It’s going to be a warm weekend at the Jersey Shore with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees today and tomorrow. The feature race is a contentious optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance route on the turf where four of the eight runners entered are stakes winners. 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||8||1,6,8||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||4||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||6||3,6,7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||4||4||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||6||5,6||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
We’ll get things started with a state bred optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance for fillies and mares dashing five furlongs on the turf. As per usual, the rails will be at 36 feet for the Friday card. I see this as a spread race to start the Win-Early Pick-5. The four shorter prices in this race all want to be forwardly placed, and none of them really have proven that they can win when they don’t make the lead. Sea Maiden (#8) stalked and punched to win her debut last year going this distance on the main track. She has gone winless since that race, running a respectable 4th against some of these runners on the dirt last time out. Her only try on the turf was a ten length loss at this level two starts back, however that was going a mile. Horses sired by Sea Wizard have been very good when sprinting, but none of his runners have come close to winning a two turn race. She looked comfortable early on in that race when she was racing near the lead before fading down the stretch. She’s drawn the outside post, so I think Isaac Castilo will have her in a good position here. The dam has foaled some horses that have had success on the turf, most notably Leo Monte. I think she has an upset shot in this race. Bel Pensiero (#1) tries a one turn race on the turf for the first time. She was a heavy favorite on the dirt last out at this level, but she couldn’t hold off the veteran, Oddsondustymiller, who nailed her on the wire. Her only two turf races came in open stakes company at Gulfstream over the winter where she was woefully overmatched. Horses sired by Army Mule have scored in 20% of their races in turf sprints. She’s been second in her last two races on the dirt and I think she fits well with this group, having rail position on the other speed. Politely Crowned (#6) has sprinted three times on the turf, and two of those three efforts were respectable. She had trouble as a longshot in stakes company last year, but she did notch a win at this condition when going 5 and ½ furlongs last July, running a career top Beyer Speed Figure when doing so. She’s a seven year old mare, so I’m not sure how high her ceiling is, but she’s one of only two runners in this race with a win going one turn on the turf. Fixed Odds (#3) is the morning line favorite in this race at 3-1. She ran okay in two races at the Meadowlands last fall where the course was labeled good both times. She was losing steam late, which has been her M.O. in her young career thus far. She beat an uninspiring maiden field here in a driving rainstorm on a very sloppy course in May. Her last effort in June was a solid third, finishing more than three lengths behind Bel Pensiero in an off the turf race at this condition. The course should be nice and firm today and I can see Paco going all in to get her to the lead. I’ll cover with her because her racing style should give her every chance to win this race, but as the favorite, she’s a tough sell, considering how much she’s struggled in the final furlong in all of her races.
A field of seven fillies are entered in this conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race. Six of the seven runners are three year old fillies, with four of them having more than one trip to the Winner’s Circle. London Lady (#5) is the lone four year old filly in this race, so in order for her to be eligible, she can only have won once. While this field feels evenly matched, three horses that could be contenders were all recently claimed by lower percentage trainers. Belmar Summer (#4) on the other hand was claimed by a high percentage from another higher percentage trainer. Wayne Potts is back and he’s gotten off to a quick start, winning two of his first seven races at this meet. When he was winning races in bunches here back in 2021 as the leading trainer, he was having much success in the claiming game. This runner has won five of 16 career starts, and she proved at Tampa that she can win in back to back starts. Despite winning for Darien Rodriguez last out with conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claimers, she has run her better races when she was trained by others. I think her style fits this field nicely and I see her as a horse you could use as a single in this sequence. I’ll look to Gun of Gold (#1) as a backup and a potential price play that could add some value underneath in the vertical exotics. She’s coming off a maiden breaking win in December in a slow six furlong race at Oaklawn. She’s been sidelined since and makes her three year old debut for Dan Ward. One of Ward’s first winners as a trainer on his own came with a runner coming off a similar kind of layoff, paying a decent price. Her works haven’t been eye-catching, but she has the feeling of being an X-factor in a race like this.
Time restricted $8K-$7K claimers will go one mile and 1/16 on the main track here. This is another competitive race, but I think two of the shorter prices in this spot are vulnerable, and I’ll be trying to beat both. The Jones Boy (#2)is a much better horse on a wet track as opposed to a fast course, which he’s likely going to be dealing with today. Seanow (#1) is a 12 time winner who is mired in a bit of a slump of late. You have to go back to February of 2022 to find his last win. He was claimed for $16K last May and hasn’t really been able to get a positive ROI yet for Kieron Magee and Erin McElwee. He’s been competitive at this level in Delaware and Maryland, but those are all sprint races. Despite a pedigree that looks to be very kind to two turn racing on the dirt, he’s never attempted to do so in 39 career tries. He’s been trained by some sharp trainers, so I’m apt to believe that many feel that this is not what he wants to do. I understand taking a shot at this point, but I’m not going to be interested at short odds. I liked the effort from Indian Buzz (#6) at the beginning of the month when he was a distant second in a competitive $5K starter allowance race. He battled early from his outside post, and was passed by some of his rivals. He did come back to get back in front of some of his rivals to be second. That looked like a race where he was tipping that he’s getting back into his more consistent form that we saw from him in 2022. Unlike some others here, he’s right at home going this distance on the main track. Icy Storm (#7) is coming out of the same race that Indian Buzz was in, when they were both chasing a runaway winner who put up a big speed figure that afternoon. He’s already a two-time winner at this meet, winning back to back races with conditioned $5K claimers. He was overmatched last time, but he ran his race. This feels like a better spot for him. Corkman (#3) is the morning line favorite, taking a sizable drop in class today. He was claimed for $12,500 three back and his first two starts since weren’t terrible when facing open $22K-$18K claimers. While I’m not crazy about this deep drop, when he’s on his game, he’s a tough customer.
The Late Pick-5 starts off with another time restricted $8K-$7K claiming race, with this one going six furlongs. As hot as Claudio Gonzalez has been, he’s been on fire with horses that are first off the claim and running back quickly for him. I’m not getting good vibes from Majestic Tiger (#8), who was claimed for $16K at the end of May and then resurfaces for an $8K tag in his next start two months later. With the leading rider, Paco Lopez, teaming up with the leading trainer, this one is sure to take money, but I’m going to stand against him here. I’ll use Small Reason (#4) on top, making his first start since being claimed by Jose D’Angelo out of an open $5K claimer two weeks ago. He keeps Romero Maragh as the rider. Despite the higher tag, this field is not much deeper than the group he easily disposed of last time out. I think the good times keep rolling for him. I highly doubt that Pudding (#1) is the same horse that he was last year. However, he makes his third start off the layoff and he ran okay with better last time out. There’s not a lot of speed signed on, so don’t be surprised to see Maddie Oliver put her into the race early on. He was scratched from his race at Penn National yesterday, likely in favor of this spot. It’s been a long time since Drena’s Star (#2) found himself in the Winner’s Circle, however I do feel that he is sitting on a good effort. He makes his third start of the meet after a winter campaign at Oaklawn where he was earning checks without winning races. This eight year old gelding is dropping to his lowest level yet. Dan Ward is taking the blinkers off today, which may be a positive for him.
We’l head back to the grass for this N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, sprinting five furlongs. Explosive Exchange (#6) has four turf sprints in her eight race career thus far. She debuted here as a two year old last summer against a sharp field and finished 5th. She went on the shelf and returned a maiden winner in her next start at Tampa in January. She didn’t sprint on the grass again until returning here against a sharp field at this level two starts back. She broke inward from her rail draw that day and found herself in behind some faster horses. She was forced to check off heels coming out of the chute, and thus relegating her to the back of the field. She came back to beset $40K-$30K claimers in impressive fashion last out at this five furlong distance. There are some speedy foes in this race, but I think she’s being undervalued, at least on the morning line. I believe that she can follow up her last effort with another strong outing in this race. All That Magic (#5) is a perfect 2-2 sprinting on turf, winning in claiming company here in June and dominating at this level at Penn National on a yielding course on 6/28. She remains eligible for the N1X condition because of the purse structure there. I thought shipping her there for that race was a savvy move by Kathleen DeMasi, as she brings her right back here at the same level. She makes a lot of sense here.There’s a lot of speed signed on, which could set the table for World Traveler (#7), who has a pair of second place finishes in her first two career turf tries. She came within a length of beating All That Magic two starts back. She closed well to be second at long odds when going 5 and ½ furlongs at this condition at the beginning of the month. I think I’d like her better at that distance, but I liked that Paco Lopez is riding her (assuming the Wesley Ward filly, Musical Design (#9) doesn’t draw in off the AE list).
Win-Early Pick-5, $54 Ticket:
I’ll spread out while surrounding my single, Belmar Summer (#4, R2). She’s moving from one strong barn to another, whereas some of her competition will now be moving to lower profile stables in that race. She’s 5 for 16 in her career and well-spotted for her 6th victory. I want coverage in the other four legs, especially the first which feels evenly matched. If Sea Maiden (#8, R1) takes to the grass she could be dangerous in that race at a price.
There are horses coming in from a variety of class levels in this $16K-$14K N3L claiming race, which makes this ten horse affair quite a handicapping challenge. There’s a decent amount of early speed, so I’m looking for a few horses that might be able to have an impact coming from off the pace. Bayou Shack (#9) is moving up in class after finishing second in a competitive $12,500-$10,500 N3L race at the beginning of the month where there was a bit of a pace meltdown. Jorge Gonzalez may have moved a bit early in that race when he came with a powerful four wide bid. He hit the front, but was unable to hold off Yonessroundonkern, who was flying from the back of the pack. Dan Ward claimed him and moves him up a level. I do see this four year old as a candidate to improve for his new barn after finishing in the money in his last four starts. Souper Royal Moon (#10) ships in from Gulftsream for his first start since April 21st. After a string of races on turf and synthetic, he appeared to relish getting back on the main track when beating $12,500-$10,500 N2L claimers at the beginning of April. He moved up in class and struggled against a sharp bunch for that condition when going a one turn mile. His trainer, Carlos Perez, is looking for his first win of the meet, but his horses have been running well as 8 of his 13 starters have finished in the money. Awesomebrotherbill (#3) hasn’t been the most consistent runner, however, he is an improving three year old who crossed the wire first for the first time two starts ago. He beat N2L claimers at this claiming tag that day when running the best race in his young career by far to that point. He struggled when moving up in class to face $30K-$25K N3L claimers in his last start. He’s from a smaller stable that paid $50K for him, so some of his placements have been on the aggressive side, however, this is probably the right level for him, and I think he’s another runner that could get a positive setup in this race.
I think Paco Lopez and St. Anthony (#2) are in line to get the dream trip in this optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance race on the turf. Neil Drysdale brought him back to New York this summer to make his first starts as a four year old. He came east for some stakes races last fall at Kentucky Downs and Aqueduct after winning a pair of stakes races at Golden Gate and Santa Rosa last year. He ran okay in his return at this level at Belmont, but he was on the front end setting a slow pace. I don’t think that’s the race he wants to run though. He tracked another slow pace on a yielding course and he didn’t have the same punch. He shifts circuits which should be beneficial to him and he finds a field where both Night Jumper (#1) and Megacity (#4) want to go early on. He figures to get an honest pace and no one rides this course better than Paco Lopez. I think he’ll have him perfectly placed to strike as they’re coming off the turn. I do see a possible scenario where Isaac Castillo aboard Night Jumper will concede the early lead to Jose Gomez and Megacity, and if that happens, I do think Megacity’s stock goes up in this race. He was no match for Kingmax in N2X allowance company last out when he was entered with the $30K tag. Darien Rodriguez claimed him out of that spot , so there’s reason to believe that he can improve in his second local start. If he’s able to clear from Post 4 and get the rail, I think his chances go up significantly, especially with rails at this 36 foot position. However, if he winds up battling on the front end, I think he might win that battle, but he’ll be vulnerable when a fresh challenger enters the picture.
Conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claimers end the afternoon. Six of the runners are entered under the N2L condition, while three year old fillies, Peach Be With Q (#3) and Binoche (#8) both are two time winners. Peach Be With Q is a Parx invader, and with Parx taking their summer break now, it’s likely that we’ll see a few more horses that are based there, entered here over the next few weeks. Trainer Elliott Soto-Martinez has been winning at a 17% this year and this filly will be his first local starter. She’s a speedster entered in a field where there isn’t a ton of early speed, especially for a 5 and ½ furlong dash. She has been improving in her last two starts and she could be dangerous here. Stephanie My Love (#1) is another improving filly, coming off a win with $10K maiden claimers in her most recent start. Claudio Gonzalez continues to be red hot at this meet and his filly has two strong efforts on this oval. She may be the one to worry about late in this one. Dance Step (#6) continues to drop in class after a pair of uninspiring efforts with better. She was a come from behind winner in a restricted maiden allowance race last summer and she wasn’t terrible over the winter when facing allowance foes at Tampa. Perhaps the jockey change to Samuel Marin along with the softer competition, will help her regain her better form.
Top Pick Winners: 64/284 (22.5%) – $451.40/$1.59 ROI
Circling back to Saturday’s races, the 7th race was a 14 horse N1X allowance contest at one mile on the turf. This was an above average race for the condition and there are several trips of note that handicappers might want to consider when some of these runners come back at this level.
Harpoon Harry is the runner that I think had one of the tougher trips in the race. He was a horse that I thought had a decent chance to upset that field at 18-1. He’s a horse that is best when he’s on the front end and there wasn’t a ton of speed signed on for that race. However, he broke flat-footed and started near the back of the pack. As Jose Ferrer was trying to jockey for position in what was a slower pace, he was hooked about six wide when Two Steppin Kluki was getting out badly after finding himself in close quarters. Harpoon Harry was pretty much six wide all the way around the first turn. Ferrer pretty much had no choice but to go all-in down the backside, coming with an early move to take the lead. However, he tired when the fresh challengers with their late runs. He finished 6th, beaten 8 lengths, but I see that performance being much better than it will likely appear on paper. There’s races at this condition routing on turf scheduled for 8/19 and 9/9.
On the other hand, Ronstadt is a horse that might be overvalued based on his performance in that race. He raced near the back of the pack of that day and finished in front of both Askari for Todd Pletcher and Internal Capital for Chad Brown. Both of those runners should be very tough at this level if they run their next race here. He was able to save a ton of ground and he was able to completely avoid the trouble when Dreaming of Toga went wrong and was pulled up through the field. There was a ton of room along the rail and Rosario wisely took advantage and earned a solid second place finish. If he runs back on 8/19, it’s unlikely that he’ll have the services of Joel Rosario. The Grade 3 Philip Iselin Stakes is run here that day, however, that day is Alabama Day at Saratoga. I also think it would be unlikely to get such a favorable trip in two consecutive races.