Weather could definitely be a factor this afternoon as heavy rains are threatening to be in the area throughout the afternoon. I will handicap for both surfaces, since the chance for bad weather has lessened a bit from the earlier forecasts. If the weather does cooperate, He’spuregold will be in search of his third consecutive win in the Irish War Cry Handicap, which is the 10th and featured race on the Sunday afternoon program. First post is scheduled for 12:40 (ET) and the scheduled post time for the featured race is 4:57 (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|
|DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||7||7||2,3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|4||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|7||1||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day begins with a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race, carded for 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. If they are on the turf, the rails will be set at 24 feet, limiting the starters to nine runners in these sprint races, and ten runners in the two turn races. On either surface, I see Drama’s Prayer (#6) as the one to beat. He was second at this level last out when making his local debut. He has struggled to put two strong efforts together, but if this race is on grass, it will be his second career try on that surface. He’s run well on off tracks , breaking his maiden on a wet-fast track last fall at Delaware. His speed and versatility should be major assets with this group. On grass, Hay Room (#4) is dropping in class and should be at the right level of competition for his 5th career attempt. He broke his maiden on debut on a course labeled good at the Meadowlands. He’s been beaten handily in his last three starts then, but all of those races came against notably better competition. I’m a little surprised to see him at this level as opposed to taking a shot with state bred company when sprinting on grass. However, this feels like a good spot. Muttley (#9) is a backup on either surface, but he’s a little more interesting to me on the turf. He makes his four year old debut on the grass, which he has never done before. He’s sired by Declaration of War, who gets 16% winners with turf sprinters. His dam was better on the dirt, but she was a winner at this distance once in her career. Her only other foal to race has yet to try turf, but this one more of a turf pedigree on the sire side. No Deliberation (#8) wasn’t great in his turf debut, but he ran well enough on Tapeta two back to at least consider using him on the grass in his second start off the layoff. I feel the price will be lower than I’d like to take though. On dirt, I think Outlaw Country (#5) is a logical alternative to the top pick. He was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez after a dull effort at this level on the main track last out. He has some solid efforts on an off track though and he ran very well here two back.
$10K maiden claiming fillies and mares sprint six furlongs here. I think Stephanie My Love (#7) is going to be very tough in this race, especially if she gets a wet track. She just missed in her local debut last month, running a strong race to be second by a nose. She was bumped by the horses inside and outside of her coming out of the starting gate, and then settled in behind horses on the front end. Jomar Torres wanted to go through an opening on the rail, but that closed up quickly so he had to shift her out four wide. London Lady got the jump on her and was able to barely hold her off. I know consistency is not a hallmark of $10K maiden claimers, but if she runs the same kind of race that she did last time, she is going to graduate from the maiden ranks today. Aunt Berra (#2) and Herecomes Scarlett (#3) are the other two logical runners in this race. Both three year old fillies are sired by former Haskell winner, Girvin, but both haven’t made a ton of progress in their races so far. Aunt Berra cuts back to a sprint after faltering as the 11-10 favorite in a two turn dirt race last out. She was second at this condition back in May. Herecomes Scarlett gets Paco Lopez for her local debut, so she’s been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. She’s cutting back in distance and dropping in class after a pair of seven furlong tries in New York. I think it’s clear that she’s not going to be winning on the NYRA circuit anytime soon, especially with Saratoga opening Thursday. This is probably the right level, but at very short odds, I haven’t seen enough to get excited about playing her. Both of these fillies are backups for me, and if the track does come up fast, I could upgrade them a bit, but I think this race runs through Stephanie My Love.
Astonishing Anabel (#7) was entered yesterday in a conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claiming race, but Jorge Delgado also entered her in this conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming contest, where I think she’s a much better fit. She made her local debut last month coming off a four month break, facing $25K starter allowance company. She finished last of six that day, never really getting involved. She’s better when she’s involved early in a race, so I think the instructions for Maddie Oliver are going to be to send her from her outside post. She’s rebounded nicely from dull efforts in the past and should be tough to beat if she opts to run in this race (She did scratch yesterday, so I anticipate that she’ll be running here). Along with Belmar Summer (#5), they are the only multiple winners in this field. Belmar Summer returned at this level to the site of her maiden win, finishing third after weakening late. She was fairly consistent at Tampa over the winter, winning three times during their 2022-23 meet. Her last two races have not been great though, and I do worry if we’re going to see her best if the course comes up sloppy. However, I think she’s better than many of these when she’s right. Dance Step (#2) is one of the longer priced runners that interests me in this race. She was never really involved in the same race that Belmar Summer finished third in. She did break her maiden on this course and was showing signs of improvement at Tampa when running strictly in optional claiming/N1X allowance races there. I think she’s better than her last race and has the right to improve with this group today.
This $16K-$14K maiden claimer is a bit of a head scratcher. I landed on Gustiamo (#4), making her first start as a three year old today and her first since moving into Sharilyn Stephens’ barn. Her first two races at Saratoga last summer weren’t terrible, finishing midpack both times, about six lengths from the winner. She stretched out and was a dull 4th in an off the turf race at Aqueduct. When making her last start of the season, something clearly went amiss, as she was dead last that day, never really showing any interest. She changes barns, but more importantly, she’s getting some serious class relief. She’s sired by Blame, whose runners have won 11% of their turf sprint races in the last five years. The dam is an unraced daughter of Speightstown who has foaled two multiple winners in turf sprints. Her most accomplished runner was Vision Perfect, who was a Grade 3 and multiple stakes winner in turf sprint races. Sassy Annie (#1) was claimed in her debut with $12,500-$10,500 maiden claimers last month. She was 5th, tiring late that day. Bruno Tessore has had some recent success with horses running for him first off the claim. In fact, his last three horses making their first starts for him off the claim, have won, all coming here on the dirt, with Aequor winning just yesterday. She’s sired by the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Winner, Hootenanny, who was also a winner in the Windsor Castle Stakes going five furlongs at Royal Ascot. Interestingly enough, his runners have yet to win in a turf sprint, going 0-11. However, his runners have had a lot of success on synthetics, so I think that stat is a bit of an anomaly. I’d play this filly on the main track if this race did come off the turf. Bingo Star (#7) is the morning line favorite after a narrow defeat in her first start in a turf sprint last month. She didn’t have the best trip that afternoon, but she ran on well. Her trainer, Jose Delgado, has had a lot of success with his runners in turf sprints, winning at a 23% clip since the start of 2022. She ran well enough on the dirt in her debut at Keeneland to also be considered if this race were to be transferred to the main track. Spoils of War (#9) was third in that same race as the post time favorite. She had to overcome post eleven that day, and drawing post nine with the rails out at 24 feet is no picnic. However, she does have some speed and she’s making her third start off the layoff. On dirt, the top pick would be Sugar Sin (#2) for Claudio Gonzalez. She’s been knocking on the door with better fields. She was second when going six furlongs at this level in a race carded for the dirt last out. I think the short cutback in distance and the softer company will be beneficial. Touch of Madness (#11) would be one coming off the AE list that I would consider on the main track as well. She debuted in the slop at Penn National with $25K-$20K maiden claimers back in October and hasn’t started since. Kathleen DeMasi has good numbers off the layoff, so I think this one would be live if she gets to to run, but I think she has a better shot on dirt.
I’m not getting good vibes from the favorite, Scott Alaia (#5) in this conditioned $5K claiming event. She makes her third start off a lengthy layoff today and her third consecutive start for a different trainer. She plummets in class after being claimed for $16K two starts ago. She tried state bred allowance company and was thoroughly trounced at Belmont in her last start. She was moved to Claudio Gonzalez’s barn, and he has good numbers with new acquisitions. However, she’s been for almost two months, and her one work since her barn change was kind of dull, and she’s being asked to go two turns for the first time in her career. I never like taking a short price on a horse trying something new. I could play her closer to 5-1, but at 5-2, she’s going to be a pass for me. Shea On a Mission (#1) is the top pick for me after a narrow defeat at this level in her last start. She’s probably at her best on a fast track, however, I can forgive her dull efforts in her last two starts in the slop. Three back she was facing considerably better horses at Aqueduct, and two starts ago, she was very wide and ended up taking a lot of mud in the face. She drew the rail in a race that was lacking early speed last time out and she gets the same fortune today. I think Isaac Castillo can put her on the front end, and she’s going to be tough to catch in this one. Voice of Spring (#7) feels like the Claudio Gonzalez horse with the better shot to win this race. She has a pair of respectable efforts at this level and she was the one that was able to barely hold off Shea On a Mission on the wire last out. She took the early lead in that race from a wide post. She might try to do that again, but if the track comes up sloppy, I’m not sure she’s going to be able to have the same early foot. Always a Queen (#6) comes in from Parx for Scott Lake and she feels like a horse that might have a lower ceiling than some of the others, but I do see her as more consistent than the other two, so I think her floor might be a little higher. She was a winner three back at Parx with a similar group. Her off track record is good, but all of her in the money finishes came on courses that were labeled “good”. Her one start in the slop was not so good. If the track does come up sloppy, I feel she might be overbet as a result, so I’ll be watching her action on the toteboard.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $54 Ticket:
I waited as long as I could to put together some kind of ticket, as today’s weather forecast has been in flux for the last few days. It appears right now that the rain may be coming later in the day and it might hold off enough to not affect the card at all. Right now, it looks like this sequence is safe to play, as I think both races carded for the turf are going to stay on. Stephanie My Love (#7, R2) is going to be a bit of an aggressive single in a bottom maiden claiming race here. I thought her last race was very good and I think she’ll be able to run back to that. I think the other races are spread type races where there’s many possibilities, so after both Pick-5’s paying four figures yesterday, this could be another lucrative wager today.
Fillies and mares dash 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf in this maiden special weight race.Poet’s Woods (#8) is a Lope de Vega filly that has been working well after missing some time. She made three starts in her career, all in two turn races. I don’t typically love playing horses like this, but this is a strong angle for Kent Sweezy, and when you draw a line through her second career start, where something likely went amiss, she’s made some decent progress. She feels like a horse that is going to be overlooked. I’m also going to use Augie’s Girl (#3) debuting for John Servis today. Despite running all of his races on the dirt, Nyquist’s offspring have done well on the turf. The dam is a More Than Ready mare, so the ability for the grass is there. She’s been working well for a barn that has had success with runners in their debuts. Olympic Artist (#4) is probably better on the dirt, but she’s improved enough in her last few starts to make sure that I’ll be covering her here. Her start three back at Gulfstream on the turf wasn’t bad and she may appreciate the 5 and ½ distance offered here. She’s the top pick if this race gets moved on the dirt, as her last two tries at Parx were solid runner-up finishes. Notable Queen (#10) is a main track only entrant that I liked when she was entered and scratched last week. She ran a decent third to a next out winner in her last start. She’s making her third career start and her second on the dirt, so I can see her taking a step forward.
Six veteran New Jersey bred mares are taking on a three year old filly in this optional $15K/N1R state bred allowance race. Violets Smile (#7) makes her 7th career start against a field of mares that have a combined total of 293 starts. She’s the kind of horse that I would like to play in this race, but I have too many concerns. She’s stretching out to two turns for the first time, and I’m not sure that is what this filly wants to do. The dam won several times in lower level claiming races at two turns on dirt, but horses sired by Frank Conversation have not come close to winning a two turn race on dirt. His horses that are routing on dirt for the first time are 0-5, with average margin of defeat of 49.1 lengths. She’s 5-1 on the morning line and she might take more money than that because these mares she’s facing are no longer at their peaks. However, I’m staying away, and I’ll try some of the veterans in this race instead. Bamboo Garden (#1) is the top pick, making her first start since August. She was injured in a race at this level that day and as a result, was a voided claim. Patricia Farro has been patient with her, bringing this eight year old mare back for another season. Her first race off the layoff last season came in an off the turf race in the slop at this level, and she ran better than her 6th place finish indicates. She’s been better on off tracks in her career than she has been on fast surfaces, and unlike some of the others in this race, I think the mile and 70 yard distance here suits her just fine. Beatubyachubinose (#2) is tough to take as the morning line favorite, but this nine year old mare tends to find a way to win when she’s facing less than stellar fields. She went off form at Laurel over the winter and spring, but she seemed pleased to come back to the Jersey Shore, running second with conditioned $5K claimers. She caught a sloppy track that day, so an off track wouldn’t be an issue. She’s won at least one time in each of the last three seasons at Monmouth.
This is a bit of an odd optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance race, carded for 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. For this level, there’s not many grass or distance specialists in the field, so the possibility of a longshot exists. However, the horses with limited or no turf experience aren’t really jumping off the page, and provided she breaks well, they’re going to have a hard time catching Above the Limit (#2) in this one. She’s been a different horse since she started sprinting on the turf for Cathal Lynch, winning three times and finishing second three times in her six career tries on the sod. She’s been second in her last two tries at this level, catching a course labeled soft at Delaware last out. The filly that beat her two back at Pimlico, Roses For Debra, went on to win an allowance race at Belmont and appears to be on track for some of the turf sprint stakes this summer at the Spa. Five of her six tries on the turf have been at 5 furlongs, with only one being at 5 and ½. She cleared the N1X condition that day by running an overmatched field at Laurel off their feet, and I think that scenario is likely here. Band Sweetheart (#5) might be the runner that could be rolling late. She feels like a horse that is more likely to be second or third as opposed to winning this one. However, she could be overlooked as her recent dirt form has been lacking. I think the return to the grass will be to her benefit though. If this race is taken off the turf, it certainly won’t completely fall apart. I landed on Knowing Glance (#6) on top. She’s a filly that went off form for a little while after a promising start to her career as a two year old in 2021. Her three year old campaign was largely forgettable and she returned with a strong effort in N3L claiming company at Oaklawn three starts ago. She was a troubled trip third at Keeneland two starts ago when Kelly Breen claimed her on behalf of M and W Stables. She came here and was a winner with starter allowance company. I don’t see her loving the turf, which she would be trying for the first time, but if this race comes off, she’s a major player. Violent Vixen (#3) ran well enough at this distance to be considered for this race on turf here, however, I think she’s at her best when she’s on the main track. She hasn’t shown the same early foot on grass as she has on the main track, and her speed is her greatest weapon.
There’s a lot of speed signed on this optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance sprint. Senor Jobim (#5), making his first start since February may be the beneficiary of that pace battle. I like the races that he’s run on wet tracks in the past and now he’s coming back for a trainer that has been getting improvements from several of his newer acquisitions. He’s brought live horses to this meet, and Isaac Castillo has been riding very well since returning here. Ego Man (#6) is in career best form as a six year old for Haleem Lee. He’s been very tough in his last four starts at Parx and now ships here, while keeping his regular rider. He might just be faster than the four runners inside of him that want to go out for the lead. There’s no guarantee that his Philly form will transfer here, but he’s been too good lately to ignore. Rob the Rich (#7) is a longshot player in this race that can hang with the best of this group on his best day. While his form has been somewhat up and down, he might be another one that could benefit from a pace meltdown. He’s run well against lesser runners when that has been the case in the past.
Race 10, The $85K Irish War Cry Handicap:
He’spuregold (#4) has been the best New Jersey bred turf runner in training over the past twp years. He won this race as a three year old in 2021 and again last year in his four year old campaign. He beat a salty allowance field against open company at Gulfstream on New Year’s Day, and was a decent 5th in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes in February. However, he struggled in his last two starts, one on turf in open stakes company and his last on dirt here in state bred stakes company. He’s an extremely talented horse, but his last two races leave enough concern to at least consider looking in a different direction, especially at even money. Smithwick’s Spice (#8) has been running big races in a variety of situations. He’s run well routing on turf and dirt and sprinting on turf and dirt. He’s developed into a very solid racehorse over the past year or so. He was a winner in starter handicap company at two turns on grass, two back at Tampa. He was away for a few months and returned just as sharp when winning a five furlong allowance race at Delaware. He ended his meet here last season with three consecutive wins. I think he’s an interesting alternative, especially if he stays in the 9-2 neighborhood. He’ll be on my ticket, regardless of surface, but if this race goes to the dirt, I’ll make Irish Boolum (#3) the top pick. He’s already proven to appreciate a wet track and if this race comes off the turf, I assume that’s what he’s going to be working with. He was absolutely explosive when dominating the Friendly Lover Handicap on dirt last month. He’s an improving four year old, so there’s reason to believe that he could still move forward off an effort like that.
The week ends with a $40K-$30K maiden claiming sprint. Of the seven runners entered in this race, I think Romping Ruler (#4) is coming out of the strongest race. Vespucci ran a huge race that day on debut to beat Just Beat the Odds, Todd Pletcher’s Belmont shipper Abadin, and next out winner Straight Arrow. Romping Ruler was a well-beaten 6th place that day when making his debut for Anthony Margotta. His horses typically need a race before they’re at their best, and the drop in class makes sense for a horse out of an unheralded sire. I expect him to be better here. El de Chriel (#2) ran against Straight Arrow and Just Beat the Odds last weekend in maiden allowance company. He comes back quickly for Juan Avila while dropping for a tag. It’s a quick turnaround, but he has improved in all three of his dirt races. Al’s Frosted (#7) ships in from Belmont after running 4th when debuting at this level there. He stays at the same tag while getting some class relief. He has the highest Tomlinson Figures, which could bode well if this race is contested over a sloppy main track.
Top Pick Winners: 47/217 (20.8%) – $322.40/ $1.49 ROI
Precious Avary was a $47.40 winner in the Jersey Girl Handicap yesterday, winning her third consecutive race at this meet. She also helped me snap out of a slump that I’ve been mired in over the last month or so. There’s still plenty of work left to do as the Top Pick ROI is nowhere close to where I want it to be, but a day like yesterday (despite the fact two of my stronger opinions were scratched) will certainly help.
Kelly Breen moved into a three-way tie atop the trainer standings yesterday, and he did it with some prices. Speight’spercomete paid $55.80 when winning the 7th race and then four races later, Triple Start paid $16.60 as the winner in the 11th race. Chad Brown and Claudio Gonzalez kept pace, each having a winner yesterday and Jorge Delgado is sitting one race back with 12 wins. This should be a contentious battle over the final two months of this meet.