There’s a ten race card to close the week at beautiful Monmouth Park. There’s definitely some races that feel like they’ll be very formful on today’s card, however, there have been some very unlikely outcomes at times this week. There is a chance of overnight showers and isolated afternoon thunderstorms today. I have handicapped the card as is, but I’ll try to make the necessary adjustments if the weather causes any surface changes.
|1||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||3||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||4,6||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||6,9||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 2
The day starts with a maiden special weight contest for New Jersey bred three year olds and upward on the grass. The heavy morning line favorite, Kratos (2), opted for this spot instead of the Irish War Cry Handicap yesterday. He’s been on the losing end of a pair of photos at two turns here and sprinting at Delaware. The horse that narrowly defeated him last out, He’spuregold, went on to win the Irish War Cry yesterday. Kratos fired a bullet workout in preparation for this start, where he will likely go to the post below his 4-5 morning line odds. There’s not much value here, but he just looks significantly better than his seven rivals in this spot. There have been some improbable outcomes thus far this week, but it would be a shock if he didn’t graduate today.
Race 2: Top Pick: 1
This six horse, multi-conditioned, $30K-$25K claiming contest is open to three year olds and up, but only three year old fillies entered. It’s a little hard to make heads or tails of this race as you have some horses coming in from different tracks, horses that last competed at widely different class levels, and some horses trying two turns on the dirt for the first time. The two longshots, Weddingnightjitters (2) and Crystal Orb (3) both will need to take a sizeable step forward to be competitive at this level, coming off their maiden wins. At this point, I don’t see evidence in their running lines of that outcome happening. Take It Off (6) comes in from Belmont after a career top effort going 7 Furlongs with $16K N2L claimers. She ships in and tries to go two turns for the first time off that race. For my money, she’ll need to prove that her last wasn’t an aberration, and the 7-2 morning line is not good value at all. That leaves me with three, and while I don’t love taking a favorite in this spot, La Castiglione (1) makes the most sense. She broke her maiden here in May and followed that effort with a game effort going 6 Furlongs with $16K multi-conditioned claimers. She shipped to Parx where she tried two turns for the first time, and finished a game second to next out winner Sweet Willamena, in optional claiming/starter allowance company. Even though she was competing against only three rivals, she ran a strong race in her first attempt at two turns. She should be able to dictate the terms of this race from her rail post, as I don’t think Corrales, who rides her stablemate who is the second choice, Tayler’s Chrome (5), is going to engage in a speed duel. Tayler’s Chrome, like La Castiglione, is trained by Claudio Gonzalez, and she may be getting the most class relief in this spot than anyone else. The last time she was entered in a straight claiming race was back in December at Laurel when she broke her maiden. Since then, she’s been on a steady diet of optional claiming/N1X allowance races, winning one of them while in for a $62,500 tag at Laurel in March in a two turn race. She is not the most consistent filly in the race, but she has run big at times. Successful Legacy (4) is one to consider for deeper tickets. She has a lot of two turn experience, but all of those races were on the turf. She has ten career starts, and only three have them have been on the main track. Her sprint in the slop at Delaware was pretty sharp, and her pedigree has a solid mix of speed and stamina, so I think she could be competitive at two turns on the dirt. She may offer the best value of this sextet.
Race 3: Top Pick: 7
We have a maiden special weight race for fillies and mares on the turf, going 5 and ½ Furlongs. The 3-2 morning line favorite is Frosted Blue (3), who came to the turf for the first time last out and ran a monster race at 30-1. She was second that day, beaten three plus lengths. I love betting back horses that run big in their first turf start, especially when they are longshots when they run that big race. However, I love betting those horses, because there’s often still some decent value there. That doesn’t appear to be the case here as this horse is 3-2 on the morning line, which is a tough pill for me to swallow. I like her, but I’m going to make American Bastet (7), making her first start of the year, my top pick. She debuted at Colonial Downs last August on the grass, and showed some zip before fading to finish 4th that day. When that meet was unexpectedly cut short, she was shipped here, and she ran well in an off the turf race in her second career try. That effort was good enough to consider trying her with maiden special weight company on the main track, but she faded to finish a distant third day. She’s been away since October and has since moved to the Miguel Vera barn. I think turf sprinting is where she’ll be the best, and she’s likely going to be sent hard for the early lead. Unless one of the first timers is gunned from the gate, the early lead should be hers, and it shouldn’t be too stressful getting it. I’m expecting a big effort from her today. Asyena (2) is a five year old mare with only five career starts. It’s clear that staying sound hasn’t been easy for her. However, she’s sired by Verrazano, so there’s reason to believe she’ll take to the turf. She’s another one that offers little value at her 5-2 morning line, but could be more playable if her odds float up.
Race 4: Top Pick: 6
Multi-conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers go two turns in this race. Curlin’s Thrill (6) made his first career start on dirt last out at the $10K maiden claiming level and was absolutely dominating, winning by over nine lengths, and earning a strong Beyer Speed Figure, especially for that condition. Relator Danny D, who was a distant second, came back to win last week at the same level. I would think after such a big effort, he would try a higher level of competition, so that is a bit of a concern for me, along with the possibility of a bounce after such a big effort. However, this is not the strongest field, and unless he doesn’t show up at all, he’s going to be tough in this spot. Threeninetytwo (1) is the only other one I want to use in this spot today. He caught sloppy tracks in his last two starts, which isn’t ideal for him. He’s now in his third race off the layoff and making his first start since being claimed by Jesus Cruz, who has won half of his races at this meet thus far. There’s not a ton of speed signed on, so he could leverage his rail position into a fairly easy front running journey.
Race 5: Top Pick: 3
While I don’t love the prospects of being singled to a horse that is 1-28 in his career, I think Hard Count (3) is going to be very tough to beat in this $16K starter allowance race. The angle I like with this five year gelded son of Run Away and Hide is that his two turn races are much stronger than his one turn races. He came very close to clearing the N2L condition three times with stronger horses while running at better circuits at Santa Anita and Gulfstream. He has been a little flat while going one turn with better in his last few at Belmont. Roy Falcone has hit the board with the only two horses he has run here so far at this meet. As long as he runs his race, someone else is going to have to take a decent step forward to beat him.
Win-Early Pick-5 Play: $9.00 Ticket
Race 1: 2
Race 2: 1, 4, 5
Race 3: 2, 3, 7
Race 4: 1, 6
Race 5: 3
Race 6: Top Pick: 4
Two year olds go 5 and ½ Furlongs in this $25K maiden claiming contest that starts the late Pick-5 wager. I’m not in love with the horses with experience, so I’m going to try a pair of first time starters as my A horses. The Ghost of N Y (4) is from the freshman crop of Shaman Ghost. Shaman Ghost didn’t win as a two year old, and never won a one turn race, so I’m hoping that the Into Mischief influence on the dam side will help this one get home on debut. His works are solid over at Parx, and Danny Velasquez has had success with first time starters, especially at the maiden claiming level. Revinair (6) is a son of Revolutionary, and his grand sire is War Pass, who ran the biggest race of his career on this oval in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile back in 2007. He was training at Belmont, but Greg Sacco opted to bring him south for his debut. Sacco and Isaac Castillo have done well when teaming up, winning 30% of their races together at this track. Just Leo (1) debuted at this level for Kelly Breen two weeks ago. He showed some early interest before tiring late to finish 4th. There’s obviously room for improvement, and Breen’s horses typically take a decent step forward in their second start. I don’t love him as the favorite, but he’s definitely one to consider.
Race 7: Top Pick: 9
The late Pick-4 starts with a multi-conditioned $30K-$25K turf sprint, for three year olds and up, going 5 and ½ Furlongs. Nothing Better (9) is the one to beat in this race as his efforts on a firm course are just better than what anyone in here has proven they are capable of. His last two have been rough, but there are definitely excuses as the rider lost his irons two back, when he was sent to post as the favorite in allowance company here. Most recently, he shipped to Delaware where he ran a dull effort on a good course with better horses. Some horses definitely struggle on the turf course there, so I can forgive that effort. He drops in for a tag for the first time in his career, which I don’t particularly love, but he gets blinkers and looks like he’s better than these. If someone steps up to beat him, I suspect it will be one that has limited or no turf experience. Portal One (6) has won two straight on the dirt for the McMahon’s at Laurel and Penn National. He definitely has tactical speed that should play well in turf sprints. While his pedigree, (Mineshaft out of a Smart Strike mare) doesn’t scream turf sprint, there are enough turf influences there to play him in this spot. Yankee Empire (2) is another one that is sprinting on the turf for the first time. He has been badly off form since being claimed by Orlando Noda this spring at Aqueduct. He started to show some signs of life last out in an off the turf race at the $16K-$14K condition. His lone turf race was at a mile at Gulfstream in 2020, and that race was a disaster. I’ll ignore that effort, so perhaps he can wake up on the turf at long odds. Red Mule (3) is the morning line favorite that I’ll be playing against here. He’s 1-18 overall and he really hasn’t been close to winning in a while. The change of circuits and the brief layoff may help, but I can’t see myself taking a short price on him.
Race 8: Top Pick: 8
The last Pick-3 of the day is an N3L claiming contest for three year olds and upward, running with a $7,500-$6,500 tag. Juan Boly (8) is the top pick for me, dropping in class after outrunning his odds in his last two starts with better horses. I thought he was gutsy in both efforts, digging in once he was passed on the turf last out, and hanging around to get third two back against a pair of more accomplished rivals. He cleared the N2L condition impressively four starts back at Tampa, dominating in gate to wire fashion. Figueroa will have to work out a trip from his outside post, so a sharp break today will help his cause. I’m expecting him to be prominent in this spot today. Morning line favorite, Large (4) is an obvious player here. He cleared the N2L condition three back at Tampa, and followed that up with a pair of credible races locally, while facing better. This is a steep drop in class, as he faced $20K N3L claimers in his last start. However, this is also part of the reason why Delgado has such a high win percentage. On deeper tickets, I’m looking for some closers as coverage here, since the top two are speed oriented, and there’s some other horses that want to be forwardly placed as well. I hate the price on Vitesse (1), as 7-2 (ML) feels way too low on a horse that has been bad in four of his last five starts. However, he ran well locally two back when he was pace compromised and he does have some stronger efforts last fall that would play well at this level. I’d need to get closer to 5-1 to upgrade him more. Allied Invasion (5) has been claimed in his last two starts while facing multi-conditioned $5K claimers. There are some chances for some isolated storms, so he could be one to upgrade on a wet track in this spot. He’s closed belatedly to earn some checks in his last few.
Race 9: Top Pick: 10
I’ve said it before, but these $16K-$14K N4L conditioned races here are very competitive on all surfaces at this meet. Several are coming out of the race that was dominated by El Hermano on yielding ground two weeks ago. Drillomatic (10) is not one of them as he ran last Sunday in the Malouf Starter Series race that was rained off the turf. He struggled over the good going that day, going wide and not really looking interested, finishing a long ways last. He wheels right back and drops in class, so I’d think that he is physically fine. He definitely prefers the turf, winning two of his three lifetime victories on the lawn and hitting the board in 8 of 12 career grass starts. He faced a salty field at the open $12,500-$10,500 level two back, when Projected won his first of two consecutive races at that condition. He has enough tactical speed to stalk the cheap speed of the likely pacesetter, Honorable Hero (9), and he could get first run on the others. When re-watching the 7/11 race, Nutzforboltz (2), who went to post as the 5-2 favorite, had a rough journey. He was bothered leaving the chute and then came close to going down at the top of the lane when Paco Lopez, aboard, Idle Time (1), dangerously changed lanes to create an opening for himself, causing Nutzfor boltz to bobble. Since Nutzforboltz outfinished that one, and while I don’t think he could have caught the winner, he was just revving up when he lost action in the stretch, which all but guaranteed he wasn’t winning. He was able to gather himself up and run on well to get up for second. Drawing closer to the rail should allow Juarez to secure a better position early on, especially in race that doesn’t figure to have a lively pace. Ninja Dust (6) would probably benefit from a faster pace to set up his late kick. That didn’t materialize in the most recent race on the yielding course two weeks ago. He closed wide to grab third, after settling at the rear of the pack with outside draw that day. He definitely likes the local course, winning twice and getting one third place finish in three lifetime starts here. The lukewarm favorite is Small Hope (7) dropping in class after faltering with better at Delaware. Like with Nothing Better in the 7th, I’m often willing to forgive a poor effort at Delaware on the grass from a shipper that hasn’t run on that course before. However, his best recent races have come at longer distances on the turf. At low odds, I question whether or not this race is too short. I’ll cover him based on his class, but I’ll try to beat him here.
Race 10: Top Pick: 3
The nightcap is a maiden special weight race at two turns. I like betting horses in their second career start, going to two turns after debuting at 6 and ½ or 7 Furlongs. Usually that tells me that the trainer intent is to maybe steal the debut in a shorter race, but also to get a race in the books to build more foundation before going to two turns. I think Fan Club (3) fits that profile nicely, as he is bred to be a two turn horse. He debuted in a strong, full field, maiden allowance at Churchill, going 6 and ½ Furlongs, when running for Wayne Catalano. He finished midpack that day, but ran well enough to think he’d be better with more distance. He was moved to Kelly Breen, which is not a concern as both Catalano and Breen train hoses regularly for the Wests. I think the thought is that this one would be better suited to the dirt here than shipping to the polytrack at Arlington. Plus the purses are better here, which makes a difference when you’re talking about a horse that they paid $325K for at the Keeneland September Sale in 2019. Mr. Briggs (6) is the main danger, and his M.O. is that he’s going to try take them along on the lead as long as he can. I imagine that Paco Lopez will be aggressive when sending him from his outward post. He wilted behind Antigravity, who cleared the N1X condition in his next start and was 3rd, but beaten about 20 lengths in the Haskell last week. He’ll likely go into the gate as the favorite, and is definitely worth putting on your tickets, but I think if the gap between him and the top pick widens in the wagering, the value play will be Fan Club.
Meet Stats: 69/250 (Top Pick Winners) – $440.60 / $1.76 ROI per $2 win bet