There’s a very good 10 race card for the last Saturday of racing in the month of July at Monmouth Park. The headline race is the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks for three year old fillies, which drew a contentious field of 10. The Colleen Stakes for two year old fillies sprint five furlongs on the turf is also on this program after not making it on to last Sunday’s slate of races as initially scheduled. A field of nine is entered for that contest. First post for the Saturday program is 12:40 (ET).
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the third consecutive 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||2||2||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||8||6,8||5,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||3||3,7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||8||3,8,13||11||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||5||5||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day begins with a maiden special weight race restricted to New Jersey breds, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. The rails are set at 12 feet this afternoon.The second, third, and fourth place finishers from a competitive race at this level on 6/4 are back in action here. The 6/25 race at this level was taken off the turf and some of these runners remained that day. In the 6/4 race, Jersey Gregg (#7) broke very well from Post 8 and was able to clear the field. He set a solid pace while some of the others had some tough trips behind him. He finished a close up 4th while wilting in the final stages of that one. He gets Paco Lopez this afternoon, replacing Nik Juarez, which means that he’s going to likely be overbet in this one. He draws outside once again, but clearing is going to be a bit more difficult because this race will start in the chute, whereas his last race was run at one mile, starting near the top of the straightaway in the stretch. Vesparo (#9) is coming out of the same race and he had a very cozy trip while tucked in behind Jersey Gregg after breaking from the rail. He draws Post 9 this afternoon, so things are going to be a bit more complicated for him. On the other hand, Go to the Kingdom (#2) draws Post 2 after breaking from the nine hole in the 6/4 race. He was wide on both turns, losing considerable ground, but he was finishing fast and wound up narrowly in front of Jersey Gregg and behind Vesparo as those first four runners were separated by less than a length. There’s one school of thought that says since the last race was so close, it makes sense to spread and use all three of these runners here. However, I think Go to the Kingdom was better than those two in that race, and he figures to improve with the added distance and the better post. Trevor McCarthy is in town to ride a pair of horses for Cathal Lynch in both of the stakes races today and he’ll get the assignment on this runner to here. I’ll use him as my single in this spot, thinking that a better trip is likely going to save him a few lengths against runners that had ideal trips last time out. One that I’ll look to try as a value play underneath will be Just Comply (#1), making his second career start for Mike Dini. Business has picked up for this barn after a slow start. He debuted three weeks ago at this level on the dirt. That seemed like a race designed to give him raceday experience. He’s sired by Peace and Justice, who is a War Front colt, so I’d think that turf would be his preferred surface. The dam foaled a horse named Rob The Treasure, who was a state bred maiden allowance winner in a two turn race. This is a tough field and he might need this one, but I think he’s a live longshot in this one.
Conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claimers are going six furlongs in the start of the Early Pick-4. I think this is a wide open race, so I’m going to try for a price. Adios Dinero (#8) draws the outside and drops in class after a dull return when making his first start in nearly a year last month. His debut in the mud was solid last summer at Gulfstream, but then he went away before resurfacing with conditioned $30K-$25K claimers last month. That was a decent field and he didn’t help his cause by breaking slowly and never really getting involved. Bennett works him from the gate a week later and his last two drills have been lively. I think he’ll move forward here. Bustinupishardto (#6) comes back to the main track where he has two wins in three tries. He ran twice on the turf, running okay with allowance company at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He misfired though in his last start here with higher level claimers. This is a steep drop in class, but Paco Lopez taking the mount is encouraging. He could be bet down to a price that is too low for this level, but I do see him as a major player in this race. Bodontknow (#5) has run three similar races, breaking his maiden last out with $10K maiden claimers. He was claimed for the second straight time, now running for Dan Ward. He could be closing well in the later stages, catching up to some of the speed horses here. Zoomster (#7) comes in from Penn National for Bonnie Luas after struggling in N1X allowance company there. He was very sharp when breaking his maiden there in May and he was a winner in a weak optional claiming/starter allowance field at Penn at the end of June. He has a bit of an all or nothing feel to him, so I’ll make sure to be covered with him in this spot. Warman Road (#2) ships in from Belmont for Rob Atras. He’ll be bet in this race because of where he was racing and his big Beyer figure in the slop back in March. His other four races are okay, but not likely fast enough to beat this group. I do like that he’s cutting back from seven furlongs, but I’m not sure the competition is going to be easier here. He’ll be one that I’m passing on.
Nine two year old fillies are set to dash 5 and ½ furlongs in maiden special weight company here. All eyes are likely going to be on Antenna (#2) for Todd Pletcher. He did very well with a Munnings first time starter here last year, when Munny’s Gold ran off the screen, earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. However, I’m going to play against this one today. Pletcher has started 22 two year old first time starters at Monmouth in the last five years, winning with only 3 of them (14%). That is below his 19% strike rate with two year old first time starters everywhere in that span. The three winners all raced in the month, as opposed to later in the meet. I feel that’s significant because two year old races are hard to fill early in the season, and if a trainer with such a large stock has a two year old that needs to run, he’ll find a race for them outside of their home base if need be. However, once we get to July, two year old races are more plentiful, especially in New York when the racing scene shifts to Saratoga. Mike Repole, Eclipse, and Gary Barber went in on this filly for $300K, and I’m pretty sure that group would want to be in the Winner’s Circle at the Spa. This filly is based there and not racing there where the purse is about $136K for maiden special weight races as opposed to the $57K offered here. Clearly, the barn feels that she’s not Saratoga material and Paco Lopez opting to ride another runner is telling. While she may still be good enough to win here, I think there will be better value elsewhere. There are some well-meant first timers in this race from local barns, and I’ll look to them today. I’ll take D’lightful Summer (#4) as my top pick for Gerald Bennett and Samuel Marin. She’s a half to the runner up in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, Speed Bias. One of her foals won on debut and others were competitive at first asking. This barn has already notched a debut winner with a two year old at this meet as they have had more of a philosophy shift of running their two year olds earlier than usual this year. Sweet Distraction (#3) comes in from Parx for her debut. She’s trained by longshot specialist, Uriah St. Lewis, who has hit with 10% of his firsters over the last two years. His numbers aren’t great with two year olds, but her works are solid, and her last two have been at five furlongs, whereas most of the other fillies that are debuting have stuck to four furlong drills. The dam has produced a debut winner and getting an aggressive rider like Jose Ferrer for her debut feels like a plus. Contessa’s Song (#8) has been working well for Jorge Delgado. His barn is another barn that has been sharp with their debut runners, and he too has a winner with a firster at this meet, sending out Omaha Girl last month. Apprentice Maddie Oliver is getting better mounts for better barns, and she’s responded, upping her winning percentage to 20% at this meet with limited opportunities. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Gorgeous Girl (#6) for Greg Sacco and Red Oak Stable. They were able to attract Paco Lopez to ride this filly, which definitely has meaning this time of year. The other foals from this dam haven’t been great, but this filly has solid works in the morning. While Liam’s Map has several positive numbers as a sire, his two year old first time starters have only struck 7% of the time thus far in 139 races on the dirt. That’s a little bit of a low number for a horse that will likely take some money at the windows.
13 fillies and mares are entered in this $16K-$14K maiden claiming race on the turf, where only 11 will be able to compete. I thought the turf effort from Jsk Lucky’s Pushpa (#1) with tougher company at Parx two starts ago was better than it looks on paper. She didn’t corner particularly well when she was already going to be wide going into the first turn. She battled gamely and came with a wide bid on the final turn before leveling off. She was a distant second at this level in an off the turf race at Parx on July 4th. I think the rail draw is a plus and I’m looking for a career top effort from here with Trevor McCarthy in the irons. Bolt of Paradise (#7) is getting class relief after an even finish with better in her first turf route. Things got a little tight for her along the rail when a tiring longshot forced her to take up as the field started to quicken in that race. She tired late after being used hard in the early stages to try to secure better position from her outside draw. I think we’ll see a better effort from this lightly raced runner. Capture This (#10) will need to work out a trip from the 10 hole, but she’s another lightly raced filly that has some upside when facing several professional maidens. She was a fast closing third at this level in her second career try last time out. This is probably the right level for her, and if Romero Maragh is able to save some ground, I think she’ll be a force late in this one.
I’m going to take Tap First (#3) on the quick turnaround and drop in class in this $8K-$7K N4L claiming race that will wrap up the Win-Early Pick-5. He was a huge longshot when drawing Post 14 in a N1X allowance race on the Haskell undercard last week. Romero Maragh was forced to go early from his outside draw where he battled for the early lead, then tried to slow the tempo down. He faded late in a high quality race for that condition. He just missed at this level on the dirt three starts ago, so getting back on the main track while getting back to the right level of competition, feels like a solid choice to me. Mister J T (#7) is the other runner ‘ll use from this race. He ships in from Parx after three solid efforts in a row, clearing the N3L condition with $12,500 claimers last time out. There isn’t any other clear cut front runner in this race, so he shouldn’t have to work too hard to make the early lead. I do worry a little bit about a bounce as turned in a poor effort in his first try at the N3L level following a big score to clear the N2L condition. He does own a win on this course, breaking his maiden here at this six furlong distance last year.
Win-Early Pick-5, $48 Ticket:
This ticket will start with a single as I’ll try to get Go to the Kingdom (#2, R1) home as my best bet of the afternoon. I think he’ll be the second or third choice as the money tends to gravitate toward Paco Lopez, who rides Jersey Gregg (#7, R1) in that race. However, after both that one and Vesparo (#9, R1) had ideal trips when they last faced off, Go to the Kingdom conceded a lot of ground that day. With an even trip, which is certainly more likely based upon their post positions, I think he’s the better horse. I think there will be value trying to beat Todd Pletcher’s Antenna (#2, R3) in the third race for maiden two year old fillies. She’s a Saratoga based two year old filly that cost her owners (who love to win races at the Spa) $300K. So the fact that she shows up here instead of one of the several baby races at Saratoga feels like a very telling fact to me in regards to what Pletcher thinks of her ability. In addition, he has not saddled a two year old debut winner at Monmouth after July 1st in the last five years. I think that’s important because that’s around the time the major barns turn their focus to the Spa.
The Late Pick-5 begins with a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. I’m going to use Okletsgo (#8) on top, getting back on the grass for Tony Wilson. This three year old son of Klimt is taking a drop in class after running respectable tries against tougher fields on the grass recently. He went back to the main track and struggled against a strong field of conditioned $30K-$25K claimers that day. This barn has been cold at this meet, however, Wilson did saddle the winner of the nightcap yesterday for his second training win of the meet. I think this horse fits well at this level and could help make this a strong week for his connections. Proven Hope (#3) is the morning line favorite for the leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez and the leading rider, Paco Lopez. These two have done almost all of their work this year apart from each other, but with Lopez taking the mount on this Belmont shipper, this could signal a chance for them to be joining forces. His maiden score two back on the turf in his only true two-turn race was by far his best in his career. I think he’s drawn well for the race he wants to run and should be right there at the wire with this group. Triple Start (#13) is going to be a menace despite his wide post, if he does get to run. He’s the second horse in from the AE list, so his prospects of competing today might be bleak. He was a winner at this level last out and is the only multiple winner in this field. He’s sired by American Pharoah and has been steadily improving in his turf races. On deeper tickets, Constitutional Bid (#11) is an interesting longshot play in this field for Kathleen DeMasi. He broke his maiden in his local debut, going 5 and ½ furlongs with $16K-$14K maiden claimers here on July 1st. He’s had several gaps in between starts, but this will be his first race where he won’t be coming back off more than 60 days away. His best career speed figure came in a troubled trip race on debut at Aqueduct, going this distance. I think he might be better next time, and the post isn’t ideal, however, he could be an interesting longshot that could spice up the exotics.
The Late Pick-4 starts off with a $30K-$25K conditioned claiming race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. I like Shiny Slam (#5), who is one of two runners trained by Claudio Gonzalez in this race. This filly was claimed by him after faltering as the favorite in a $25K-$20K conditioned claiming race here last month. While she didn’t put her best foot forward that day, she was claimed by Gonzalez, who continues to flourish with horses that he’s claimed and brought back within a month. She has run very well on other occasions on this course, so I see her as a horse that is likely to rebound in this spot. All things being equal, Dialherup (#4) fits beautifully in this race where she’ll be taking on winners for the first time. However, there’s one hang up that I’m having trouble getting past with her. After winning a maiden special weight race earlier this month, why is she entered in this race for a $30K tag? She has multiple options where she could be running without a claiming tag. There’s a six furlong N1X allowance race for three year old fillies this afternoon at Delaware. She ran twice for a $50K tag so there are some starter allowance conditions that would also suit her well. She was claimed for $50K at Keeneland three back, running a career best figure at two turns. If you include the races at two turns she would have more options. I’ll cover with her because I don’t like too much else in this race, however, vertically speaking, I’ll be trying to beat her.
Race 8, The $100K Colleen Stakes:
These two year old stakes races on grass can be a little bit tricky, because oftentimes you’ll get runners that might have looked good on dirt in their debut, but they’re in need of a race, and thus they wind up entered in a spot like this. After watching the replays of all the runners in this race, I was most impressed with the effort from Amidst Waves (#4), who was a daylight winner in her second career start, which was also her first try on the grass. I thought that was a very professional effort from a two year old, to wait in behind horses, and then power away once there was a seam to run through. She opened up to win by almost four lengths, beating a filly that was a maiden breaking on the turf at Saratoga in her subsequent start. I do worry about horses coming from Belmont to race in turf sprints here, however, I think the lack of experience from the field in general may neutralize that. I do think Moretastic (#1) is a horse that is going to be good when sprinting on the turf. She debuted on the dirt at Ellis and was nowhere to be found. George Arnold opted to send her to Belterra, where she was able to compete at this distance on the turf. She drew the rail that day and was put on the lead early by Jack Gilligan and she never looked back. I don’t know if she beat anything in that race, but she handled her business professionally, and proved that she is capable of winning when breaking from the rail. She is bred to handle the grass, so I can see her taking a step forward while being overlooked in the wagering here. I’ll back up with a pair of runners trying the turf for the first time. Crown Imperial (#6) ships in after a strong second place finish in the Prairie Golden Lassie Stakes at Prairie Meadows three weeks ago. She paired her Beyer Speed Figures from her winning debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis back at the end of May, so she could be due to take a step forward here. Classic Empire’s runners have won 13% of their turf sprints and the dam was a two-time winner on grass. Omaha Girl (#7) debuted with high expectations last month, and while she won at first asking, her performance wasn’t particularly eye-catching. Her connections could have taken a shot with the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga, which certainly wouldn’t have been a surprise, seeing as how her connections paid $400K for her at the Keeneland September Sale in 2022. She’s from the first crop of Omaha Beach babies, and he’s already had one turf winner with three starters. Omaha Beach himself was sired by War Front, so it;s not a stretch to think that his offspring will have some success on grass.
Race 9, The Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks:
A very competitive field of 10 has been assembled for the signature race of the meet for three year old fillies. I’m going to wager that Shidabhuti (#7) rebounds in her second race off the layoff Chad Brown this afternoon. She was 2nd in the Boiling Springs at the beginning of the month, when she was making her first start in three months. Jorge Vargas rode her that day, but he was a last minute substitution, as Samy Camacho, who had been riding first call for Brown at Monmouth, went down with an injury in the race beforehand. She found herself stuck behind a wall of horses, while eager to go on with the slow pace developing in front of her. She backed out of a traffic jam and ended up circling the field to finish with interest to be second. Miss New York (#6) got the jump on her and has more recent form going into that race. Shidabhuti was strong when winning the Busher Invitational in March in her second start off the layoff that day. She still needs to prove that she can win at two turns, but there are definite sta,mina influences on the dam side. Hector Diaz has gone winless in limited opportunities at this meet, but he was riding first call for Brown at Monmouth last year, so this figures to be a big opportunity for him. I think with the larger field, the pace will be more honest today, which should benefit her. Foggy Night (#4) was the upset winner of the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 1st, finishing in front of both a Chad Brown and a Todd Pletcher filly that day. Paco Lopez rides this Khozan filly for Butch Reid, and she seems to be getting better with each start. Her full siblings were better on turf and synthetic, so that may be an option for her down the road. However, she has been very impressive in her last two starts and was good enough to be the runner up in the Tempted Stakes as a two year old last fall. Occult (#9) is the morning line favorite, and I suspect after earning a big 89 Beyer Speed Figure for her third place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn last month, her odds will go lower than that here. I’m intrigued with the rider choice of Feargal Lynch by Chad Brown. Lynch has not ridden much this year, making only 51 starts. He’s ridden for Brown a few times in the past when he’s come to race a horse in Maryland without a win though in the past two years. I’m a little surprised that Brown couldn’t get Manny Franco or Dylan Davis to come down from Saratoga to ride a favorite in a $250K stakes race, especially when looking at some of their other mounts on that card in New York. Lynch is a talented rider who I’ve cashed several tickets in Maryland and Virginia over the last several years, however, he doesn’t make it to Monmouth much, and I wonder if that might be a slight disadvantage on a horse that will likely be a short price at the windows.
$40K-$30K maiden claiming two year old fillies, going five furlongs will be the way the day ends. I think Utopia Rose (#2) is going to be tough to beat in this race. She has three starts to her credit, all with maiden allowance company. She has gradually improved with each start and now finds a field where she looks to be tough. She is following a pattern t5hat has been successful for Chuck Spina’s two year olds in the past. She doesn’t have a ton of early speed though, so I will be looking for coverage. R Fashionably Late (#5) flashed early speed before slowing down badly in her debut with $25K-$20K maiden claimers here two weeks ago. Bennett’s horses tend to improve in their second try and she gets the services of Samuel Marin, who is winning at a 24% clip locally when riding for Bennett. She may be more fit for this race and able to stay on better in the stretch. Fullmoonmagic (#1) will likely to send from the rail for her debut. She’s been based at Parx where her drills are solid enough. JT Servis has been proven to win with debut runners at the maiden claiming level. Frankie Pennington is riding a stakes horse for Butch Reid earlier in the card and he’ll take the mount on this filly in the nightcap. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with Amirati (#9) on the outside, She’s making her 6th career start and her first for a tag today. She has to prove that she’s capable of stringing two of her better races back to back, which she hasn’t done yet. She drops in class and likely fits better at this level.
Top Pick Winners: 65/291 (22.3%) – $456.20/$1.57 ROI
With the warm and dry conditions, it was favorable to be the near the front end in the three grass races. There was a huge effort from All That Magic in the 5th race, which was a N1X allowance contest for fillies and mares. She took the lead while setting aggressive fractions and drew off to win by six lengths. She’s now a perfect 3-3 on the turf, with a pair of open length victories, winning her last two races by a combined total of 11 lengths. The Incredible Revenge Stakes is the next turf sprint stakes here, but that comes up next week. I’d have to think a race like the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga next month would be on her radar after an effort like that.