The rails are at 0 feet on the turf course and the local horsemen responded well by filling four of the five turf races with 12 horse fields. The other turf race has ten two year olds sprinting five furlongs. New Jersey bred fillies and mares will compete in the Jersey Girl Handicap, which is the featured 9th race today. While the weather looks to be safe for today, tomorrow’s program could be affected by some inclement weather as the potential for heavy rain exists. First post for this afternoon’s card 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||6||6,10||9||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6||6,7||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||6||6,7,11||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|8||1||1,3||2||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||9||1,9,12||DBL, PK3, PK4|
I love it when a card begins with a full field, and that’s what we have in this $16K-$14K maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares on the turf. I’m interested in Canny Land (#6), dropping in class and shipping in from Parx. She tried the turf for the first time with $30K maiden claimers in Bensalem last month when she faded to 6th after showing some early interest. That was her first start since February and her first career try at two turns. She has that race under her belt and now runs for Michael Pino, who has hit with 27% of his new acquisitions since 2022. I think she’s a candidate to improve, especially after taking some money at the windows last time out. What’s Good (#10) set the pace at this level and was stubborn in the stretch until she finally yielded to War Museum. She was the 7-5 that day and she’s been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite for this race. She’s a logical contender, but she’ll have to overcome a wide post after starting from an inside draw last time out. This is another big field, so I’m not willing to take too short of a price on her here. Jams Top Shelf (#9) is an interesting 20-1 longshot on the morning line. She ran three times on the main track and was abysmal in each start. She has shown growth while moving to the turf though. She has sprinted twice and was a respectable 4th at this level last time out. She makes her third start off the layoff and stretches out to two turns for the first time in her career. Her pedigree suggests that should be favorable for her. She gets a rider upgrade to the apprentice, Luis Rivera Jr., who continues to make the most of the limited opportunities that he’s had at this current meet. I think there are enough positives here to take a shot if she is overlooked in the wagering. Payout Ratio (#3) may take some money, as she is running ro Chad Brown. His go-to rider at the meet has been sidelined, so apprentice Maddie Oliver is getting a big opportunity here. I’m concerned about her going two turns, although I do think this is the right level for competition for her at this point. She cut back to 5 and ½ furlongs after debuting at one mile at Tampa. I’m worried about how well she’ll be finishing here, but I respect the connections and the class drop enough to make sure that I backup with her on some deeper plays.
A lot of money is going to be on Dart (#1) in this race after a big win at this conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming level last time out. However, he was claimed out of that race by an unknown commodity, running for trainer Robert Paterno. He switches riders to Samuel Marin and he cuts back to 5 and ½ furlongs. I’ll cover with him, but I fear the odds are going to be too low for me. I’ll make Reckless Place (#6) the top pick today, getting back on the dirt for the first time in 2023. He was a handy winner in maiden claiming company in the slop here when he last competed on the main track. His dirt races on this oval in general are solid and he’s managed to hit the board in 6 of his last 7 starts overall. Z’s So Good (#7) is also a logical player from his outside draw. He was claimed out of the same last race that Dart won, but he’s moving to a barn that is more proven first off the claim. Jose Delgado has struck 22% of the time since 2022 with horses making their first start for him off the claim. He’s been very competitive in his last five starts and figures to be right back in the mix today.
I’m going to try to escape this conditioned $25K-$20K claiming sprint for fillies and mares using only two runners. Throwback (#1) is my top pick, making her 4th career start. She was a winner on debut at Delta Downs back in January. She resurfaced in April in stakes company at Evangeline, finishing last of eight on a muddy course. She shipped here for new connections and tried the turf when facing better. She appeared to struggle to find her stride in the first furlong on so, but she was progressing, until she was forced to check sharply. At that point, Paco Lopez didn’t push her as it seemed that her day was done. She drops in class and gets back to what should be a fast main track, which she hasn’t seen since her debut. I think she has a chance to upset this group. Shiny Slam (#6) is the only multiple winner in this field, winning three of her seven career starts. She was a winner with better two starts back here, but struggled last out in an allowance race at Delaware. She’s won two of her three career races on this oval, and both of her sprint races here. She’s facing a field that is softer than the field that she beat two starts ago, so I see her as a must use, even if the value is lacking.
This conditioned $30K-$25K claiming race feels like the right spot in the Win-Early Pick-5 to take a stand. Your Analysis (#5) is the morning line favorite and the horse that feels like the most likely winner on the card. He was a dominating winner in the slop at Laurel three starts ago, when he was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez. I thought his effort in allowance company at Pimlico two back was strong, as he raced wide every step of the way there. He was 7th that afternoon, finishing five lengths behind the winner, but he was dead game throughout that contest. He missed the break when facing starter allowance company in his local debut last month. I expect him to fire, while getting class relief as he’s running for the same $30K tag that he was claimed for in the spring. Centurion (#7) is my backup play in this spot, making his first start since a dull 5th place finish at Oaklawn in December. He was very good here in 2022, but he was in better form before shipping here as well. Lindsay Schultz gave him some extra time off before bringing him back to compete. He’s got a chance, but I think his best effort might be next time out.
The Win-Early Pick-5 will conclude with a challenging maiden special weight race for two year olds, sprinting five furlongs on the turf. I’ll want coverage in this race, especially with where it’s slotted on the card. I landed on Bigly Deal (#10) in the outside stall as the top pick. Of the ten runners in this field, he’s the one that is probably best suited for a turf sprint from a pedigree perspective. He’s sired by Air Force Blue out of the mare, Deal of the Decade, whose runners have four wins in eleven tries in turf sprints. None of the Air Force Blue first time starters have won in turf sprints, but I trust Jorge Delgado’s ability to have his runners ready to fire at first asking. Zingales King (#7) makes sense while coming up from Gulfstream to try the turf for the first time for Jose D’Angelo. Despite winning at a high percentage, his runners are 0-33 in the last two years when trying the turf for the first time. I can look past that though as this colt has shown speed on the Tapeta in Florida after closing in his debut. He struggled against a runaway winner last time out, but I think he can improve with a forward trip on grass. Glacial Power (#2) is another first timer that should be bred to handle the turf. He’s sired by Astern, who has won with 14% of his North American first time starters, and 15% of his turf sprinters. The dam ran four times in her career, winning once and never finishing worse than second on the turf. Her only other foal to race was a winner in a turf sprint in her second career try. Lake Chapala (#9) is a longer priced runner that I’ll include on some deeper plays. Isaac Castillo takes the mount for Leopoldo Ortega, who has popped with some longshots in turf sprints. Both of the dams foals to race have been winners, though neither at first asking. His sore, Unified, has hit with 11% of his first time starters and his runners are winning 9% of the time in turf sprints. I’ll also include Ave’s Makin’ Waves (#5) on the ticket, after he showed improvement in his second career try on the dirt at Parx. Susan Crowell had a longshot winner in a turf sprint here last season, and she had a longshot winner on the dirt a few weeks ago. She has had success using the apprentice rider, Gherson (Jason) Huayas at Parx, but he has looked a bit lost at times locally, finishing in the money only one time with 22 starters. I’ll include him, but I’ll need to get better than 9-2 (ML) to use him to win or in the vertical exotics.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $45 Ticket:
My strategy for this All A/B ticket is to single Your Analysis (#5, R4) and look for coverage in some of the other spots. I think there’s some longshots that have a chance in the opener, with both Canny Land (#6, R1) and Jams Top Shelf (#9, R1) on this ticket. I’ll include both Dart (#1, R2) and Shiny Slam (#6, R3) here, but if we can beat both of these runners, the value of this wager should increase exponentially.
I thought the race from Max’s Glory (#5) last time out at this state bred maiden special weight level was better than it looks on paper. He was fighting Lane Luzzi in the opening furlong, which cost him valuable position. I think the blinkers that Chuck Spina has added today will help address that issue. Despite being much farther back than he is accustomed to, he still finished with plenty of run, despite having to tap on the breaks at the head of the stretch. His effort in his local debut two starts back was strong. I see him as being the horse to beat in this race. Alpha Company (#8) finished in front of Max’s Glory last month, however, he had a smoother trip. My hope is that more money will be wagered in his direction because I think Max’s Glory is the better horse at the moment. I’ll back up with him in his second start off a lengthy layoff. I’ll also look at I’ll Comply (#9) as a backup plan in this race. He’s a Peace and Justice first time starter for Mike Dini. Peace and Justice has hit with 7% of his first time starters, and despite never running on the dirt in his career, he is getting 17% winners in dirt sprint races. The dam was a winner on this course of her first two races, although none of her other runners have been able to win at first asking. If his odds float up from his 8-1 morning line, I would consider taking a chance with him.
I think both the morning line favorite, Hashtag No Wonder (#3) and the second choice, Restoring Order (#12) are vulnerable in this $20K-$18K N3L claiming race on the turf. I’m going to try Bourbon Thunder (#6) on top, getting back on the grass, while making his first start off the Carlos David claim. This is a horse that was stakes placed as a three year old on the dirt, and showed some ability in three starts on the grass over the winter at Gulfstream. He hit the bottom last out, finishing third with conditioned $5K claimers on the dirt for a lower percentage barn. His last three turf races were significantly better than his last three dirt tries, so I could see him moving forward today with the barn and surface change. Dream Astray (#11) will have to navigate a trip post 11, but he has the early speed to clear this group, assuming he breaks well for Vargas. He makes his second start off the layoff and comes in with two straight turf wins against softer fields. He’s been a different horse since moving to the grass four starts back, so I could see him handling another rise in class today. Exuma (#7) has run his two best races in this country on this course, finishing third in allowance company here last season and second with open $12,500-$10,500 claimers last month. He’s running for a higher tag, but this is a softer field. The $12,500-$10,500 claiming races here are very competitive, and Cabinet Pik, who beat him, is a very tough customer at that level. There are some dull efforts at Tampa and Gulfstream that muddy up his form a bit, so getting 6-1 (ML) or better could certainly be a possibility.
What do you do with a horse like Pudding (#6) at this level? He’s five starts removed from finishing second in a Grade 3 sprint, and four starts back, he was a winner in state bred stakes company. He was claimed for $62,500 in the fall at Gulfstream and went to the sidelines after that win. He resurfaced at Parx in an allowance contest when he faced a sharp field. He had absolutely nothing that day, and never responded when Paco Lopez asked the question. He was a vet scratch and a trainer scratch prior to running in that race and now he plummets to a time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claiming race. I will put him on the C line as there’s no one close to his class level in this field, however, if he doesn’t look good in the paddock or on the track, I’ll likely try to beat him completely. Dee Bo (#1) was given a little time off by Bruce Levine after a dull effort with state bred N1X allowance types in the spring at the Big A. He was very competitive at the Finger Lakes last season and has a win and second place finish in both career starts on this oval. He seems to fit nicely with this field. Commanding General (#3) comes into the race in good form, crushing a conditioned $5K claiming field two back and running a very competitive 4th with N1X company last time out. He faded late in that race after being a part of a contentious pace duel. He has the speed to be on a loose lead up front, which could prove to be advantageous with this group. Aequor (#2) was claimed out of his last race by Bruno Tessore, when he beat conditioned $5K claimers with ease. He moves back up in class for a barn that has done well with limited chances at this meet. He has five wins in 13 career starts on this oval, and he has shown that he can win in bunches when he’s at his best.
Race 9, The $85K Jersey Girl Handicap:
The featured race is a one mile turf contest for New Jersey bred fillies and mares, which drew a full field. The shorter prices in this race are drawn opposite ends of the starting gate with the morning line favorite, Bramble Bay (#1) drawing the rail and the second choice, Riding Pretty (#12) hung out wide in post 12. I think both horses are players in this race, especially because both are proven commodities on the turf, and often times in these state bred stakes races, we see horses that might not be entered on the surface that fits them best, but they are included in the field because they might be out of conditions and there’s many opportunities for them to run for this kind on money. Bramble Bay was the winner of this race last year, and she also won the Pinot Grigio Handicap when sprinting at the end of last year’s meet. She’s won eight times on the turf in her career and six of those races have been on this course. Riding Pretty is a three year old filly, taking on older horses and getting back to her preferred surface. I thought she ran a huge race to be second last month in the Smart N Classy Handicap, almost nailing Beach Daze (#10) on the wire. Her turf races have been solid, winning an open allowance at Gulfstream over the winter, and finishing 5th, beaten less than two lengths in a Grade 3 race. The draw is unfortunate, but she’s better than many of these, so I’ll hope that Jairo Rendon will be able to find a way to save some ground going into the first turn. Both of these runners are going to take most of the money, and I’ll use them both on the A line, but I’m going to try a longshot as the top pick, and use Precious Avary (#9), who is a three year old filly that is in very good form right now. She’s rolled through her state bred conditions, winning her last two races on the dirt with ease. She’ll go two turns on turf for the first time, but she did break her maiden impressively when sprinting on the grass at the Meadowlands last fall. The dam has foaled another runner that has a two turn win on the grass. I see her as a horse that could be under the radar in this spot and could offer some value as an alternative to the two shorter prices.
Road to Stardom (#1) is the heavy favorite on the morning line after crushing a $40K-$30K maiden claiming field when making his first start since September of 2021 back in May. Falcone gave him a little extra time off that effort and he could certainly be good enough to wire this group. However, after an effort like that, I would have preferred to see him in either allowance or starter allowance company for this start, as opposed to being offered for $30K. It’s also fair to suggest that his last race could have been inflated by a strong speed/inside bias on the main track at that point in the meet. Over the last month or so, horses in the outer flow have definitely had a better chance than they did at the beginning of the meet. The rail was not great last week, so his speed from an inside draw might not be the same weapon it was in May. At 6-5 (ML) or lower, he’s strictly a backup for me. I’ll try Rol Again Dancer (#7) on top to go by in the final furlong. He’s coming off a dull effort against a very sharp field for the $50K-$40K conditioned claiming level last month. He cuts back to a sprint and to a level where he’s been very competitive. Both career wins have come on this oval and his last race was his first local off the board finish. Faith (#6) is also coming off a strong win with $40K-$30K maiden claimers. However, he was claimed for $35K three back and has two strong efforts for Kelly Breen since. I don’t have the same issue with him entered at this level as I do with Road to Stardom, and I think his running style fits the recent track profile better than the favorite.
I think the Late Pick-5 is a tough sequence today, but if I were to single a horse, Tap the Candy (#10) would be the one. He ships in from Parx after coming up a bit short with $25K conditioned claimers there. He’s run well on this course and in the part and is getting class relief. If he can tuck in early and avoid too much ground loss. I think he’s the one to beat in this race. Larger Than Life (#9) was marooned in post 12 at this level last time. While post nine is less than ideal, Jorge Vargas should be able to work out a better trip. He was claimed by Kent Sweezy last out, and while he doesn’t have great numbers 1st off the claim, he’s a higher percentage trainer than his previous one. Rugged Union (#1) ran his best career speed figure in his only two turn turf race when facing better at Gulfstream two starts ago. However, he was struggling late that day, so I have some doubts about his ability going a furlong farther this day. I’ll cover him because he’s drawn the rail and there’s not much early speed signed on to push him in early stages, but I’ll proceed with caution and we’ll back off if the price gets lower than his 5-2 morning line.
The nightcap is a tricky conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claiming race for fillies and mares going 1 mile on the main track. Current form is all over the place, so I’ll try Maarty’s Dilemma (#8), who has hit the board in her last three tries at this level at Parx. She has a pair of runner up finishes on this course last season when she was running faster races. Harold Brown seems to be getting her back in better form and a return to the Shore may be enough to put her over the top and grab that elusive second career victory. Cupids Payday (#6) feels like the one to beat on the heavy drop in class. She was basically eased in her last race with time restricted $30K-$25K claimers as the 7-5 favorite. She was claimed for $30K at Keeneland, so the drop in class is a bit concerning. However, if she can get back to her previous races, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with at this level. Mo Town Annie (#7) is coming off a strong maiden win last out, and she’s going to need to be faster to beat this group. However, she is an improving three year old filly and her last two dirt starts were strong.
Top Pick Winners: 43/207 (20.8%) – $248.80/ $1.20 ROI
The Friday card proved to be fairly formful, with the largest priced winner being Toot Your Horn, in the nightcap, paying $12.80. He was debuting for Patricky McBurney and he was a dominating winner in that state bred maiden special weight contest. If he can duplicate that effort in allowance company, he should be able to clear the state bred first level allowance condition before the end of the meet.
Kingmax was the horse of the day, once again winning in impressive fashion, while facing a stronger allowance field. If the intention is to keep racing him locally, the Oceanport Stakes on August 13th, would be a very logical next step for him.
Leading rider, Paco Lopez is once again at Delaware Park today, riding in the several races on the Del Cap program. With Samy Camacho, the second place rider, sidelined with a minor injury, this is a good day for some of the other riders to start to climb up the leaderboard, while maybe getting some quality mounts that might not typically have access to.