The Haskell Eve program offers an eight race appetizer for the feast tomorrow. In the Mid-Atlantic region, we’re still in a weather pattern where scattered storms are commonplace. There are some forecasted today, but at this point, the weather for the big day tomorrow looks like an excellent summer day. 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||1,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||4,7||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||4||4||6||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||1||1,5,7||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||3||3,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off with a conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claiming race where every filly or mare entered qualifies under the N2L condition. If you’re willing to forgive the last race from Luv U Mary Jane (#4), she may be the one to beat here. She faced time-restricted $25K claimers when making her first start since breaking her maiden with $20K maiden claimers at Laurel last November. She missed the break and was forced to either go four wide into the first turn or fall to the back of the field as a runaway leader carved out aggressive fractions on the front end. She had never been that far off the pace so maybe she was disinterested somewhat while also facing a stronger field. She drops in class for her second start off the layoff. Claudio Gonzalez’s barn is firing on all cylinders at this point in the meet. He’s won 16 races over the past 30 days here, winning at a 29% clip. Rob Atras brings Accel Rose (#5) into town after she was a voided claim for $16K last month at Belmont. She broke her maiden two starts ago with $20K maiden claimers there going seven furlongs. She’s never gone two turns on the main track, but as a daughter of Accelerate, I feel that may be a welcomed change. The dam’s other two foals to make it to the track, broke their maidens in two turn races on the turf. Both of them had more turf influences on the sire’s side of the pedigree though. This is one to watch closely in the paddock and during warmups if you’re able to do so. Welcometomyworld (#1) gets a relatively soft spot to face winners for the first time this afternoon. She was an easy winner with $10K maiden claimers two weeks ago, winning like a 9-10 favorite should. Her two turn efforts have been better than her one turn races and she’s well-drawn for the race that she wants to run.
This maiden special weight race is carded for fillies and mares, three year olds and up, however, there are only three year old fillies participating in this six furlong sprint. There’s a pair of fillies that were underwhelming in their respective debuts, however, I think both make a lot of sense in this race. Paco Lopez likely had the choice between Pep Rally (#4) for Kelly Breen and Vivid Dreams (#7) for Todd Pletcher, and the fact that he winds up on Pep Rally feels important here. She made her debut as a heavy favorite in a maiden allowance race at Laurel back in October in a seven furlong race. She was away slow and never got involved that day, finishing last of six. She was given more time to develop and gets Lasix for the first time today. Her works have been solid and she should be a relatively fair price, with a Todd Pletcher and a Chad Brown runner in this race. Jose Ferrer gets the mount on Vivid Dreams, who debuted in a $150K maiden special weight race on the Breeders’ Cup Friday card at Keeneland last fall. Both Klassy Bridgette and Affirmative Lady, who finished ahead of her in that race, would go on to win stakes races this year as three year olds. She’s an Arrogate filly, so improving at three years old seems logical. Her dam never won a race though, nor have her other two foals to make it to the races. I have some mixed feelings here, so I’ll use her in the multi-race wagers, but if her odds are too low, I’ll be playing against her on my single race tickets. Fearless Kristie (#6) was claimed for $50K at Churchill in her last start back in May. She was second, behind a runaway winner that afternoon. Michael Pino, who claimed her, won with a horse first off the claim on Sunday’s card. She’s run the best speed figures of anyone with racing experience in this race, so while others might have more upside, she might have the highest floor in the field.
This time-restricted $40K-$30K claimer is one of the more interesting races of the meet up to this point. Three of the seven runners in this race are former stakes winners, but current form for many in here is a question mark. If you draw a line through the Tampa races, I see Feast (#4) as the one to beat. He was a four time winner at the 2022 meet here, topping off his season with a win in the Rumson Stakes. He struggled at Delaware and then was very sharp on Tapeta at Gulfstream before three full races at Tampa. He came back here and finished off the board in the Mr. Prospector Stakes. Lightening Larry was very good that day and he would go on to win another stakes race at Delaware in his next start. He wasn’t terrible in that race, but he was no match for that level of competition. This is significant class relief and I think he has enough left in the tank to beat these. If this race were at 5 or 5 and ½ furlongs, he’d likely be a single for me. However, I will also use Polar Wind (#6) making his first start since being moved to Michael Moore’s barn. There’s a lot of speed signed on for this race and if everyone stays in this race, there’s a decent chance that a horse coming from off the pace could wind up on top. He was in sharp form at Horseshoe Indianapolis last season when facing stiffer competition there. He struggled at Turfway and had some bad luck when falling over a fallen rival at Parx this spring. His most recent race at the end of May suggests that he could be circling back to better form.
New Jersey bred two year old fillies dash five furlongs here. There are two first time starters and six runners that faced each other back on 6/30. I prefer the horses with experience in this one, and I’ll make Bingo’s Birkin (#1) the top pick. She was the only horse that had some trouble in that race, and while it was minor, I do think it was meaningful. She was sitting a comfortable third behind Red Head Italian (#7) and the race winner, Beachfront Breeze. Camacho opted to keep her on the rail as they went into the turn. She wasn’t able to switch out, so he tried to go through a narrow opening on the rail, which was shut off by Jose Gomez and Red Head Italian. She switched paths in the final furlong, and still was making headway, as she finished third, only two lengths behind the winner. I think the added half furlong and the education she received will make the difference today. Summer’s Comin (#5) was last early in that race, and allowed by apprentice Melissa Iorio to find her best stride, She came with a wide run and was willingly gaining on leaders late, finishing 4th and winding up in front of the others on the gallop out. Mike Dini has solid numbers with second time starters, and she’s another runner that should benefit from a bit more distance. Red Head Italian was very quick from the gate, and if the track appears to be kind to front end speed, she would certainly be an upgrade. She was very game to battle back once Beachfront Breeze took the lead away from her with about a 1/16 of a mile left to run. She fought back, only to finish as the runner up, losing by a neck.
More New Jersey bred maiden allowance runners will go here, this time for older fillies and mares, going 1 mile and 1/16 in the first turf contest of the afternoon. It’s very hard to look past Joy and Prosperity (#6) in this spot. She was flying late to lose by a neck to Postino’s Prophecy last time out. She was making her second start of her four year old season that day, and has been competitive in all three career starts on the turf. Her major issue is that she hasn’t been very sharp while breaking from the gate in any of her three tries. That was likely the difference between winning and losing last time out, and the fact that she’s done that in all three starts is starting to indicate a pattern. I’ll use her on the A line, but I can’t make her a single, despite looking like a standout. I’ll use Duchess of Destin (#3) as the top pick in this race. She made her second career start and her first on the grass in that same race on 6/24. She ran evenly to be third that day. She has some tactical speed and should be more fit after her first route. I think she has a chance to get a jump on the likely favorite.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $54 Ticket:
I was close to singling Feast (#4, R3) in the third race in this sequence, however, with the other speed signed on the race being run at six furlongs, I have just enough doubts to also use Polar Wind (#6, R3) in that race in the event of a total pace meltdown. I do see some of the other races in this sequence being a little more wide open.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon starts with a conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming race at 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. Eight of the runners qualify under the N2L condition with Coco Shell (#6) being the only two-time winner in this race. While that one is likely to take some attention at the windows, that last race that he won at this level only had three other runners. That was a big figure increase for him as well, which does leave the door open for a bounce possibility. I’m going to make the other Claudio Gonzalez runner, Shouldhavebeengone (#4) my top pick in this race. Gonzalez wins a ton of races, but he may be at his very best when sending out a runner, first off the claim, within a month of claiming that horse. He’s won with 29% of those runners over the last five years, and 36% of those runners at Monmouth in that span. He’s won with 4 of his first 7 horses that fit this angle this year, one of them being Coco Shell three weeks ago. He ran in that same race that both his stablemate and Verbier (#9) are coming out of. He had outside position in that compact field whereas he has a post edge over both of those runners today. He’s an improving three year old son of Frosted and I think he can notch his second victory today. Dreaming of Smarty (#8) may be the controlling speed in this race. John Servis brought him here two weeks ago to face stronger competition. He made the front end before fading badly that day. He had a similar performance two starts back. He falls down the class ladder, but does get the services of Paco Lopez today. Prior to that, he was showing some progress at Parx. I don’t think anyone in this field can go with him in the early stages of this one, so I’m not concerned about him being able to clear this group from an outside draw. Whether he’ll be good enough to hold on is another story, but as long as the price stays fair, I’d be willing to take that chance. Saltin’ The Rim (#7) is one I’d consider on deeper tickets. This Jersey bred is making his third start of the year. He won his debut at the end of the 2020 meet here and has been winless since. He has finished second five times though, and I think two turns on the main track, which he’ll be doing for the first time this year, is what he does best. His form has been up and down, but he does appear to be trending in the right direction for his third start off the layoff. It is worth noting that he was entered in a state bred allowance on Sunday, so there is a chance that he defects from this race.
The final race on the turf today is a very competitive $50K starter allowance race, set to go 1 mile and 1/16. I’ve been a fan of Comedic Timing (#8) on the grass here over the last year, and I think he’s well spotted to pull the upset in this one. He cleared the N1X condition last August with a strong stalking trip from his wide draw. He’s never run a bad race on this turf course, as even his 8th place finish in a stronger field was a strong effort. Pompeyo Gomez claimed him last year, and while he’s winless at this current meet, he has done well with horses that he’s claimed in turf races. His jockey, Richard Mitchell doesn’t get many chances, but he does ride hard and doesn’t make big mistakes. At 12-1 (ML) or better, I think he represents some of the best value in the field. Ready to Fly (#5) has finished in front of Comedic Timing in his last two races, both of which have come in contentious starter handicap company. He had wide draws in both of those races, and it certainly didn’t help his prospects. Ignore his last which was taken off the turf, and his effort two back was very good. I think we’ll see him swing back to his better form while sitting a good stalking trip. Rhumjar (#2) is 0-3 in his three career tries on the turf, but none of those efforts were poor. He faced stakes company in one of those races and finished 4th twice with competitive N2X allowance fields at Tampa in March. While he’s done his best work on the dirt, this seems like a clever spot for him to make his first start off the Claudio Gonzalez. He’s another one of his runners that falls into the category of first off the claim and running back in less than a month. He’s another runner that could be overlooked in this spot. It Can Be Done (#9) makes his first start of the year while returning to the Gregory Sacco barn after being campaigned by Todd Pletcher, who ran him twice in New York last fall. He was graded stakes placed as a three year old, finishing third in both the Virginia Derby and the Hill Prince Stakes. He was okay as a four year old, but he’s winless since winning the Nownownow Stakes here in 2020. He’s going to be a short price because he has a class edge over this field and he attracts Paco Lopez to ride. I think he’s worth covering, but there’s value in trying to beat him.
$12,500-$10,500 maiden claiming fillies and mares close out the card. This race feels reasonably wide open, and there isn’t much dirt form to go off of here. Sarah’s Dialed In (#5) will be competing on the main track for the first time. Most of the dam’s runners have done their best work on the turf, however, horses sired by Dialed In tend to fare better on the dirt. His horses have a 16% winning percentage over the last years in dirt races, whereas his turf runners have only hit at 10%. Most of the other runners have been competing at levels similar to this, so she’s definitely getting some class relief. At or around her 5-1 morning line figure feels like the right price for me on a horse like this. Derwin’s Paynter (#2) is another New York bred shipping her for class relief today. She has some dirt experience, albeit all in races at one turn. She’s been beaten by double digit lengths in her last five starts, so there doesn’t seem to be anywhere she’d fit on the NYRA circuit at this moment. Her two best speed figures came in two turn races on the turf, so perhaps the added distance, along with the drop in class will be the right formula for her to break her maiden this afternoon. Elika (#3) tried two turns for the first time with $10K maiden claimers two weeks ago. She set slow fractions, but was unable to hold off Welcometomyworld, who won going away. This will be her second start at two turns,so perhaps that race will be good for building up her stamina. If Welcometomyworld wins the opener, perhaps that would be a reason to upgrade her, however, taking a short price on her, despite having a pace advantage, could be a tough pill to swallow. She feels like more of a backup to me in this spot.
Top Pick Winners: 61/253 (24.1%) – $410.60/$1.62 ROI
Going into Haskell Week, there is no hotter trainer on the grounds than last year’s leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez. After the first month of racing here, he had sent out 39 starters, winning only three times. However, in the last 30 days, he has catapulted into a clear lead atop the leaderboard in the race for leading trainer, going five wins ahead of both Chad Brown and Kelly Breen. I mentioned earlier that he has won 29% of his races over the last 30 days, going 16 for 55 in that span. He’s winning in bunches, saddling four winners on 7/9, two winners on 7/15, and three winners on 7/16. In that span, seven different riders have had their picture taken in the Winner’s Circle for him, none of which are named Paco Lopez (Torres, Rowland, Rojas, Juarez, Iorio, Rivera Jr, and Rodriguez). Everything that this barn is sending out right now, must be considered.
The race for leading jockey lost a lot of drama when Samy Camacho went down with an injury earlier in the month. He separated his left shoulder in a spill which should require about a 4-6 week recovery period. He said that if he can get back in August, he’ll finish the meet here, however, if it’s going to be closer to a September return, he’s likely to head Gulfstream where he’ll prepare to defend his riding title at Tampa.
Going into this week, Paco Lopez has only won three times here in the month of July. That stat is a bit misleading, as he missed two Saturdays here to ride at Delaware Park in some of their major stakes races. However, his local winning percentage in the past 30 days is 19%, which is well below his 29% winning percentage for the meet so far. In that time span, he’s won nine times from 47 starters. The longest price on any of those 47 runners was 6-1, so there are a lot of beaten favorites in that mix. I’m always looking for opportunities to try to beat him, because I think that’s usually where you’ll get the best value here, and over the past few weeks there have been more of those chances. One thing to keep in mind is that Lopez has dominated toward the end of the meet in the past two years, and it seems from Haskell Day on, he has been tougher than usual to beat. With Colonial Downs running on Fridays and Saturdays this year, it will be interesting to see how many trips he’ll be making to New Kent, Virginia. He was riding there frequently last season when they raced Monday-Wednesday. He’s named to ride horses in the first seven races today.