The weather for the most part has been warm and dry after a week of unsettled weather in the mid-Atlantic region, with several pop up downpours. We should be looking at fast and firm conditions, at least for the first few days of racing at Monmouth this weekend. Paco Lopez had a strong week to take a three race lead in the jockey standings over Jose Ferrer. Jose Delgado still holds a comfortable four race lead over Wayne Potts in the trainer column. The feature race on tonight’s six race program comes in Race 5, which is a non-conditional allowance for fillies and mares, dashing 5 Furlongs on the grass.
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Race 1: Top Pick: 1
The twilight card begins with a maiden special weight race on the grass for fillies and mares going 1 Mile and 1/16. The 2nd-6th place finishers from the 6/25 race (R1) are all back, but I’m going to try one of the new faces on top, as I don’t think that group was particularly the strongest group of state bred maidens. Ask Around (1) owns the best turf and overall Beyer Speed Figure in the field. Normally, that alone isn’t enough to sway my decision, but in an evenly matched field, she might have an edge. She made her first start of 2021 sprinting in the slop at this level and was a non-factor. She improved with more races last season, and Douglas Nunn adds blinkers, which may help her while breaking from the rail here. Deidre Panas is a crafty veteran jockey that doesn’t ride much anymore, but she’s a capable rider that could be pull off the mild upset here. Rob the Treasure (7) was 4th in the aforementioned 6/25 maiden special weight race here. She was also making her first start of the year and her first start since joining the Mike Dini barn. Paco Lopez keeps the mount on this Treasure Beach filly who ran a strong race with open maiden claimers two starts back, an effort that would play very well with this group. Moon Unit Zapper (2) ran well to be second in the same maiden race, coming a length short of graduating that day. She hasn’t yet shown that she has grown much from three to four, but she could take that necessary step forward in her third race off the layoff. Tale Lights (3) figures to be forwardly placed, as she was on the pace last out, while breaking from the outside post. She draws inward today which could be advantageous in her third race off the layoff. On deeper tickets, Pomtini (9) makes her third career start and her first at two turns and her first on the turf. Her pedigree isn’t screaming turf, and I don’t love the outside draw, but she overcame a decent amount of trouble to be a distant second to D’tiger Lily, who came back to win over the weekend with a solid field at the New Jersey bred N1X level. She’ll need to improve to factor in this race, but she won’t have to take a massive leap.
Race 2: Top Pick: 3
The Friday Pick-5 starts with a competitive optional $16K claiming/$8K starter allowance race at 1 Mile and 1/16 on the main track. Bold Paynter (3) was third in a four horse field when Friendly Fella (7) tried to take that group gate to wire. The track that afternoon was speed favoring, and the winner that day, Brice, would likely be a heavy favorite in this race. I think there’s a decent amount of speed inside and outside in this race, which could set up a favorable pace scenario for Bold Paynter. He left Tampa in good form, but hasn’t been able to get back to those races yet at Monmouth. He did catch a sloppy track in his first two races of the meet though. I expect improvement here, while running for Victor Russo, who got his first win of the meeting last week. Exchequer (8) was on a roll before throwing in a clunker in the mud against a deeper field at this condition last out. He has been able to rebound after poor races in the past. I am a bit concerned that the outside draw and the other pace horses signed on may play against him here. However, any reversion to his prior form puts him right in the thick of it here. Friendly Fella (7) ran a strong effort with off the turf claimers last out in his first start since being claimed by Claudio Gonzalez. This is a tougher assignment, and his last race was a career top for this five year old Hear No Evil gelding. He’s clearly doing well as his new connections have opted to keep him protected in this spot. He is a possible bounce candidate, but one that I’ll cover my bases with.
Race 3: Top Pick: 5
The lone Pick-4 on the card starts here with $22K-$18K open claimers going 5 Furlongs on the turf course. The one to beat will be French Reef (5) after running a very good second to The Critical Way in the Get Serious Stakes. That one came back a winner of the Wolf Hill Stakes here last weekend. French Reef was claimed for $20K off of Chad Brown back in December at Gulfstream, and initially, that looked like it was not a promising investment. However, Rohan Crichton seems to have got this guy turned around, because he has been steadily improving over his last five races, winning three and finishing second in the other two. He’s the quickest of the quick in this race, showing the ability to lead after setting blistering sub 21 second first quarters on multiple occasions. War Stroll (1) is one of two being sent out in here by Wayne Potts. Despite having a win in his only trip at this distance, I think 5 Furlongs could be shade too short this eight year old gelding, however, he is the best closer in the field and the one that could be gaining late if he can get a clean trip from his rail post. He’s dropping in class, coming in from Belmont, where he’s been third with open claimers in a pair of 6 Furlong sprints there in his last two tries. Mr. Edgar (3) was claimed off of Jose Delgado by Jesus Cruz at the open $12,500-$10,500 claiming level last month. He has two straight wins on this course in sprints, and he’s never finished off the board in four starts here. This is a step up in class for him, but he’s certainly live in this spot.
Race 4: Top Pick: 7
I feel like Matunuck (7) might have the highest ceiling in this multi-conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming race for fillies and mares at 6 Furlongs on the main track. She has run four times in her career, all at Pimlico, and all in five furlong races that were carded for the turf. Two of those races were taken off the turf, and those were clearly her two best starts. She stretches out to 6 Furlongs today for Claudio Gonzalez after fading to seventh when facing winners for the first time on the turf last out. I’m not sure who she was up against in those maiden races that came off the grass, but this isn’t a strong group here, and I think she is a logical win candidate. Absolute Anna (10) is the likely post time favorite in here with Paco Lopez getting the return call. She liked the long stretch at Los Alamitos where she rallied to break her maiden on debut back in December. She has been kept winless since and drops to the lowest level yet in her eight race career. She was a fast closing third when she was beaten by a pair of nice claiming fillies last out in Grey Charlotte (who won again on Sunday) and Pink Shoelaces, losing to both by only ¾ of a length. She has had troubles at the gate, not getting away on time, which is definitely a concern when taking a short price on her here. I also don’t love the drop in class off the $20K claim two starts back, especially when showing a strong effort with better last out. However, there’s not a lot of good current form in this race to speak of either, so I’ll be using her with some caution. Destinque (6) is also dropping in class quickly after being claimed for $30K at Keeneland three back. She’s the only two time winner in the field, however, she’s also the only horse in the field that has never won a race on dirt as both of those wins came on the synthetic surface at Turfway. She tried and failed on the turf last out after getting crushed in allowance company two back in the slop. However, that race doesn’t look as bad when you see that she was beaten by Ova Charged who was a game second in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont in her subsequent start. I’m definitely getting mixed signals from her, but again, there’s not a lot of others that are exciting me here.
Race 5: Top Pick: 1
The featured race today is a $65K non-conditioned allowance at five furlongs on the turf. The race runs through the heavy favorite, Miss Auramet (1). She was second behind a very talented turf sprinter, Caravel, in the Goldwood Stakes here last month. That one is entered tomorrow in the Grade 3 Caress Stakes at Saratoga. Miss Auramet has hit the board in 10 of her last 11 races and she has won 8 of her last 16 starts overall. She’s in good form and figures to be very tough in this field. The main threat could be Hey Mamaluke (2) who is making her turf debut in her 19th career start. She won the Power By Far stakes when that race for Pennsylvania breds was rained off the turf at Parx last out. She appears to be the quickest from the gate in the field, and she’s sired by Jump Start, who has produced some successful turf horses, out of a Lucky Lionel mare. If she takes to the surface and can sprint clear, she might be able to keep finding at this 5/8 of a mile distance.
Race 6: Top Pick: 4
The last two legs of the multi-race sequences could be very chalky as Kosciuszko (4) is going to be very tough to beat. He was a dominating winner at this level on opening day when he was claimed by Phillip Cunningham. He ran back at this level last month and was a close second to Sneakiness, who came back to run a solid second in allowance company here on Haskell Day. Kosciuszko was claimed again by Carlos David, who has won at a 38% clip with horses first off the claim. He’s in good form and we know he likes the course. Expect him to be a short price that will be hard to beat here. Professor Snape (3) didn’t run a step in the same race that Kosciuszko was second in last out. However, I’m willing to draw a line through that effort in the mud. He was claimed by the leading trainer, Jose Delgado, and gets the services of Jose Ferrer, who has been riding with tremendous confidence throughout the meet. His recent form isn’t the best, but this is a logical spot to try to turn things around for his upgraded human connections.
Friday Pick-5 – $36.00 Ticket
Race 2: 3, 7, 8
Race 3: 1, 5
Race 4: 6, 7, 10
Race 5: 1, 2
Race 6: 3, 4
Meet Stats: 65/232 (Top Pick Winners) – $415.40 / $1.79 ROI per $2 win bet