, I worry about a potential speed duel with Mundo Mix (#6), who is an all or nothing type of runner here. I’ve put him on the C line, because if Lord Mio were to defect, I do think he’s one that is worth upgrading. However, if that one is present, I think he’s going to be up against it. He’s faltered badly in races where he’s under pressure early, especially when slotted outside of the other speed. If they meet up, I think Lord Mio is better equipped to win the battle, but I’m not completely convinced that he’ll be able to hang on to win the war. 


Race 4:

Conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers go 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track here. All nine runners qualify under the N2L condition. All signs seem to be pointing to Rerally (#3) in this race, making his second start off the layoff. He was an easy winner with $10K maiden claimers at the beginning of the month, when making his first start since a second place finish at Belterra in maiden allowance company last July. He was well backed that afternoon and didn’t disappoint his backers, drawing off to win by four lengths. Kent Sweezy’s horses tend to need a race off the layoff before they’re at the top of their game, so I’d think this one could take a small step forward while facing winners for the first time. He feels like he’s a cut above the rest in this race. If he were to get beat, I think the most likely candidate might be one of the two runners trying the dirt for the first time. Between Frenchy Departed (#7) and Core Factor (#9), I prefer the former. Frenchy Departed had a pair of solid efforts on the grass at Tampa and the Fair Grounds over the winter. Camejo brought him to town where he was shuffled early, then was a bit rank when running up on the heels of his rivals. He’s been a bit green at times, but he may benefit if several runners send for the lead in this race. When he faced Core Factor, he was almost seven lengths better than he was that day. He’s a slightly larger price on the morning line and I think he’s a better fit from a pace perspective. 


Race 5:

New Jersey bred fillies and mares will sprint five furlongs on the grass in a $15K optional claiming/N1X allowance race. I’ll give another look to Epic Queen (#1) in this race. She was shuffled around a bit early and appeared to lose momentum briefly on the turn. I think that was a good learning experience for apprentice Madison Oliver, who has ridden well in limited opportunities at this meet. She’s going to need to get this War Dancer mare into the race a bit earlier than she did last out. I don’t think that last race is as bad as it looks in the form. Her two turf sprint races with open maidens on grass last season were. I’ve been trying to beat horses like Sadie Baby (#5) a lot over the last few weeks. She’s the morning line favorite despite never racing on the turf once in her four career starts. She gets a rider upgrade to Paco Lopez for her first try on the lawn. Her sire California Chrome could run on anything and her dam did her best work sprinting on the grass. Jersey breds don’t get a ton of opportunities to sprint on the turf against each other, so this feels like a spot that she’s been waiting for. I don’t love the price, but she has a lot of positives working in her favor. 


WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $24 Ticket:

While I don’t have a single in this Pick-5 sequence, I do have some fairly strong opinions, as I’ll only use three runners in one of the five legs. The weather certainly could be a factor today, so I’ll start off more conservative today, and open things up if Mother Nature cooperates. 


Race 6:

This $50K-$40K conditioned claiming race at one mile on the main track is one of the more interesting dirt races at Monmouth in the past few weeks. A field of nine has been assembled, where many appear to have a reasonable chance. There are some talented pedigrees here as two of the dams of horses in this race, Dance to Bristol-Excess Demand (#5) and Balletto-Ski Country (#8), were Grade 1 winners. Maggie McGowan, the dam of Anthracite (#4), produced the Grade 1 winner, Denman’s Call. I think Ski Country, who is one of two three-year olds in this race with more than one win, is going to be tough to deal with here. His last two dirt routes have resulted in wins, handily beating $30K starter allowance foes in his latest effort. He was privately purchased from Goldolphin following a win in $25K maiden claiming company at Tampa in April. He’s run two solid races for Derek Ryan and Eagle View Farm since coming here. There appears to be a decent amount of early speed from the inside, so I think Angel Rodriguez is going to be able to settle him near the back of the pack while saving as much ground as he can while starting from this wide draw. Magia Nera (#2) is dropping in for a tag for the first time in his career today, making him the only runner in this race to have never run in a claiming race. He’s run solid races in his last few tries here and at Aqueduct. His only win came on this oval last season.  He has shown flashes of being a decent horse, but the lack of consistency is what lands him in this race. In terms of a class dropper, I’m hoping he might be flying under the radar in this one. Rol Again Dancer (#1) handily beat a depleted field in a conditioned $30K-$25K claiming race last time out, when making his first start at two turns. He’s never finished off the board in four starts on this oval, and he now runs for a barn that has hit with 23% of their runners in their first starts off the claim in the past 18 months. He needs to prove that can put two strong races together in a row, but he’s one that is definitely worth using in this race. Lil Bro Coop (#3) is another one that I’ll be covering with, while hoping for some value. He found himself on the lead, setting the pace last time out. That was the first time in 14 starts in which he was in that position. He faded to third that day, beaten by Ski Country. His lone poor effort on the dirt was at Belmont in a one turn race, and the Equibase Speed Figure from his last try suggests that his race might have been better than his Beyer Speed Figure suggests. Jose Camejo has been ice cold at this meet, going 0-18 thus far, but he’s a capable trainer, and this means that could get decent value on him. I don’t love the 0-14 record, but he’s 1-5 since moving to dirt, with three other in the money finishes. 


Race 7:

There’s a field of seven in the featured race, and none of these runners made their last start here. There’s runners that have last race at Pimlico, Laurel, Belmont, Gulfstream, Delaware, and Penn National. Both Sail By (#4) and Bahamian Club (#6) have a significant class edge over the five five fillies and mares in this spot. While Sail By is a Grade 2 winner at this distance, that race came at Belmont where the 1 mile and 1/16 is a one turn event. Bahamian Club appears to be much more comfortable in two turn races. Sail By has faltered late in all of her two turn tries. While my hope is that she’ll attract some decent money at the windows, I think the fact that Bahamian Club is trained by Chad Brown will keep her odds very low. She was excellent in her second race off the layoff last season, and I think a big effort here could springboard her into a race like the De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga at the beginning of August. 

She feels like a standout in this race. A crazy longshot idea to maybe add a little value to the bottom of the exotics is Eight Danzas (#3) coming in from Penn National after fishing a wide 4th in the Lyphard Stakes at Penn National at the beginning of the month. She’s moving up in class, however, her last race puts her right in the conversation with the other five contenders. I remember watching her break her maiden at Parx last summer, in what looked like an impossible win with $30K maiden claimers on grass. She was roughed up at the start and then running up on the heels of a few inferior rivals while trying to gain early position. She steadily advanced down the backstretch, before having to put on hold again. She was stuck in behind a wall of horses, and surged through when she had a seam. That was a much weaker field, however, she clearly looked comfortable on the grass that day. Her trainer, Alan Bedard, tried to get her on the grass multiple times last year, but her next four starts were rained off the grass. She ran a few times on the dirt for fitness purposes before having another race taken off the grass at Pimlico last month. She finally got back on the turf last time out, and certainly outran her odds, completing the superfecta at 109-1. I see her as a horse that has some upside on the grass, and should be closer 20-1 or better when the gates open. 


Race 8:

A half dozen fillies mares will wrap up the day in a time restricted $25K-$20K claiming race. In a race where many of these ladies haven’t won in awhile, Awesome View (#3) comes into the race, winning two of her last six races, and nearly missing at Laurel in her last start. She was entered for a $12,500 tag in those two wins, which came in optional claiming/starter allowance races, which keeps her eligible for this condition today. I think she can sit a good stalking trip off the pacesetters, striking on the turn. Pink Shoelaces (#2) returns to the site of her maiden victory back in 2021. She missed the 2022 meet, starting once in the summer at Delaware, which was a handy score in optional $28K claiming/N2X allowance company. She’s been away for a little more than two months and she drops in class a bit for this race. Early speed is her game, and I don’t think Midtown Rose (#5) is quick enough to go with her early. She could wind up getting very brave on the front end if left to her own devices. Bucks Some (#1) is a backup play for me in this spot. She is the most consistent runner in this race, which is worth something. She’s finished in the money in her last five tries at Parx, but never has been really close to winning any of those races. This eight year old mare has finished second or third over four times as many times as she’s won races. She feels best suited for underneath in the exactas or trifectas, but I am still looking at using her as a saver on the deeper tickets. 


Meet Statistics/Notes:

Top Pick Winners: 34/155 (21.9%) – $201.80/ $1.30 ROI


Sunday’s feature was the $100K Get Serious Stakes at five furlongs on the turf, and there was a serious three horse battle for the early lead that day. Grooms All Bizness, was able to track those frontrunners and get the jump on the heavy favorite, Our Shot, who could do no better than second. The disappointment for me was that That’s Right, who was not as sharp from the gate as he has been in the past. He’s clearly not the same horse we saw on this course last season, as he battled for the lead and faded to last. 


Paco Lopez had a four win day, wining four of the five legs in the Win-Early Pick-5, which was seeded with a $75K carryover from the day before. While I tried to beat him in some of those races, he is clearly locked in, as he was the difference maker in some of those victories. That Pick-5 paid out almost $1,900 for $0.50 cents.


I also wanted to circle back to Saturday’s Pegasus Stakes, and mention how impressive the win from Salute the Stars was. He was steadied early on, and then was fighting Joel Rosario all the way around the first turn until he was finally able to get him to settle. He came with a wide bid on the turn as Kingsbarns was starting to put away Subrogate. He was able to find the energy to surge on by the favorite late to get the win by neck on the wire. The Beyer Speed Figure for the effort was 93, which does still put him below the top tier horses that will be eyeing the Haskell next month. However, that was only his second career start on the dirt and he’s already a winner at nine furlongs. Brad Cox seemed to have him pegged as a turf horse, as his first two races were two turn contests on grass at Ellis last summer. He was away until May, when he resurfaced in a N2L allowance race that was taken off the turf at Churchill, which he won. He went off at 5-2, which was way too short of a number for me, however, he certainly seems like a he has a real future in dirt racing. If he can get a better trip in a race like the Haskell, he could be a horse to keep an eye on at a price. 


Kingsbarns on the other hand was certainly a little disappointing. He was one of the toughest horses for me to figure out in the Derby. His Louisiana Derby score was impressive, but he had an ideal front running trip. He ended up crashing and burning in the Derby, finishing 14th after getting cooked on the front end. He had a much better trip in this race, but he appeared to idle a bit once he put away Subrogate. Obviously, you’d want to see him draw off at that point, however, he’s lightly raced and may still be learning how to be a racehorse. He’s beautifully bred and has plenty of tactical speed. I wouldn’t write him off just yet. 

Share this

Leave a Reply

Further reading