The Friday card is an eight race contest with some strong betting races. The featured race is an optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance race for three year olds and up, sprinting six furlongs. The four turf races, which are the odd numbered races on the card, are all highly competitive today. There is a possibility of some late day storms, some keep an eye on the radar, especially if you’re playing multi-race sequences. First post for the Friday card is 2:00 (ET).
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||3,4,6||8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||8||3,8||2,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||5||5||4,8||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||7||5,7||1||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||8||8||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The state bred male turf division is probably the most contentious of the New Jersey bred races. There are several live runners in this one mile optional $15K/N1R allowance race that starts the week at Monmouth Park. Both One Time Willard (#4) and Irish Rill (#3) covered a lot of extra ground at this level last out and both are getting some post relief in this race. One Time Willard was definitely more impressive, coming within less than a length of his first career turf victory. His three career turf races have been strong though, despite not finishing first in any of them. I think he can tuck right behind the leaders and make his run at coming off the turn. Irish Rill is lightly raced and still improving. He was a winner when beating a solid maiden field two back, despite a very wide trip. He drew the outside post again when facing winners for the first time, and he ran well, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the ground loss. He’s a three year old taking on older foes, so the potential for growth is there. I think drawing closer to the rail should help his cause. I don’t love his 3-1 morning line price, so my hope is that number will float up a little bit. Here Comes Billy (#6) is all about front end speed when he’s at his best. He’s been caught in the final 1/16 of a mile in three of his last four turf races, finishing no worse than a length behind the winner each time. He is making his second start off a layoff and this will be the first time that he’ll run a race here with the rails all the way out at 36 feet. Typically, speed horses have had a little more of an edge, the farther the rails come out. Since he’s been so close in many of those races, perhaps that little edge will be enough to push him over the top. Duquesne (#8) draws an outside post after getting a fairly cozy trip last out when he was a close second at this level. He, too, is making his second start off the layoff today, but I think the horses on the A line might have a bit of a higher ceiling than he does. He certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if he won this race, but I do think there’s going to be better value on the board. I think the outside post could be problematic for the race he wants to run. He’s a backup for me in this spot.
Two year old fillies will race for a tag for the first time at this meet in this five furlong dash. I’ll try Shesmisunderstood (#8) breaking from the outside stall in this race. Jose Delgado had his first win with a debuting two year old two weeks ago after getting close with a few of his prior runners. Her full brother, Sumo, was a closeup 5th in a fast maiden special weight race when making his debut at Del Mar in 2021. He would go on to break his maiden in his next start at Los Alamitos. She’s likely not as fast as her older brother was, seeing as how she’s entered for a $25K tag right out of the gate. However, she’s drawn well for her debut and is not facing a deep group. R Fashionably Late (#3) makes her debut for Gerald Bennett, who had a two year old debut winner two weeks ago as well here. He ran two colts on 7/2, which were his first two year olds to race in 2023, and both ran well, including a daylight win from Tuscan Ruler and a troubled trip 4th place finish from Peace Not War. He’s hit with 17% of his two year old first time starters over the last five years, and 12% of those runners that debut in maiden claiming company. Running two year olds this early seems to be a part of a philosophy change from this barn, as most of his two year olds have historically debuted later in the calendar year. Her sire Khozan has hit with 15% of his debut runners on the main track. Anajuliaforever (#5) showed some speed before wilting badly in the stretch in a relatively slower maiden special weight race here last month. The winner of that race ran in the Schuylerville on opening day at Saratoga yesterday. She drops in class and worked well, running the fastest four furlong drill of 136 workers on 7/1. She might be able to run this field off their feet if she improves off her last, however, taking too short of a price on a horse that faltered so badly late feels a bit risky. Gulf Coast Girl (#2) debuts for Ballybrit Stables and Michael Dini today. Her dam’s runners have historically been much better in their second career starts, however, her dam was a winner on debut herself. Dini has hit with 7% of his debuting two year olds over the past five years and 10% with his two year olds debuting for a tag.
I think Lita (#5) has a decent chance in this conditioned $40K-$30K claiming turf sprint. She ran at a similar level last time out at Pimlico and finished 4th after having some traffic trouble and getting pinched back shortly after the break. She doesn’t have a ton of early speed, but I think she has more than she was able to show last time out. She finished with some interest after finally getting clear sailing around the 3/16 pole, but by that point, she was too far back to have an impact. The winner of that race came back to beat starter allowance foes at Belmont and the runner up would beat a restricted allowance field at Laurel in her next start. She was beaten by an above average field for that condition and her dam did her best work on the grass. Her sire Star Guitar never got on the grass, but he gets 10% winners from his turf sprinters. She’s had some gaps in between starts, so I like that she’s back sooner than she was in the past. Army Mule (#4) is interesting while trying the turf for the first time and dropping in class. Her asset is her early speed, and there’s no one in this field that has the kind of sprinter speed that she does in the early stages. There’s no guarantee that she’ll be as effective on the grass, but horses sired by Army Mule are off to a good start in turf sprint races, winning 21% of the time (8-38). She’ll likely need to run a career top speed figure to beat this group, so 10-1 or better feels fair. I think she has a chance to wire this group. Miss M M (#8) is cutting back to a sprint after three straight two turn tries. She ran well when sprinting on synthetic over the winter at Gulfstream and her lone start at this distance came earlier in her career where she finished a close up 5th at huge odds. She’s dropping in class after facing a solid group in an off the turf race when making her local debut. I expect her to rebound while getting back on grass, but I do wonder if she’d be better at 5 and ½ furlongs as opposed to the five furlong trip she’s getting today.
There was an evenly matched N1X allowance race for three year old fillies at this same distance on June 3rd. Three of those runners are back to face four new faces at this identical condition. I do think the three fillies that ran at this level last out are better than the new shooters. Ithink Yesternight (#7) will appreciate getting off the rail for her third career try. She was a longshot winner in her debut at Oaklawn in the spring. Her first try against winners came in the 6/3 race where she drew the rail. She was away a beat slow from the gate and was rushed up to make the front. She was game, but she tired late to be third. The rail was not the best part of the track that afternoon, and Isaac Castillo was riding here for the first time this season that day. Paco Lopez rode the winner, and you could see he was intentionally keeping her in the three or four path once they got off the turn. She’s worked three times since her last start and should be stronger for this race today. Pretty’n Awesome (#5) beat Dream Concert (the winner of the 6/3 race) two starts back at this level at Tampa. She remains eligible for this race because of the purse structure there. It clearly wasn’t her day last time out, as she faded and was allowed to canter home. Perhaps that effort was a bounce off her big effort two back. With Samy Camacho still out of commission, Bennett turns to Paco Lopez to ride, which I see as a positive sign regarding her ability to rebound here. Ziaerati (#1) was finishing well to be second in that race, and she’s been installed as the morning line favorite. Robert Falcone has had a lot of success at this meet, with 8 winners and 16 total in the money runners from 24 starters. He adds blinkers on her today, which has not been a positive move for his horses lately, losing his last 15 races when making this equipment change for the first time. Nik Juarez is coming off a strong week of riding here last week and he’ll get the return call.
I think Yeager (#8) with Paco Lopez aboard, is strictly the one to beat in this maiden special weight contest, sprinting five furlongs on the turf. Joe Orseno, who was a dominating force in the New Jersey circuit at one point in his career, has done well with the limited runners that he’s brought to this meet thus far. This Air Force Blue colt was caught in the final strides in both of his last two starts at this distance on grass at Gulfstream. With the turf course being out of commission there, it makes sense that this was one of the runners that Orseno brought to Monmouth. With the rails out at 36 feet, speed has been tough, especially in this turf sprints. I think he can get the jump on his runners and keep finding late. Italian Symphony (#4) is the morning line favorite, and I hope his big Beyer speed figure at Presque Isle on the Tapeta, will keep his price lower, thus creating a little value with top pick. He’s been strong in two races when he was beaten by clear winners there. He’s moving to a higher percentage trainer and switching surfaces, so you’ll be asked to take a short price on a horse doing something new. His dam was a multiple stakes winner, having most of her success on the main track. She was 0-1 in her lone turf start, but she did run well on the synthetic, nearly winning a state bred stakes race at two turns at Presque Isle. I’ll use her first foal as a backup here, but I think he’s vulnerable in this spot.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $54 Ticket:
I’m going to bet that speed will be good in the turf sprint races in this sequence today, making Yeager (#8, R5) a single in the final leg of this wager. I see him being faster than his foes in that race and he should be able to clear them before they hit the turn in that race. From there, I’ll trust that Paco Lopez can get him home. I see Army Mule (#4, R3) as an interesting longshot that could wire her field while trying the turf for the first time. Lita (#5, R3) is a horse that also has a big shot in that race, and I think she might be overlooked in the wagering.
The feature race today is a contentious optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance sprint for three year olds and up. I think Borracho (#5) will try to play “catch me if you can” in this race. There’s a decent amount of speed signed on, but he appears to be the speed of the speed or Jamie Ness. He faded late last out at Delaware, but prior to that, he had two straight wins in Maryland. He’s a nine time winner that is entered for the $50K tag in this spot, which is not concerning to me, as he was a claimed a few starts back for $40K and had already proved to have had a solid return on investment. Benevengo (#6) is likely better at two turns and he might need this race, making his first start since November. However, I do see him as the class of this field. I think getting a fast track will be key, as his only loss on a fast surface came in the Haskell last year. He set blazing fractions that day against a superior field. Cyberknife would go on to be second in the Travers, Taiba won the PA Derby, and Jack Christoper won the Allen Jerkens. Benevengo easily won the Polynesian Stakes in his next start and would end his campaign with a third place finish in a sea of slop in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Churchill. He likes to be on the front end, but he won his debut, stalking the pace and making a four wide bid to take the lead and draw off in his debut last February at Tampa. Secret Rules (#8) cleared the N2X condition two back in New York in the slop in an off the turf race. He ran at this level and finished third behind Gun It at Belmont last month. His last three starts have been strong and while others might have a little higher ceiling, this six year old gelding might have the highest floor in the field. Powerfully Built (#1) is coming off a strong score with optional claiming/N2X allowance company here last month. He saves his best efforts for this course finishing first or second 14 times in 23 starts on this oval. He’s moving up in class and I don’t love his rail draw for this race, especially with the speed of Borracho here. He’s strictly a backup for me, especially as the favorite.
The final turf contest of the afternoon is a 1 mile and 1/16 maiden claiming race for horses running with a $40K-$30K tag. I’ll try That Sun of a Gun (#5) on top, making his first career start on the turf, while dropping in class. His half brother, Golden Brown, was a Grade 3 winner on the turf, winning the Kent Stakes at Delaware Park. He also was a three time stakes winner on grass when facing New Jersey breds on this course. Gun Runner never ran on the turf, but he’s a son of Candy Ride, and his runners are winning in 12% of their turf routes. He’s been well-beaten on the dirt in his first two races this season, however, those maiden special weight fields that he’s been up against have been highly competitive. He routed for the first time on dirt last time out, so he should be more fit for this race, which is a significant drop in class. Samaritano (#7) tried turf in his second career start last time, finishing a solid 4th at this level. He gets a rider upgrade to Jairo Rendon, so I could see him moving forward in his second route and his third start overall. The dam’s only other foal to make it to the track was third in a turf sprint. With Cloud Computing as his sire, there’s a little more stamina influence with his pedigree. Prince of Troy (#9) has faced some solid fields in maiden allowance races on this course, and he’s held his own at times. However, this is probably the right level of competition for him, as he’s entered with a tag for the first time in his career. Post nine with the rails at 36 feet is no picnic though, so taking too short of a price on him in this spot is not completely desirable. Jomar Torres will need to be at his best, and he’s more enticing if his odds float over his 7-2 morning line figure.
The card concludes with an open $5K claiming sprint at six furlongs. Motion to Strike (#2) was claimed out of a restricted $5K claiming race here last month where he was a bit flat. He battled for the early lead when going 5 and ½ furlongs and faded down the stretch when making his local debut. Silvino Ramirez. Ramirez is 5 for his last 8 with runners first off the claim when they return to race less than a month later. He’s a definite upgrade on a wet track, which isn’t a bad thing in a race at the end of the card, as afternoon storms could be in the cards today. He’s a threat to be alone on the front end and he’s better suited for this distance than the majority of the runners in this field. Dizzy Gillespie (#6) has a pair of solid efforts on this course, beating conditioned $5K claimers two back. He was in too deep last week against a solid field of time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claimers. There’s no one as good as Aequor (who was the winner of that race) in this field today. It’s a family affair for the Maragh’s and Small Reason (#3), shipping in from Gulfstream for his first start on this oval. They lost him for $6,250 at the beginning of March, but claimed him right back for that same tag at the end of that month. His speed figures have gradually improved in his three tries since the re-claim, closing well to be second last out. He’s getting a bit of class relief, but he’s 0-6 at this distance. I think he’d likely be better suited for 6 and ½ or 7 furlongs, which is not an option here. I also worry about him being pace compromised in this race, as there isn’t a ton of other speed signed on. If front end speed appears to be struggling in the first three dirt races, I might consider upgrading him, as long as the price doesn’t dip below his 5-2 morning line figure.
Top Pick Winners: 48/228 (21.1%) – $335.00/$1.47 ROI
He’spuregold earned his third consecutive win in the Irish War Cry Handicap on Sunday, beating a very game There Are No Words. He’spuregold seemed to revert back to better form after a few below average starts by his standards. I thought the effort from There Are No Words was worth mentioning, as he was very relaxed, stalking an aggressive pace. He’s a horse that has been on the muscle in the past, so seeing him rate kindly suggests that he’s growing up in his four year old season. He could be an interesting face in this division.
I was out of town in South Carolina last weekend, where it was quite complicated to watch a live horse race, let alone lay down a wager. I was catching up on some replays and was blown away by the effort from Payout Ratio on Saturday, when he demolished a field of $16K-$14K claimers. He threw down the gauntlet early and kept finding late, to handily win by 11 lengths, stopping the clock in a lively 1:41:69. The final times and fractions were revised a bit from what was posted on track, however, that was a huge effort. Ramon Martin claimed him off of Chad Brown, so we’ll see if he’s going to be able to have the same level of success for his new connections.