We have another eight race Friday afternoon program where the odd numbered races are carded for the turf, and the even numbered races are carded for the main track. There’s a pair of optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance races scheduled for the grass that will anchor this card. The 5th race is a five furlong dash, while the 7th race is at 1 mile and 1/16. First post this afternoon 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||7||7||3,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||1,2,4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||7||2,7||3,8||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||6||3,6||2||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||6||6||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Fillies and mares will start the day on the grass, with $40K-$30K maiden claiming sprinting five furlongs. Nice Baby (#7) is interesting in this race, making her first start of the Darien Rodriguez claim. She came up empty with $16K-$14K maiden claimers last month, when making her first start since last August. She showed some potential as a two year old, running her best career Beyer Speed Figure at this five furlong distance on the Tapeta at Gulfstream. She’s never been on the grass before, so that will be a new test. The dam never ran on grass, nor has she produced a winner on turf. She has foaled some horses that have run well on the synthetic though and one of her foals,, Singininthejohn, lost in a photo in a one mile race on the turf. Most of her horses tend to appreciate longer distances, however, this filly is sired by The Big Beast, so she does seem to have his speed influence. She has the right running style for the way the course was playing last week. Paco Lopez gets the assignment on the favorite, Mrs. Whistler (#6), who was defeated by next out allowance winner, Lady Irvine, in her last start. She doesn’t have a ton of early speed, but that didn’t stop Paco Lopez last weekend, when riding horses like Biz Biz Buzz. I expect him to have this filly in good striking position to try to take a run at the frontrunners. There’s a pair of first timers in this race and the one that interests more is Delightful Dixie (#3), debuting for Mike Dini. She was sharp in her 6/18 drill, two workouts ago, showing some more overall interest. Her last work was more of a maintenance drill, as she progresses to her first career try. Collected was sired by City Zip, who has been a very effective sire of turf sprinters. Collected is hitting with 13% of his turf sprinters thus far as a sire. The dam was a winner on debut on the dirt and one of her foals also won on debut.
$10K maiden claiming fillies and mares will goa mile and 70 yards on the main track here. I like Will Be Now (#4) in this race, making her first start since February for Juan Avila. She’s dropping in class after three midpack finishes at Parx over the winter, While I don’t love that she’s had only one posted work since, and that was back in May. It is reassuring that Avila has good numbers with horses coming off the layoff, so I’ll trust that he has her fit and ready to fire. Her half sister, Tonalist’s Shape, was a Grade 2 winner at a one turn mile and a stakes winner at 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. Holy Skull (#2) seemed to right some of the wrongs from his miserable debut at Tampa in April when she ran two weeks ago. That was her first start on the dirt though, and the main track seemed more suitable to her than the turf course. Gerald Bennett is the trainer of this Ghostzapper filly, and he’s having her stretch out to two turns for the first time on the dirt today. Samuel Marin teamed up with Bennett for a winner on Sunday’s program. Elika (#1) is a player in this race if you’re willing to forgive her last start, which was not very good. She’ll make her third start off the layoff today as Gonzalez keeps her on a two week apart race schedule. She is getting some class relief for her first trip at two turns.
This is quite a contentious $22K-$18K open claiming race at nine furlongs on the turf. I think there’s four horses that are very logical, and price points could lead me in different directions with this quartet. However, I see Initforlove (#7) as being the horse to beat in this one. I think the nine furlong distance of this race hits him right between the eyes as he was a three time winner at Tampa at distances ranging from 8.5 furlongs to 11 furlongs. His first race over this course came at one mile, in a contentious starter handicap. The shorter distance and a three wide trip may have done him in that day. He’ll need to show that he can run his Tampa races outside of Oldsmar, Florida, however, I see him being able to rebound while getting some class relief. Artie’s Angel (#2) makes his first start of the year for Kelly Breen and he attracts Paco Lopez for this assignment. He showed some promise as a three year old on the turf, winning a race on this oval and running some strong races in some salty fields. He’s been gelded since his last start and has been working well for his return. King of Dreams (#3) is interesting, getting back on the turf for the first time in a while. His dirt form lately has been a bit flat. He was a stakes winner on synthetic and has two wins in 10 tries on the lawn. He’s the only horse in the race with a win at this distance, so I could see him moving forward while switching up surfaces. The Peninsula (#8) on the other hand is coming into the race off a strong win against lesser competition. He seemed right at home on this turf course, winning his first race on the grass in six career tries. This will be a class test for him, so 3-1 feels a little light. Paco Lopez opting for Artie’s Angel is also a bit telling. I’ll still use him, and would certainly upgrade him if his odds floated up closer to 5-1.
The name in this maiden special weight race is Crupi (#2) who is sliding back into maiden company after trying to sneak into the Derby. He ran well to be second to Slip Mahoney in a one turn maiden allowance at Aqueduct, but he was a non-factor in both the Risen Star and the Wood Memorial. Pletcher is no stranger to a move like this, as Commandperformance followed a similar path last season. While that horse finally won when shipping here, Crupi has not proven that he’s anywhere near as talented. I respect the connections and the class relief he’s getting, but I think he’s going to be hammered at the windows. I see him as vulnerable in this small field. I think Occasional Moon (#6) has a big shot in this race. Jonathan Maldonado claimed him at the end of March and since then, he’s run two big races on the main track, losing both by a nose. I think he can stalk the pace and make his move on the turn. He is cross-entered tomorrow at Laurel, so his presence could be up in the air. The runner he’ll have to run down is Life On the Nile (#3). I’ve written about this horse several times, and despite his beautiful pedigree, he’s been a true money burner. He’s been much closer to getting that first win since coming to the Jersey Shore. I’m not concerned about the trainer change, as Hollendorfer is still one of the owners and Ward is taking over his local stable. He should have an uncontested early lead, which makes him dangerous. I think the presence of Crupi will keep his price acceptable here.
I think Mamba on Three (#6) is going to be very tough to deal with in this speed-filled optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance dash. He was buried on the rail at this level last time out, never looking comfortable as he was chasing Just Jeremy, who came back to win an allowance race here on Sunday. The winner of that race, Grooms All Bizness, came back to win the Get Serious Stakes here a few weeks ago. He faced a strong group and now gets a post that should allow him to pounce, while stalking the speedsters from the outside. I think he gets up in time over the favorite, Silardi (#1). Paco Lopez did choose to ride this speedster, and the rail draw should work for his frontrunning style. However, he’s been caught late in four of the last five races, and there’s other speed in this race that is going to make getting a loose lead very difficult. I’ll use him as a backup, but I think the top pick has a better shot and should offer bettors a better price.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $54 Ticket:
Three key to this ticket is trying to beat both Crupi (#2, R4) and Silardi (#1, R5). Both feel like vulnerable favorites that will be overbet in their given races. I’ll include Crupi on the All A/B ticket, since the status of Occasional Moon (#6, R4) is up in the air. If that one runs, I’d consider leaving Crupi off the ticket if paring down is necessary.
While it looks like Willy Mc (#7) has been struggling with similar company at Parx, I think those races were deeper and more competitive than the field that has been assembled for this time-restricted, 12,500-$10,500 claiming race. He’s been transferred to Carlos David’s barn since his last start at the end of May. David has strong numbers with new acquisitions, winning 24% of the time with horses since 2022. Willy Mc was a dominant winner on this course last season, and I think his running style fits nicely with the track profile from last week. Maximus Midani (#3) has been off form lately, losing his last three races by double digit lengths. If he can run back to some of his 2022 races, he’ll probably be too good for this group. However, those days could be in the rear view mirror for this six year old gelding. This is a fairly significant drop in class, so it feels like this is a now or never kind of race for him. Price will be a huge factor in how I’ll be playing him in this spot. Musical Heart (#4) was a stakes winner at Belmont in 2021, but struggled in the Grade 2 Brooklyn in his next start. After that, he was away for 18 months. He returned and has been on a steady diet of open claiming races, mostly in New York. He’s clearly not the same horse, but he is moving into restricted claiming company, which is not as nearly as competitive as open claiming races on the NYRA circuit. David Jacobsen’s runners have been live at this meet and Isaac Castillo has been aboard for two of his three winners.
Three of the nine runners in the co-featured race are stakes winners. I loved the race from Kingmax (#5) to clear the N1X condition here in his stateside debut. He stalked a very sharp pace and had the energy to explode in the stretch and win going away. I thought that was a big time effort against an above average field at that condition. He’s likely going to be favored in this race after that effort. He ran too well to be ignored in this race, however, I do wonder if he’s going to be able to replicate that kind of an effort while moving up in class. He’s an A line for me, but I’ll look for a better price on a top pick. Three of his rivals in this race are coming out of a strong race at this same condition on May 27th. The winner of that race was Catnip, who came back to win the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes here two weeks ago. The horse that finished worst of that trio that was Montauk Summer (#8), and I’m looking at him as a rebound candidate in this race. Mike Dini had him entered for the $30K tag that day, when he was making his first start since December. Kelly Breen decided to take the plunge and claim this guy for $30K on behalf of himself and Kenwood Racing. He finished 6th that day while going wide and chasing an aggressive early pace. He draws wide again, but so my hope is that Jose Gomez will be able to draft in right behind the pacesetter, which is likely to be Megacity (#6) and Paco Lopez. He’s done well with that kind of trip in the past, and he was a three time winner on this course in 2022. He’s won 4 of 6 career races on this course and I expect him to put forth a better effort in his debut for his new connections. He’s listed at 6-1 on the morning line, and I can see that number floating upward a bit. I think Megacity is a threat to wire this field, so he’ll also be on the A line for me. His last two races at Gulfstream weren’t his best, however, one of them was an 11 furlong test and the other was on the Tapeta. His recent turf form at this distance stacks up with anyone else in here. Both Dominate Themoment (#4) and Clear Vision (#7) have shown interest in being frontrunners in the past, but lately they haven’t had the same burst out of the gate. As a result, the lead should be there for taking and if Paco can slow the tempo down, he should have plenty of horse for the stretch drive. Dominate Themoment will be a backup for me in this race. He found himself in last place early on, which isn’t really what this horse wants to do. He did close well to be 4th, but I think Howard Brown would have preferred to see him a little more involved in the early stages of that race. As a result, a rider switch to Angel Rodriguez was made. He’s another horse that was an impressive winner of a N1X race on this course, doing so on Haskell Day last year.
State bred fillies and mares will sprint six furlongs in a maiden allowance race to close out the card. Carats Forever (#6) is a huge favorite on the morning line. She was second best at this level last out when making her seasonal debut last month. She’s run three credible races in her career, hitting the board each time. She’s going to be tough in this race, but I don’t see her as a slam dunk. I’ll try one of the firsters and make Fools Collide (#7) the top pick. She’s drawn outside for her debut for Rory Huston, who has wins with his last two debut runners on dirt, dating back to 2022. She’s sired by King Puma, who is still looking for his first debut winner as a sire. She’s the first foal to run from the dam I’m Julie, who was winless in 15 career starts. While her pedigree doesn’t offer up much, this isn’t the deepest group and her AM drills are competitive, I liked that she worked five furlongs last week after a snappy four furlong drill two weeks ago.
Top Pick Winners: 41/200 (20.5%) – $236.80/ $1.18 ROI
We saw four turf sprints last Sunday, and all four races favored horses that were closer to the front end. Closers were having trouble making up any significant ground on the course. Lady Irvine and Just Jeremy took their respective allowance fields from gate to wire. Paco Lopez had Biz Biz Buzz closer to the pace than usual, which paid dividends for him as he cleared the N1X condition as well. Of the non-winners, World Traveler, who was a fast closing second place finisher in the first race, ran very well and probably closed better than any other horse on the turf on the card. I don’t think he’ll be 17-1 next time out, but under the right circumstances, he could be a good value play.
There was a spill on Sunday in the two year old maiden special weight race on the turf. Momma Kim clipped heels with Gold Alliance and fell around the ⅜ pole, also causing Bingo’s Girl to fall. Samy Camacho and Jorge Gonzalez were both taken off their remaining mounts on Sunday, Both were originally named to ride horses on Friday, but this card was drawn on Sunday, however, both were taken off those mounts. Camacho will be out at least a week with shoulder soreness. Gonzalez came back to ride Sunday, two races after the spill. However, he woke up sore and was determined to have fractured a vertebrae, which will keep him on the sidelines for at least four weeks. Fortunately, it was reported that both horses were able to walk off the track after the incident.
On the main track, the outer lanes seemed to be the place to be. That kind of trip certainly helped Miss New York defeat the heavily favored Shidabhuti in the Boiling Springs Stakes, which was the featured race on the Sunday card. This race serves as the local prep for the Monmouth Oaks at the end of the month and I wouldn’t write off Shidabhuti after that effort. She was buried down inside behind a slow tempo, while also getting a last minute rider switch to Jorge Vargas, as Camacho went down in the race before this one. She was backing up, but did make some headway late, but she wasn’t getting to Miss New York, who powered to the front end off the final turn, while out in the four path. She’s an improving three year old filly for Jorge Delgado, who had a slow June after a torrid start to the meet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rematch in the top race for three year old fillies at this meet.
Another horse that was likely negatively impacted by a dull rail was Just Beat the Odds in the nightcap. He was the 9-5 favorite and he was gaining ground along the inside, however, Straight Arrow was racing on the better part of the track, and he was able to make up about 6 and ½ lengths on Just Beat the Odds from their last meeting. He’s another one that won’t be a great price next out, but I don’t think he’ll be a maiden much longer.
One other note of interest is the horses that have been running under Jerry Hollendorfer, will now be trained by his longtime assistant, Dan Ward. Hollendorfer has decided to focus on his California contingent at this point in his career. From a handicapping perspective, I’m not anticipating any real drop off in performance from his runners, but with an unknown commodity being listed as the trainer, some of his runners may offer higher value than usual in the next few weeks.