There’s another 10 race program on Sunday at Monmouth that will wrap up the weekend. The Tale of the Cat Stakes drew a field of six three year olds that will run on the turf, plus a few main track only runners. The second leg of the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series will also be run today, with a competitive field of 11 that can go postward. Weather once again could be a factor, so keep an eye on changing conditions throughout the afternoon. First post will be 12:40 (ET).
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the third consecutive 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||6||6||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1||1,5||2,4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1,3||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||1||1||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||6||3,6||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$16K-$14K maiden claimers start the afternoon on the turf, and the top two finishers from a race at the same condition last month make a ton of sense in this race. I prefer East Side (#6), thinking that he has some more upside than Level Up (#1) who narrowly defeated him at the beginning of the month. Robert Falcone brought East Side here from Belmont for his second career start, where he took a significant drop in class. He had a favorable inside trip and rallied well along the rail, coming within a half length of the winner. He paired his two initial Beyer Speed Figures, so this would be a natural spot for him to take a step forward in his third career start. Level Up was well backed in that same race, going off at 5-2. He was engaged early from his rail draw that day and he hit the front at the top of the stretch. He battled hard, but couldn’t quite overcome Stirling’s Gold that day. He certainly is dangerous if he’s able to duplicate that effort, however, as is the case with most $16K maiden claimers, consistency is not his hallmark. If I can get a slightly better price on East Side, I’ll take it.
This $50K starter allowance race is restricted to fillies and mares that have never won twice. I think Oscar Gaze (#1) is interesting in this race, getting back to a sprint after a failed effort at two turns last month. She was away a bit slow, but settled nicely at the back of the field. She came with a solid four wide bid, but flattened out to finish last when facing a stronger field of N1X allowance types. Front end speed was good that day and the winner made every pole a winning one. I thought her maiden score at Tampa with $40K maiden claimers two starts back was strong. She’s sired by Oscar Performance, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner in turf routes, however her dam was exclusively a sprinter on dirt, so perhaps that’s more in line with what she wants to do. Athena’s Wisdom (#5) faces winners for the first time after scoring in her local debut in maiden special weight company. She’s never run a bad race, running well in a pair of $25K-$20K maiden claimers to start her career. She has improved with each start so far, and did so while facing tougher company last out. She makes a lot of sense in this race. Claudio Gonzalez sends out a pair of runners that faced each other last time out in a conditioned $50K-$40K claiming race here. Both Turn On the Charm (#2) and Sistren (#4) have a shot here. Turn On the Charm has looked much better since Gonzalez claimed her at Gulfstream back in February. She broke her maiden in her first start for him and has been competitive in both tries against winners. She’ll be forwardly placed, likely keeping Proud Mule (#3) company up front. Sistren also improved after Gonzalez claimed her at Gulfstream. She’ll face her stablemate for the third time today, while looking to improve from her dull effort last time out. Watching that race again, she might have shied away from the rail just a bit as the pacesetters passed her out of the gate. She was farther back than she wanted to be and never really got into the race. Breaking farther outside may help her stay involved early today.
The professional maidens in this r$12,500-$10,500 maiden claiming ace do absolutely nothing for me so I’m going to roll the dice and try to escape this race by using the two least experienced runners in lieu of just punching the all button. Holy Skull (#3) debuted in a turf route at Tampa with $16K maiden claimers and he never picked up his feet, being eased without finishing the race. Gerald Bennett claimed him out of that race and brings him here after two months away. He’s worked three times over this course, showing improvement each time. Samy Camacho rides a ton of races for Bennett at Tampa, but it’s still encouraging to see him take this mount instead of riding Bennett’s other horse, Valiant Mistress (#1). I’m expecting a better effort in this race today. Sassy Annie (#5) makes her debut for Greg Sacco and gets a soft field for her maiden voyage. Her works are okay, but I’m hoping she possesses enough of her sire’s (Hootenanny) early speed to be a factor at this level. He was a speedy racehorse that was able to go to Royal Ascot for Wesley and win a Group 1 race as a two year old. He hasn’t covered a ton of horses, but he’s hit with 28% of his first time starters (5-18 overall and 3-7 on dirt), and his horses have won 23% of their dirt sprint races. There’s enough there for me to take my chances here.
On paper, three runners in this $8K-$7K N4L claiming race standout over the other five. I think the main question though, is what do we do with Haig Point (#4). He’s a six year old Shackleford gelding that has never sprinted on the dirt in career. 16 of 18 career career races have come on turf or synthetic and the last 13 starts have all been at two turns. He was claimed for $25K back in March and made one start for trainer Cassandra Judd at Presque Isle where he was overmatched with better. The owners moved him into Jorge Delgado’s barn and he takes a significant drop in class. He worked well in one work over the local course, however, he worked well going into the same race at Presque Isle. Paco Lopez takes the mount which is a definite plus. My biggest concern is that he doesn’t have enough tactical speed to stay in good striking position. I think he’ll be overbet as well, so he’s going to be a C line backup for me, while I’ll hope to lean on Tap First (#5) and Box of Chocolates (#6). Tap First gets the narrow edge for me, shipping here from Tampa for Gerald Bennett. He’s been very good on the Oldsmar oval, winning three of nine career starts and finishing in the money seven of nine times. His only two off the board finishes came in his debut and in his first start after a long layoff. There’s not a wealth of early speed in this race, so I do see him being well-positioned in the early stages. He seems to get along well with Samy Camacho, who will be back in the irons. Box of Chocolates ships here after a narrow miss with $10K-$9K N4L claimers at Penn National two weeks ago. David Jacobsen brought this horse East after going off form a bit in Southern California. His last race was his best in a while though and his fall 2022 form would be good enough to win this race with ease. At seven, I’m not sure he’s going to get all the way back, however, I do see him as a candidate to improve off that last effort. Jacobsen has brought live runners to this meet winning with two of seven starters and having another three finish second.
Race 5, The $100K Tale of the Cat Stakes:
Not all $100K stakes races are created even, and that is the case here. Only one horse that ran in the Jersey Derby at the beginning of the month, Swan Lake (#3) is back for this race. He went off at 12-1 that afternoon when finishing 4th, and he’ll likely be the post time favorite or the close second choice here. For a compact field, there should be an honest pace with both Swan Lake and Playground Legend (#5) breaking inside of Ocean City (#5). That should leave the door wide open for the Tampa invader Heathguard (#1) to be rolling late here. He broke his maiden two starts back at Gulfstream in a Florida bred maiden special weight race. He finished 5th, not far behind both Boppy O, who was the winner of the Jersey Derby, and Swan Lake. The pace was moderate that day, and he ran evenly while breaking from the far outside. This could be the first race where he gets a solid tempo to set up his late kick. His dam was a Grade 3 winner at 12 furlongs on the turf and his sire, Saxon Warrior, has three horses that have raced on turf in North American thus far, and all three have been winners. Swan Lake has been a part of some aggressive pace battles in his last two races, but he has also been effective as a stalker at times in his career. If the stretchout sprinter, Playground Legend is able to put the necessary pressure on Ocean City, he might be able to sit in the garden spot, just off those runners. He is a stakes winner, winning the English Channel Stakes two back at Gulfstream. Ocean City has two straight frontrunning wins in turf routes, clearing the N1X condition at Delaware for Brittany Russell last month. The water gets deeper and he might be hard pressed to set the soft fractions that he’s been able to get away with in his last two wins. However, if they let him off the hook and don’t pressure him, this race could be over before they hit the backstretch.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $48 Ticket:
The All A/B route will cost $48 and the key to this sequence will be trying to beat Paco Lopez in the last three legs. I did include Ocean City (#5, R5) on this ticket, but I worry if he’ll be as effective with a faster early pace, and speed slotted to his inside. However, his connections are too good to ignore. Bet on Drama (#4, R3) will take some money, but she’s a maiden that has failed 25 times and she has not finished her races well. I’ll be excluding her from any multi-race wager. Haig Point (#4, R4) will be a back-up for me, but I won’t be using him on this ticket. I don’t think he has enough early speed to put himself in good striking position and I do see this drop in class as suspect. If we can get paid without him winning with any of these three, I think this ticket will pay well.
The Late Pick-5 starts with an optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance sprint at six furlongs. Despite the speed figures coming back a bit light, I think the race on June 3rd at this exact condition will prove to be a key race. At the beginning of the meet, closers were having a hard time getting home, but there was a noticeable change in the track profile at the beginning of June. The outside part of the track was a more desirable place to be, and that may have been enough to put Castle Chaos over the top in that race. He came with a four wide, over the top bid that was enough to get him home. I really liked the effort from Catch the Smoke (#1) though. He drew the rail and spent most of that race down inside. Rojas tried to get him out into the three path on the turn, but was denied. He was forced to stay inside and was brave enough to come through a narrow opening as Trash Talker (#3) was backing out. He may have lost a bit of momentum, but he ran on well to be third. He makes his third start off the layoff today and was very good on this oval last season. I have some questions about some of the others here, so assuming the track is playing fairly, I’d be comfortable making him a single. Trash Talker would be where I’d land for a backup. He is definitely an all or nothing type, but when he’s good, he’s tough to beat. He was able to make the lead in that same race, but he came under pressure on the turn when Woodline turned up the heat. He faded late while racing most of the race on the worst part of the track that day. I think he can make the front end today and if the weather from this weekend has caused the track to favor speed throughout the day, I’d upgrade his chances here.
I thought the state bred maiden special weight race here three weeks ago was an above race for this condition and both Vesparo (#6) and Go to the Kingdom (#3) ran strong races in that race. They’re both back in this race which is a 1/16 of a mile longer that that contest. Vesparo seems to have a pace advantage in this race, as he was close to the front that day and was a neck away from beating Irish Rill. Rory Huston’s horses typically need a race or two before they’re at their best, so expecting improvement in this spot feels like a reasonable expectation. Go to the Kingdom was making his first start since March and first start on the turf that day and he was less than a length away from beating his stablemate. He was wide on the first turn, which could be expected when breaking from post 9. He was wide again on the second turn, but was gaining ground late to get into third. Angel Arroyo rides a lot of races for Cathal Lynch and he was aboard his stablemate in that same race. Lynch opts to use Arroyo here to try to get this Animal Kingdom gelding to break his maiden in his third career try. Word for Word (#2) might be an interesting longshot to keep an eye on. His full brother, There Are No Words, is a three time winner in turf routes, winning two of those races in open company. This three year old gelding doesn’t possess the same ability as his brother, but I thought his last effort, in the same race that the top two are coming out of, was by far his best race in his career so far. He’s making his second start off the layoff, so he could be an improvement candidate today. If the odds disparity widens, he’s not the worst horse to take a swing with here.
The last Pick-3 opportunity of the weekend starts with an optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance race that I found to be a bit tricky. I landed on Kobe B (#3) who was second to Lost Ark at this level last month. That one is a much better horse than anyone in this field. While I don’t love that all five of his wins have come at 6 and ½ or 7 furlongs, I do think his three efforts at two turns were sharp enough to be comfortable using him as a top pick. Systemic Change (#1) is the likely post time favorite, which feels a bit risky, as he’s coming out of a race at Belmont where he did not finish. He comes back to a two turn race, which seems to be what he wants to do. He’s 0-4 in one turn races, but he’s undefeated in his two tries at two turns. Chad Brown and Samy Camacho have been absolutely lethal together when they have teamed up at this meet, and his most recent work over this oval sends some positive vibes his way. Price will be a determining factor for me, however, he’s hard to exclude from the multi-race wagers. Greatheart (#2) has been very competitive since Hollendorfer claimed him back in January. He finished in the money in the first four starts for him before clearing the N1X allowance race on the turf last time out. He can run on any surface though and I’d consider upgrading him if rains create an off track.
If the second leg of the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series stays on the grass, this may be the most competitive betting race in the country today. I think you could make a valid case for all 11 runners in the body of this field. I’ve been a fan of Comedic Timing (#7) for a while now and I think he’s a sneaky longshot in a race like this. He was a completely different horse once he got on the turf for Pompeyo Gomez last year. He cleared the N1X allowance condition here against a solid field in August and just missed with starter allowance types at Delaware. He made his first start of 2023 in the first leg of this series and ran 8th, beaten five lengths. Angel Rodriguez, who is his regular rider, was not available that day. He had the rail post and found himself last in a 12 horse field when they swung into the first turn. The pace was not blistering fast that day, and while he still finished with interest, Batista left him way too much work to do. Perhaps he needed that race from a fitness perspective. He was much better last season in his second start off the layoff, so if he moves forward a little bit, with a rider that knows him better, he can run a winning race with this field. He’s 20-1 on the morning line and I believe he’ll go off at higher odds than that at post time. The value will be there, so I will take a shot. Rough Sea (#6) has won the last two races in this series, dating back to his 11 furlong score last season. He won the first leg of the 2023 version, which was his first start on turf since that 2022 score. He’s a horse that knows how to win races, winning 12 times in 44 starts and he is a former stakes winner on the dirt. Samuel Marin has been aboard for three of those wins and both of his career turf wins on this oval. He’s a ten year old gelding that continues to find himself in good form, which makes him hard to leave off my tickets. Another horse for course in this race is Bode’s Maker (#11). He won the third leg of this series in 2022 back in August and then went to the sidelines for nine months. He came back with a pair of efforts that were slightly below his best work. He had an outside post at Delaware last out and was used hard early. He was dead game, but he faded to third, beaten only a length. He’ll have to overcome another high draw, but he loves this course, winning both times here. He has 6 wins in 10 career turf starts and should be ready to move forward in his third race off the layoff. Uncle Curly (#5) is the tepid morning line favorite at 7-2 and he’ll get Paco Lopez to ride. He’s a very solid horse that always shows up. He had some traffic issues last time out in the first leg of this series, finishing third, less than a length behind Rough Sea. While I don’t love the price on this eight year old gelding, this is such a wide open race andI can’t leave the best jockey on the grounds off of my tickets. I have him slotted on the B line because I think others will offer much better value, but I feel the need to make sure I’m covered with him.
Trainer Michael Dini is having a rough meet so far, having only one winner with 47 starters, however, I think he was the upper hand with a pair of runners in the nightcap today. I think Zippy Zinny (#2) is interesting while getting on the dirt for the first time today. She’s made five career starts, all on the turf. Three were not very good, however, the other two were sharp. He pedigree suggests that she’ll prefer the main track and she finds an uninspiring field of $12,500-$10,500 maiden claimers here. Samy Camacho hangs around to ride, so at 10-1 (ML) or better, I’d be willing to roll the dice. Her stablemate, Mo Town Annie (#5) is logical in this spot, while getting back on the dirt. She had a tough trip while very wide on the turf last weekend, however, she just missed with $10K maiden claimers on the dirt two starts ago. I can forgive that last effort and I see her coming back in a week as a positive. I’m not a believer in the morning line favorite, Aunt Berra (#1) on the stretch out, so I’ll include two other runners that will be longer prices in this race, Dusted (#7) made her first start of the year two weeks ago and was dusted, finishing last of seven in a six furlong sprint. She was more competitive in her two turn races last year, so I could see her being more fit and happier while going longer today. Nanasquan (#4) could be a pace factor in this race, and has a shot if the 10 pound apprentice, Melissa Iorio, can get her to ration her early speed. She was 3rd, beaten five lengths in her return to Monmouth last month. That was her first route and she wasn’t terrible that day. She’s finished in the money in two of her three local tries and she’s getting 10-15 pounds on the other contenders here. Expect her to be more fit for her second try at two turns.
Top Pick Winners: 37/168 (22.0%) – $215.80/ $1.28 ROI
Despite a decent amount of rain in the area, most of the racing yesterday was unaffected. The first eight races went off under clear skies and a fast dirt track and a firm dirt course. Rain started rolling in, just in time for the featured race, the $100K Goldwood Stakes. Train to Artemus was bet down to the even money favorite and was not bothered by the conditions. She stopped the clock in 1:03:44, which was a slow time for a firm course, however, I’m sure the weather affected that final time. A Beyer Figure hasn’t been assigned as of yet, however, if that number is a bit low, I wouldn’t be bothered by that moving forward.
The nightcap was an interesting race that was contested over a sloppy course. Debbie’s Surprise threw Nik Juarez at the break, but still ran on with the field. She picked her way through the pack and wound up pressuring the heavy favorite, Parisian Vibe, into faster splits that I think she wanted to go. She started to back up once the riderless horse went by. Jose Ferrer was able to get her to re-engage, and she battled, but faded to third. When both Bullet on Tap and the eventual winner, Queen Cadence, an 8-1 longshot that I mentioned as a horse that could benefit from a pace meltdown, went by. Parisian Vibe was claimed out of that race for $7,500. She was very good on the turf two back and was likely entered in this spot because of a lack of grass options in the upcoming condition book. I would be willing to forgive this effort though when looking at her next time.
Three riders who were winless at this meet got on the board in the win column yesterday. Apprentice Melissa Iorio won aboard Smooth Rico in the 3rd race. Jorge Urdaneta won the 6th race with an exceptional ride aboard Smokey Harbor and Maddie Rowland was the rider aboard Queen Cadence in the nightcap. In addition, apprentice rider Luis Rivera Jr. had a strong start to the day, winning both legs of the Early Daily Double. Sunshine Charlie won the opener, paying $27.80 to win and Cactus Jack won the 2nd race, paying $19.00. The $1 double paid a handsome $151.40. That led to a $17K payout in the Win-Early Pick-5.