The new week starts with an eight race Friday matinee, with the first race going off at 2:00 PM (ET). The rails for the turf course will be at 36 feet, and there’s a trio of five furlong turf sprints scheduled for the first time this meet. All of the other turf sprints carded so far have been at the 5 and ½ furlong distance out of the turf chute. I do believe there is a significant difference between those distances and being able to spot the horses that are better suited for each sprint can be a profitable angle. Keep an eye on the air quality index, which caused Delaware to cancel the past two days. The index was quite high at the Jersey Shore on Thursday, but there was some significant clearing as the day went on.
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||1||1,3||5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||2||2,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||2,3,7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||7||5,7||1||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||2||2,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts with a five furlong turf sprint for $20K-$18K N3L claimers. I’m going to try Lost a Legend (#1) on top, trying the turf for the first time. He has decent tactical speed, which is typically a good thing to possess in races like this. His synthetic efforts are definitely better than his dirt races, and his best career race was on Tapeta at this distance. He’s sired by Vancouver, who gets 13% winners with his turf sprinters.. His trainer, Carlos Perez, is 0-6 at this meet, but five of his runners have finished in the money. At 10-1 (ML), he feels like he’s worth the risk. U Kant Whip It (#3) is a logical favorite, with Paco Lopez getting the call. He ran three times on this course in 2022, breaking his maiden at 5 and ½ furlongs when he was elevated to first after a disqualification. He came back to beat conditioned $16K-$14K claimers at this distance. Toss his last try, where he clearly wasn;t the best version of himself. He’s been on the sidelines since August, and returns today for Kelly Breen, who has good numbers off extended layoffs. I’ll definitely be using him, as there is a good chance he can clear this field early. Advanced Cash (#5) is one of the more consistent runners in this race and he definitely fits on figures. He hasn’t been on turf since a four race stretch at Gulfstream in 2021. His turf form wasn’t bad, but all of those races were two turn contests. He’s never run in a race this short in his 23 race career, and my gut feeling is that this distance is too short for him. He does some decent efforts at 5 and ½ and 6 furlongs on synthetic and dirt. He’s one that I’ll likely use on deeper tickets, but it will come down to what kind of price he’ll be sent off at.
There’s a field of six scheduled to go to the post in this $8K starter allowance race going one mile on the main track. I think the three shorter priced runners have a significant advantage over the three longer prices here, however, I had a hard time separating this trio. I ended up making Salto de Tigre (#2) the top choice here. He ended up pressing a moderate tempo in a four horse race under similar conditions two weeks ago. David Jacobsen has been racing this Kenn Ice gelding frequently, making his 7th start since he purchased this horse in March. He’s never finished off the board in that stretch. Isaac Castillo, who started riding here again last week, has been riding very well and he’ll pilot this one for the first time today. Sea Trident (#4) is the morning line favorite, and will be going two turns for the first time on dirt today. He has gone two turns on the grass multiple times in the past, but those races were nothing to write home about. I typically try to beat a horse like this, but he could very well be the lone speed horse in this race, which would certainly make him dangerous. He’ll be making his first start since December, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to carry his Gulfstream form from the second half of 2022. I’d prefer if his odds floated up a bit from the 7-5 morning line figure, as there is some risk involved with taking him. El Hermano (#5) was the longshot winner of the race that Salto de Tigre is coming out of. He stalked the pace that day and came with a sustained three wide bid, opening up in the stretch. That effort was solid, but the win may have been more of a function of both Salto de Tigre and Coach Adams not quite having their A game that afternoon. Carlos Rojas, who rode him to victory that day, ends up riding Sea Trident, but getting Paco Lopez as a replacement is certainly not a bad thing.
I think there could be some value with using Shea On a Mission (#2) in this conditioned $5K claimer. She’s caught sloppy tracks in her last two races and she’s run poorly each time. Her Tomlinson Figures are on the lower side, so it’s not surprising that she’s not her best self on off tracks. She was competitive on fast dirt tracks last year, winning handily at the one turn mile at Gulfstream. She’ll get a dry course and gets a much better post after going wide early last out. Samy Camacho is upgrading most of his mounts right now and he’ll get the assignment for the first time. Voice of Spring (#7) is coming out of the same race where she also had a bit of a wide journey. While she doesn’t get the post relief that her rival will, she has run well in her second start off the same kind of brief layoff she was given prior to her last start. Her bullet work here last Monday signals that she’s full of energy after her last race. Her trainer, Claudio Gonzalez, also trains, Nana Fanny (#3) who will be trying the dirt for the first time in her 19th career start. She’s had a few sharp works over the local oval and her speed figures are better than her rivals. I don’t want to take a short price on her (her 3/2 ML feels way too short), trying something new for the first time, but she is a logical player in this spot.
State bred maiden special weight fillies and mares sprint six furlongs here. Exclusive Champion (#7) makes her 5th career start and her second of 2023. She’s exiting a common maiden special weight race here where a full field of 12 sprinted in the slop last month. She moved into 4th that day and now adds Lasix and blinkers for her next try. She improved in her second career start last year, so a forward move is not out of the question. Eddie Owens has had nothing but live runners all meet long, with all seven finishing in the money. He had a maiden two year old winner on Saturday that was sired by Sea Wizard, who is covering many of the mares owned by Holly Crest Farm. Carats Forever (#5) started twice in 2022, flashing speed and fading late in those races. She was beaten by Girl Trouble and Riding Pretty, who are two of the top three year old fillies that were bred in New Jersey. This is not the strongest bunch, so if she’s the same horse or better, she’s going to be tough to beat. On deeper tickets, I’ll give a look to Violets Smile (#1). She was sharp on the turf with fillies at the Meadowlands when making her second career start. She struggled in her other two starts, once on the dirt against open maidens and in her last start of 2022 on the turf against the boys. She returned in the same 12 horse that Exclusive Champion is coming out of. I expect her to be more competitive on the fast course today.
$20K-$18K N3L claiming races on the turf will bookend the Win Early Pick-5, with this one being for the fillies and mares. Secret Time (#7) is the obvious runner in this race, with figures that are much better than her competition. She is taking a significant drop in class, spending most of her time in allowance company lately. She was a nonfactor in the Grade 3 Suwanee River at Gulfstream in her last start back on New Year’s Eve. I do have a few concerns about the distance, so I’ll look for a speed horse to hopefully carry this field, however, her class makes her a must use on the A line for me. I’m going to try Parisian Vibe (#2) on top, first off the claim for Kent Sweezy. She is a speed type that showed speed in her only turf start, which was also her only race at two turns. She is definitely a sprinter and she’s coming off a race where she was an easy winner with much lesser company. She gets a fresh start for new connections, while sprinting on turf for the first time. I think she has the capability to go with Flip My Id (#3) early and kick away from her in the stretch. Whether she can hold off Secret Time or not is another story, but I think the odds disparity will be worth taking a shot.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $54 Ticket:
There wasn’t a horse I was crazy about using as a single in this sequence this afternoon, however there are a few longer priced runners that I feel have a good chance in their respective races. If the synthetic form for Lost a Legend (#1, R1), I think he’ll have a decent chance to beat the favorite, starting off at 10-1 on the morning line. On the back end of the wager, I like a pair of 6-1 runners, Exclusive Champion (#7, R4) and Parisian VIbe (#2, R5).
The feature race this afternoon is an optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance race where the winner of the Sapling Stakes last year, Lost Ark (#4), makes his 2023 debut. He was sensational in his first two races, decimating a maiden field at Belmont in July and crushing a solid field in the Sapling Stakes when going one mile here at the end of August. He moved to Grade 1 company, but had a miserable trip in the Breeders’ Futurity when his stablemate, Forte, stamped himself as a force to be reckoned with. He went wrong in the Breeders’ Cup where he did not finish the race. He’s been on the sidelines ever since, but he’s been working consistently at Saratoga for his first race as a three year old. His dam, Marion Ravenwood, has been one of the better broodmares of the last several years, foaling Grade 1 winning horses like Nest and Idol. He’s a player in this race, but there’s enough uncertainty with him to make sure there’s coverage. I ended up making Keeping the Edge (#6) my top pick in this race. He’ll be going two turns for the first time in his career today. He ran four times in 2022, breaking his maiden on Tapeta for Mike Trombetta at Turfway in his third start. He followed up that win with a gate to wire score at Laurel, when going a one turn mile, to clear the N1X condition. He went to the sidelines for almost a full year before returning at Laurel at this level. He was flat in that race, but looked much better last month when finishing third at Woodbine on synthetic. He can run well on either surface, and this seems like a good time to try two turns. I think he has enough speed to clear from his outside post, and could take this field all the way on the front end.
I’ve been waiting for Tapestry Colors (#4) to return to the races after a strong debut win at this distance last summer. She beat a nice field, outsprinting Navy Goat, who would go on to break her maiden at Kentucky Downs and followed that effort up with a win in state bred stakes company. Her workouts or her pedigree didn’t jump off the page that day, but she was very speedy, going 21:1 for the first quarter over a very firm course. She was eased up late, but her win was never in doubt. I’m not in love with the fact she’s returning for a tag, however, the barn has very good numbers off the layoff and with runners getting Lasix for the first time. I don’t see much competition here, so she feels like she’s worthy of being used as a single. The backup for me would be Epic Queen (#2) who might offer some value here. Her dirt form isn’t much to brag about, but her two turf races last year were her best career races. She might be the one that could be gaining late as there is a lot of early speed signed on in this spot.
I’m going to eat chalk in the nightcap and make Todd Pletcher’s In The Union (#1) my top pick. He was third with $16K N2L claimers last month at Belmont. Since coming back from a long layoff, both of his races have been going one turn miles in New York. He does have some two turn form from 2022 that is very good, and if he can get close to that in his third start off the layoff, he’d likely win this race by open lengths, On paper, he is taking a small drop in class to this conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming race. However, the circuit switch will also suit him well here. Jose Gomez rode him last time and he’ll get the return call today. He doesn’t have a ton of early speed, but there really isn’t any speed signed on to this race. His rail post should ensure him a decent spot in the early stages, and I’ll expect that his class can carry him home. My backup here would be using Coco Shell (#7) from the outside stall. He was second when facing three year olds in open $20K claiming company in an off the turf race at Tampa two starts back. He faced a tougher group in a sprint in his first race of the meet last month, finishing last of seven after a troubled trip. He’s facing older horses for the first time today, but I think he might prove that he’s more effective at two turns.
Top Pick Winners: 27/97 (27.8%) – $171.40/ $1.78 ROI
After a few tough days in a row, I had a much better Sunday, although the ROI for the meet didn’t get the boost that I had hoped it would, in part because some scratches limited the value on some of the top pick winners.
Samy Camacho had another three win day on Sunday, giving him seven winners on the week, and 16 for the meet. That’s good enough to put him one win behind Paco Lopez atop the jockey standings. In the race for top trainer at the meet, Jorge Delgado and Chad Brown are tied for the lead with seven winners apiece. Juan Carlos Avila is one win behind the pace in third.
Beach Daze was the winner of the featured Smart N Classy Handicap, by a hard fought neck. A decisive early move by Adam Bowman was likely the difference. I was very impressed with the effort from the three year old filly, Riding Pretty. She has proven herself as a solid turf horse, but she showed she can compete on any surface with the better New Jersey bred fillies and mares in training right now.