There’s another 11 race program on Sunday at Monmouth Park, headlined by the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks. While there’s only a field of six entered, this is one of the stronger editions of this race in recent memory. Grade 1 winner Juju’s Map is looking to rebound after a dull try in the Mother Goose last month at Belmont. She faces UAE Oaks winner, Shahama, and the runner-ups in the Delaware and Indiana Oaks, Shotgun Hottie and Runaway Wife. That race will go off as Race 5 this afternoon. First post this afternoon is 12:15 (ET).
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the second 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||5||2,5,9||8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||7||2,4,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|6||4||1,2,4||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|7||2||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|8||4||4||3,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The Sunday card gets underway with an open $12,500-$10,500 claiming race for three year olds and up going 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. The current turf form for many of these is not all that imposing. Arcadia Calls (#5) hasn’t had much turf experience and hasn’t hit the board in two tries. However, both of those races have come against better, and his efforts would likely stack up well among this group. He’s been popular at the claim box of late, being plucked for $12,500 in his last two tries. Jose Delgado takes over the training and he has strong numbers first off the claim. Not a Trick (#9) has never been on turf, which is not ideal for a seven year old. However, most of his career has been spent at Charles Town where there is no grass course. He boasts a solid win percentage though, and his trainer, Bernard Dunham has a knack for finding these horses that thrive in turf sprints like this. If this contest were at five furlongs, I’d likely have him as the top pick. I still think he’s live at this slightly longer distance. Trilogy (#2) has a shot if there’s enough pace to set up his late charge. He was very good at this level last season. He’s been off form for a bit, but his last race suggests that he may be turning a corner. The heavy favorite on the morning line is Baby Boomer (#8) making his first start off the Kelly Breen claim. He’s another one that was very sharp in 2021, and he’s coming in off a strong effort when scoring at this level last out. He’s a contender, but I don’t see him as that much better than his rivals. I’ll cover him, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him. .
The first of two races for two years olds in this Win-Early Pick-5 sequence is a six furlong sprint for $25K-$20K maiden claiming fillies. I’m not feeling the first time starters in this race, and while I have questions about the experienced runners, I trust them more. Sue B Dooo (#7) met a runaway winner when going five furlongs on the turf in maiden special weight company at the beginning of the month. There are a lot of wholesale changes for this one, going from turf to dirt and dropping into maiden claiming company in just start career start number two. I do believe that she’s capable of running a credible race on the dirt. Comoda (#4)makes her third career start after running into a buzzsaw in her first career try. I would have liked to have seen more from her last out, and perhaps the drop in class is a result of that. She’ll likely need to take a step forward after pairing her first two Beyers, but I do see that as a legitimate possibility. Belmar Summer (#2) is making his second start for Greg Sacco after finishing an uninspired 5th on debut. While he does most of his better work with horses that are three year old and upward, Sacco has good numbers with second time starters and horses dropping in for a tag for the first time.
Lanfrankophile (#3) was a winner at this optional $40K claiming/$40K starter allowance condition two starts ago. She’s put together a nice three race stretch since joining Bonnie Lucas’s barn at the end of April. There appears to be several that are going to be committed to try to make the lead, so the pace could be solid here. I think she sits the right trip today just off the speed, poised to pounce. Be Like Beth (#1) is the alternative for me in this race. She has one start which came three weeks ago with $25K-$20K maiden claimers where she crushed her opponents. I don’t believe she beat that much that day, but she certainly handled her business in a way that suggests she has some ability. Thai is a step up, and the price might be a little light, but I like that she’s protected in this spot.
We get our first local look at two year olds going two turns on the turf in this maiden special weight race going one mile. Four of the ten runners (not including the MTO entrant) ran two weeks ago in a five furlong turf sprint. Of that group, no one looked like they would benefit from added distance more than Networking (#9). I chose him on top that day, but he didn’t fire out of the gate like you want to see in those short sprints. He was away a bit slow and near the back of the pack. He did start to figure some things out in the final furlong, but that was too little, too late for a five furlong dash. His dam foaled the Grade 1 stakes winning colt, Force the Pass. His other siblings all are better going longer on turf, so the added distance is a selling point for him. I do see that Angel Rodriguez winds up on his stablemate, first time starter, Feral’s Joy (#1) and apprentice Madeline Rowland, gets the call on this colt. However, she’s 2-2 when riding for Duarte in her young career. Antonov (#2) is the debut runner that intrigues me a bit here. He’s sired by Accelerate and he’ll be the first runner from his freshman crop to go over a route of ground. Accelerate was the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion, and he was a much better runner when focusing on longer races. His dam did her best work on the synthetic, so there is hope that he can get the distance on the grass. Superr Ron (#7) finished second in the aforementioned sprint race here, so he definitely has potential. Samy Camacho is starting to heat up again after a bit of a cold spell. His dam has produced runners that run well in turf routes, so that’s another plus for him.
Race 5: The Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks
Brad Cox has done very well with the three year olds that he’s run in stakes races at this meet, winning the Pegasus with Home Brew and winning the Haskell with Cyberknife. I think he takes home a third trophy today, sending out Juju’s Map (#3). She is looking to rebound after a dull effort in the Mother Goose Stakes last month at Belmont. That was a four horse field where she seemingly had everything go her own way, before fading late. Her best efforts have come in two turn races though, and that race was at one turn over at Belmont. The course here has been kind to early speed all month long, and other than Shahama (#5) posted to her outside, I’m not seeing anyone that is going to put any real pressure on her in the early stages. I think she scores in her third race off the layoff today. Shahama did beat her on the square last out, finishing second and about four lengths better than Juju’s Map. I don’t take too much stock in that though, as third was never in doubt for Juju’s Map and once it was clear she was not going to hold on, Geroux eased up a bit on her. Shahama was very good in Dubai over the winner and is looking for her first win in the States since joining Todd Pletcher’s barn in time for the Kentucky Oaks. I think these two have the class edge and pace edge over both Shotgun Hottie (#2) and Runaway Wife (#4) today.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5: $36 Ticket
I’m going to single with Juju’s Map (#3, R5) in the feature today, allowing for some extra coverage along the way in this sequence. Juju’s Map has a clear pace advantage in the Monmouth Oaks and I think she’ll rebound while going back to two turns. I’ll use three runners in both of the two year old races and hope to beat the favorite in the opener with this $36 play.
This maiden special weight race was redrawn after being canceled due to heat last weekend. Most of the main players are back, but the morning line favorite, Hashtag No Wonder (#5) is a new addition to the field. While I think he’s more dangerous than both Impenetrable (#8) and Hooky Player (#9) here, I’m not rushing to windows to wager on a ten time maiden that could very well be pace compromised today. I’ll cover with this one on deeper tickets, but I’ll play this race the same way I was going to last week. I liked the effort from Prince of Troy (#4) at long odds at the beginning of the month here. He was making his second start off the layoff that afternoon. He hit the front on the turn and fought tooth and nail all the way through to the stretch to finish a narrow third, beaten by a pair of nice horses. I think this field is not quite as deep as that race and if he can duplicate or build off that effort, he should be very tough to beat. I’ll give a long look to the “other” Pletcher, Manassas (#1), who is making his first career start today. Unlike his stablemate, he’s bred up and down for the turf. He’s sired by the undefeated European turf star, Frankel. His progeny that are debuting on turf in route races have won 30% (3-10) of their races. He’s the first runner from his dam, Avenge, who won half of her career races on the turf, including a pair of 10 furlong Grade 1 races. Dylan Davis, who is in town to ride in the Monmouth Oaks, will get the mount on this runner today. Equaljusticeforall (#2) made his turf debut in the same race that Prince of Troy is coming out of. His first two races were rained off the turf, so he seemed to be more comfortable while finally getting to compete on the lawn. He’s making his third start off the layoff and he’s shown improvement in each of his three starts. He’s been gelded since his last race and he fired a bullet workout last week, suggesting that he could be ready to take another step forward.
The Late Pick-5 gets underway with an optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance race going five furlongs on the main track. It’s not very exciting, but I’m going to single with Stratofortress (#2) here. He’s the morning line favorite, and he’s not a win machine, so this may not be the smartest decision. However, this is an odd race where everyone is going to be on the gas pedal from the start. I’m reasonably sure that he can secure rail position from the beginning here. He was beaten by Feast (#6) last out, but that one has struggled to string big efforts together, and I think there’s a good chance he’s wide on the turn here. Hero Tiger (#4) is likely going to have to battle in between rivals, which is uncomfortable for many runners. I trust Jorge Vargas to get the job done and break his streak of second place finishes at this level today. All signs point to Stratofortess for me.
For a 5 and ½ furlong turf sprint, there isn’t a ton of early speed signed for this N1X allowance race. I think that should set the table nicely for the New Jersey bred, Jester’s Honor (#4) to score in open company today. He’s sired by Freud’s Honor, but never tried the turf until the end of his six year old campaign. He was a strong second over at the Meadowlands that evening, just missing at long odds in a state bred optional claiming/N1X contest. He ran a pair of poor races on the dirt to start his seven year old season, but he sure looked comfortable getting back on the grass last out. He took a solid field of Jersey bred runners gate to wire, clearing the state bred N1X condition. He wheels back two weeks later to find an average field for this open condition, and a group where Jose Ferrer should be able to control the tempo without doing too much work. I like his chances today. Custom Bobby’s (#3) was a winner on the dirt in conditioned claiming company at the start of this meet. He traveled up to Belmont at the beginning of the month, getting back on the turf and beating a solid field of $35K N3L claimers there when going six furlongs. He’s been sharp since joining Jose Camejo’s barn at the end of the Fair Grounds meet. He set a career top speed figure last time out, so he’ll have to prove that he can duplicate that effort while moving up the class ladder. Bam Bam Blu (#9) beat open claimers at the beginning of June and was a solid second at this level on 7/4. The winner of that race, Breakthrough, was an upset winner of the Wolf Hill Stakes on the Haskell undercard last week.He’s the morning line favorite and a runner that has never run a bad race on the grass. I’ll use him, but I think Jester’s Honor has a significant tactical advantage today.
There’s a lot of ways to go in the optional $15K claiming/N1R race for New Jersey breds sprinting six furlongs. Both Shield of Faith (#1) and Dr. Doyle (#9) have cleared this condition in the past and are entered for the $15K tag today. Both are the two shorter prices in this race, and neither excite me that much. Shield of Faith has run big races in his past, but he hasn’t won a race in over two years. His last race was one of his better races in that span, and his first since being claimed by Jose Camejo. He has rail speed, which has been an asset lately on this course, so I’ll cover with him, but I’ll be trying to beat him. Dr. Doyle hasn’t won a race in over a year and he hasn’t come close to hitting the board in his last six tries. Both Crafty Don (#8) and On The Come Up (#7) finished for a dead heat for second in a wild finish at this level on July 4th. Crafty Don will be making his second start off the layoff today, an angle that has not been great for Patrick McBurney. On The Come Up is an improving three year old that will get blinkers for the first time this afternoon. That’s been a solid move for Patricia Farro’s runners, and I think that could put him over the top here. I’ll cover Crafty Don, because there’s enough back class there to think that he could run on late again today. I do think this race sets him up to go two turns next out though, which is what I think he really wants to do. Get Groovy (#3) is a three year old filly taking on the boys here. She tried the turf last out in open company and was no match for a strong field. She also ran into trouble when Insatiable stumbled and lost the rider. She continues to trend in the right direction on the main track though, and she’s definitely got a shot with this group today.
There are several professional maidens in this $16K-$14K maiden claiming race on the grass. I’m going to try a bomb here and go with Destiny Joy (#2) on top. He has some tactical speed and his last race going 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt with $10K maiden claimers wasn’t too bad. There’s reason to believe that he can improve again on the grass here. Kantharos hits with 10% of his turf routers and while the dam, Deezeezee, never won a race on the turf, she ran well in many of her six career grass starts. At 20-1 or better, I’ll take a shot with this one. Today might finally be the day for Le Coste (#10) in his 19th start. He drops back to the level for the first time in over a year. He often comes close, but comes up short. He rarely runs a bad race though, and this is a soft field, even for this condition. He is logical, but it’s hard to accept a short price on him.
New Jersey bred maiden special weight runners sprint six furlongs in the finale. Young Gun (#6) showed some ability on debut, running a strong third last out at 35-1. James Frangella is looking for his first win of the meet, going 0-19 so far, but this son of King Puma might be one of his better chances to find the Winner’s Circle. Jose Ferrer picks up the mount for the injured Isaac Castillo. Hello Pop (#1) was second in the same race, finishing about two lengths better than Young Gun when making his second career start and his first on the main track. He went back to turf nine days later, and tired late in a two turn route. He cuts back in distance and returns to the dirt where he has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. That number is too low for me in a race like this, but he makes sense and will be on my multi-race bets. Jersey Perfection (#2) is worth some consideration in his second career start. He debuted in May and didn’t show much at this level for Douglas Nunn. Nunn’s horses typically improve after getting a race under their belts. He’s worked three times this month and appears ready to run a better race today. 12-1 (ML) seems more than fair to take a shot with him.
Top Pick Winners:84/313 (26.8%) – $662.70/ $2.12 ROI