An exceptional week of racing at Monmouth Park concludes with an eleven race Sunday afternoon program. Three year olds take center stage in the $100K Tale of the Cat Stakes going 1 Mile and 1/16 on the turf. Chad Brown sends out Portfolio Company, who is the morning line favorite while getting a bit of class relief after struggling with graded stakes company in his seasonal debut in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes on the Derby undercard at Churchill. He finished second twice in graded stakes company as a two year old before finishing midpack in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. He’ll face seven rivals that will likely need to step up a beat to defeat him in this spot. First post for the Sunday card is 12:15 (ET).
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!
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Sunday’s card starts off with New Jersey bred fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs in a maiden special weight contest. Six of the seven entered here ran three weeks ago against each other at this level. Epic Queen (#1) was third in that race when making her second career start. She’s tired late in both her first two tries, but has dug in to complete the trifecta in both starts. McBurney hands the reins over to Paco Lopez, which might be enough to make a difference in this spot. Amazing Graces Joy (#3) is the logical alternative and likely favorite after narrowly missing in that race last out. She seemed to appreciate not racing over a wet track that day and with a dry forecast, she should get another fast track. If she runs back to her last race, I don’t see anyone beating her. On deeper tickets, She Loves Gold (#2) appears to be heading in the right direction for Rory Huston. She might be more productive a few races down the road, however, she has shown improvement in her last two tries on fast courses. Huston’s horses tend to get better as the meet goes on, so she wouldn’t be the worst price stab in this race.
It’s odd to see this optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance sprint carded today, as there was a race at this same condition, which only drew six runners, last Sunday. It feels a bit like deja vu for me here with Jump Shot (#5) entered in this race for Haleem Lee. Lee entered Get the W here yesterday in the opener, which was another optional claiming/starter allowance race. Much like Get the W, Jump Shot towers over this field in recent form, running huge races at Parx in his last few starts. He ships here to run in a six furlong race, but, just like Get the W, this common six furlong distance has been his kryptonite. He has never won in 13 career starts at this distance. His stablemate was 0-17 at the distance going into Saturday’s opener, and while he ran a competitive race, he came up a bit short, finishing second. He’s been too good lately to leave him off the ticket, but I’ll make Tony Small (#6) the top pick here. He’s won four of his last six starts, with all of those wins coming at Tampa. He faced $5K starter allowance company in his first start of the season on this oval, and he was moving well late to get into third. Apprentice Madeline Rowland, who had a nice meet at Tampa, is looking for her first local win.
The first turf race of the afternoon is a $12,500-$10,500 N3L claiming race for fillies and mares, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs. There’s some horses that are cutting back in distance here that seem better suited for two turn races. I’ll try Lady Teuflesberg (#3) on top while getting back on to the grass. She ran a solid second in an off the turf race in the slop with open claimers at this tag. She ran a nice race at five furlongs on this course last season and I think the 5 and ½ furlong distance of this race suits her nicely. She Broke My Heart (#5) had a great start to the meet here last season, winning her first two races and losing in a four horse photo with N1X allowance foes in her third start off the layoff. She went off form after that race in her next several tries though. She was claimed by Michael Catalano at Parx in a dirt race where she didn’t show up at all. He gave her a decent amount of time off to try to get her right. She moves up in class off the claim, and is a major player if she can come back as the same horse that she was this time last year.
Here’s another $12,500-$10,500 N3L claiming race, but this one is on the dirt going six furlongs. There are some serious class droppers in here that seem to have a considerable edge over those that are moving up the class ladder. Meru (#3) keeps coming up short against better rivals. He dropped in for a tag last week and disappointed at 3-1. Perhaps he’s more of a pack horse at this point in his career, but this is the softest group he’s seen in his career. There’s a seven pound weight break by switching to Rowland that may be enough to help his cause. Marvin (#4) was claimed for $25K two starts back at Oaklawn, so you can assume that I’m not thrilled about him being entered at this level after only one shot for nis new connections. He’s another one that has consistently been facing better fields though. Paco Lopez taking the mount can’t hurt. There’s enough question marks with the top two that make me want to use another horse here. There’s some upside with Cash Now (#2), making his third start off the layoff today. He showed a lot of potential in 2020, winning at Churchill in November of that year. He went off form at Gulfstream and then was on an extended break, spending over a year on the sidelines. He showed some interest with better fields before backing out in his last two starts. He drops in class where he’ll need to move forward off his last, but he looks to be at the right level of competition.
The Win-Early Pick-5 wraps up with a strong maiden special weight for three year olds and up going 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. Sunset Provisions (#7) was excellent on the turf when going five furlongs over the winter at Gulfstream. He tried two turns on the synthetic in his last two starts there, where he was good, but not as effective. I think he’s the kind of horse that will flourish at this 5 and ½ furlong distance while getting back on the grass today. Too Many Twizzlers (#2) all but eliminated himself in his debut last month at this level. He didn’t get out of the gate on time at all, leaving himself way too much work to do. On the bright side, he made up a lot of ground and was cruising late to finish 4th, beaten only four lengths. That should be a good educational experience for him, especially with the way that he continued to fight despite leaving himself for dead after the break. With a good start, he should be much more formidable in start number two. S. Muffin (#4) should ensure another solid pace in a race like this. He led most of the way before faltering in the final strides at this level last month. Paco Lopez retains the mount in a race where he could be dangerous if no one is willing to put pressure on in the early stages.
WIN-EARLY PICK 5 – $36 Ticket
There’s not a horse that I could confidently play as a single in this sequence, however, I don’t see a ton of depth in some of the races. As a result, that may limit some of the value, unless there’s a total wild card winner. My strongest opinion in the sequence is Tony Small (#6, R2), who feels like a much more valuable alternative to Jump Shot (#5, R2) in that race. Jump Shot is in great form, but he’s never won in 13 tries at this distance. I’ll use him on this ticket as well, but I think Tony Small has a big shot at a bigger price.
The Jersey Shore-6 starts with an open $12,500-$10,500 claiming race going 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. A few runners in this race are coming off some uncharacteristically bad efforts in their last outings. I think Curlin’s Thrill (#3) has more to offer than what we saw last time out. He was shuffled to the back of the back after the start. As the field started to bunch up along the backstretch, Marin was forced to swing him five wide on the turn. He leveled off after drawing even with the leaders, fading to third, beaten 8+ lengths. He’s never finished worse than third on a fast track while racing on this oval, winning three times last season. He drops in class and could be the value play in this race. Hot and Heavy (#1) came up empty with time restricted claimers at the same tag as today. He was a winner with a decent field of time restricted $8K claimers two starts back. While this is a bump is class to open claiming company, I’m not sure this is the strongest field for the condition. Flowers for Lisa (#4) is another runner that underperformed in his last start, finishing five lengths behind Curlin’s Thrill in the same optional claiming/starter allowance contest on June 10th. He was running better races at this open claiming level in one turn races on the NYRA circuit prior to that dull try last time out. He was wide every step of the way, going three wide all the way around the first turn and four wide into the second turn before fading out of the picture. He was claimed out of that race and now runs for Jerry Hollendorfer. His last few tries on fast tracks when going two turns weren’t very good, so I’m struggling to see the value in taking him at his 8-5 morning line. I’ll cover with him on deeper tickets, making his first start for new connections, however, I think there’s better value elsewhere.
Race 7: The $100K Tale of the Cat Stakes:
The featured race today is a 1 mile and 1/16 race for three years olds on the turf. Shug McGaughey finished first and second in the Eatontown Stakes on the turf here last weekend and he has another live contender in this turf stakes race with Fort Washington (#7). He was a no show on a soft and tiring course in the Grade 2 Penn Mile last month at Penn National. I’m willing to draw a line through that race as he was visibly struggling to get over the course that day, following a very wet week in Central Pennsylvania. He didn’t run his best race on a good course in stakes company at Tampa either. The course should be considerably firmer, with a warm and dry weekend in the cards in Oceanport, New Jersey. No rider has been named, so there is the possibility of him being scratched. However, if he runs, I like his chances this afternoon. Crabs N Beer (#4) is a blue collar horse for Jamie Ness that has been very good in his first two turf starts. He won in an optional claiming/starter allowance sprint at Laurel two back, and ran a solid third behind Joe in the James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard. He was a little green and on the wrong lead in the stretch of that race, but he definitely outran his odds, and worked hard to hold third among that quality group. He’s moved forwardly considerably since going to the grass and he certainly fits with these today. At 8-1 (ML), he’s more enticing than the two shorter prices from top national barns. Chad Brown sends out Portfolio Company (#8) for his second start as a three year old. He was good enough to try Grade 1 company in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf back in November. He finished 8th that day, 5+ lengths behind Modern Games. He made his 2022 debut in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard last month, finishing 5th. Perhaps he struggled to get over the new course, as has been the case for many runners there this spring. He could have also needed that race from a fitness standpoint. He’s likely to be the favorite when they spring the latch to the starting gate. This race will definitely be a litmus test to see if he belongs in some of the stakes races on the turf for three year olds at the upcoming Saratoga meet. Quality G (#1) will also take money at the windows, coming back after fading to third late in the Jersey Derby last month. I do feel that was a race that he had every opportunity to win, but couldn’t get the job done. He was gelded after that start, which isn’t ideal for a $250K purchase. He now comes back to face a deeper field. Pletcher and Lopez are hard to ignore when they team up, but you can make some money playing against them if their runner looks vulnerable. I’ll use him on deeper tickets here.
The Late Pick-4 starts off with conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers going six furlongs. All seven runners in this race qualify under the N2L condition. I always get a little nervous singling in these lower level claiming races, however, if Jolly Heretic (#2) is right, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he gets beat. He did struggle here on opening day when facing $25K starter allowance foes, but he rebounded with a better effort last out when facing $16K N2L claimers at Belmont. He was still 9 lengths behind the winner, so the drop in class and change in circuit is probably the right move from Natalia Lynch. As a saver and a horse to think about underneath, I’ll try Classic Escape (#4), whose 10-1 morning line odds feel fair in this race. He seems to have turned a corner since being claimed by Luis Carvajal three starts back. He broke his maiden two back at long odds when facing $10K maiden claimers. He showed some speed before fading out of the picture when facing $12,500-$10,500 time restricted claimers last week. This is a quick turnaround (9 days), but he could be sitting on a bigger effort after pairing his Beyer figures in his last two tries.
Optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance races are always highly competitive at this meet and this 1 mile and 1/16 turf race is no exception. I’m going to try to beat the two shortest priced horses on the morning line, Ballagh Rocks (#9) and Turn of Events (#2). Ballagh Rocks is a nine year old that has won multiple times at this condition, however, I think his ceiling is limited at this point in his career. Turn of Events makes his first start since November for George Weaver. Weaver has good numbers off the layoff, but I think this runner is more effective in one turn races. I’ll take the Parx invader, Mt Suribachi (#1) on top, coming off a 4th place finish two weeks ago in stakes company. He was a respectable 6th at this level when making his first start of the season on this course two starts back. He looks like a horse that is on the improve in his five year old season, running career top speed figures in back to back races. 8-1 feels like solid value in this wide open race. It Can Be Done (#7) was second in the Tale of the Cat Stakes last year on this course. He went on to earn graded stakes placings in the Virginia Derby and the Hill Prince Stakes before struggling in his last start of the season in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar. He returned on 5/29 at this level where he was in front until the final furlong when he started to tire. He should be more fit off that effort and definitely has some upside as a four year old. Reconvene (#6) is winless since 2020, when he won back to back races on this turf course. He looked like a runner with a ton of promise, but things haven’t exactly panned out the way the New Farm had hoped. He makes his 4th start of the year, after running a better race last out at this level, despite finishing 7th. Joe Bravo gets the call today on a runner that is now trending upward, after a few dull efforts. Magical Marriage (#8) cleared the N1X level here last month, gutting out a big win at long odds. He’s continued to get better in two turn turf races, which he’s bred to enjoy. Patrick McBurney had a nice winner on the grass yesterday, as his barn is starting to get warm at this meet. I could see him running well in spite of the rise in class.
There’s a lot of one way speed types entered in this $5K conditioned claiming sprint at five furlongs on the main track. Maricopa (#3) is the only proven closer in this spot, and while this distance might be a touch short for her, I’m going to use her on top. She’s been third in her first two starts at this meet, while facing better fillies and mares. She was a winner the last time she ran in a restricted claiming race, beating $8K N3L claimers at Tampa when coming from off the pace to win in a six furlong contest. She should appreciate the softer competition here. R Love On the Run (#1) and Bionic Battle (#5) look to be the speed of speed here. R Love On the Run was a winner with conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers here three weeks ago. She was a heavy favorite that day and will likely be well backed again today. She’ll likely have to work hard to get the early lead today. She might be too good for these, but there’s enough pace signed on in this race to consider trying to beat her. Bionic Battle is taking a considerable drop in class after a dull effort last out. She’s another one that will be gunning for the early lead in this race. Her effort two back wasn’t bad with optional claiming/starter allowance company at Tampa. She was pressured every step of the way when going 6 and ½ furlongs. She faded to 4th, but less than three lengths behind the winner. She seems like a horse that will fare well at the shorter distance.
The nightcap is a 5 and ½ furlong turf sprint for $16K-$14K maiden claimers. I like Great Assumptions (#2) in this spot, cutting back to a sprint and returning to the grass after faltering in a one mile race that was taken off the turf at Delaware. His lone turf start was significantly better than his four dirtraces. He blew the break that day when falling $25K maiden claimers, but he was gobbling up ground when going five furlongs, getting up to be 4th. I like the extra half furlong for him here, and coupled with the drop in class, he could be very tough to deal with in the stretch. Two Color Map (#5) drops out of maiden special weight company and in for a tag for the first time today. He was second to last when running against some of the horses that are going in the 5th race on today’s card, and the reality is that, on paper, he doesn’t stack up against that group. He fits much better at this level though while making his third start off the layoff. Wine Time (#1) will make his second start of the meet while getting back to the turf today for Kathleen O’Connell. He debuted on the grass last year at Belterra and was 7th after running into some trouble at the start. He came here for new connections and was third, losing in a photo when racing on the dirt with $10K maiden claimers. He’s sired by Temple City out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare, so I’d think he might improve at longer races on the grass. He’ll be well backed at the windows with Paco Lopez riding.
Top Pick Winners: 51/177 (28.8%) – $426.30/ $2.41 ROI