There’s an eight race card this afternoon at Monmouth Park, headed by a pair of maiden special weight races on the turf and a pair of optional claiming/allowance races for state bred fillies. The rail was not good last week, as most horses on the dirt made their winning move in the three path or wider. That will be something worth keeping an eye on today, especially in the first few dirt races. First post for the Friday card 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||6||5,6||4,12||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6||6||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||7||5,7||4,8||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||1||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||4||4||13||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
New Jersey bred fillies and mares start the afternoon with an optional $15K/N1R allowance race going one mile on the turf. I think Kent Sweezey is holding a pair of aces in this race with both Joy and Prosperity (#5) and Exclusive Champion (#6). I’ll give the preference to Exclusive Champion, who looked like a different horse when getting on the turf for the first time last month. She easily broke her maiden, winning by over 7 lengths in a turf sprint. The added distance is definitely a question mark, so I’m not willing to take much lower than her 3-1 morning line odds. However, she gets the services of Jairo Rendon, who has quietly been the hottest jockey on the grounds over the last 30 days. He’s won 25% of his races during that span and is coming off a six win week last week, moving into a tie for second in the jockey standings. If this filly can replicate her last effort at this level, she’s going to be right back in the Winner’s Circle. Joy and Prosperity will be the back marker to keep an eye on this race. While it hasn’t been impossible to close from the back of the pack on the turf lately, horses that have been able to sit a little closer to the pace have had a better chance of winning in grass races here. That being said, Midnight Heiress (#4), who is the morning line favorite, has had trouble hanging on in the stretch throughout her career thus far and her stablemate is stretching out to two turns on the turf for the first time. She’s run two similar Beyer figures in her last two tries, so she could be a candidate to move forward today. Rob the Treasure (#12) will need some assistance to participate in this race, but this mare who is stuck on the AE list, is one of the few longer priced runners that makes sense. She ran third when cutting back to a five furlong sprint at this level two weeks ago. She’s been more effective at two turns and her maiden breaking effort came at this distance on this course back in 2021. If she runs, I see her as a horse with some upside while coming back to a route. Midnight Heiress has been a money burner in her career, but her two turf efforts weren’t too shabby. I may upgrade her if Rob the Treasure is unable to draw into the body of this field, but she feels like a filly better suited for the bottom part of the vertical exotics.
This is fascinating optional $16K claiming/$8K starter allowance race because Parisian Vibe (#6) is the only one of the eight runners in this race that has been a “regular” at this meet. Spanikopita (#4) and Boss Like Beth (#8) have made an appearance here, but the other five runners are making their first start at Monmouth this year, and for most, their first ever start here. This is a bit unusual this deep into a meet. It’s also worth mentioning that Samy Camacho, who sits in a second place tie in the jockey standings, is scheduled to return to the races to ride Parisian Vibe after being sidelined for the last five weeks after injuring his shoulder in a spill at the beginning of July. It’s going to be interesting to see how much Camacho has been paying attention to the races over the last few weeks, and if the main track is still dull toward the inside with front end speed. Parisian Vibe is a speedy type, but I wouldn’t define her as a “need the lead” runner. She was flying home late on the turf back in June, to be second after some issues at the break. She didn’t break cleanly last time out, and was shifted to the outside. She was four wide on the turn, going after The Sweaty Fox, who is a solid filly. She had a much tougher journey, but was still dead game as she continued to battle with the leader, nailing her rival on the wire. That was a huge effort off a five day rest. Gregory Sacco claimed her and gave her five weeks off this time, and brings her back in a protected spot. I think she has a huge chance with this group today. Ifihadachance (#1) feels like the main danger while cutting back from a series of route races. She had a four race win streak over the winter at Parx where two of those races came at this six furlong trip. One of those races came when she started a step slow and rallied from off the pace to score. We’ll see how the course is playing here and if Samuel Marin makes it a priority to get her off the rail in the early stages of this one.
This is a very good maiden special weight race on the turf for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. Like in the race before, there are several new faces to Monmouth Park to contend with here. I landed on Madaket’s Arrow (#7) on top. She was third behind Chad Brown’s Startup Mentality in a race at this condition on the Haskell undercard last month. The face was solid that day, and she was close to the front end. The winner came with a last to first rush that afternoon, and she wasn’t able to go with her late. That was her second career start and her first on the turf as she debuted in May on the Tapeta at Gulfstream for Pletcher. I think there’s less speed signed on today, so Jose Gomez should be able to have her on or near the lead while exerting less effort. I expect her to take a decent step forward in this race. Chad Brown has sent out five older first time starters in turf races at this meet, with three of them finding themselves in the Winner’s Circle. One of them was Program Trading, who just won the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby last weekend in his third career start. He has a 24% hit rate with older first time starters over the last five years and a 28% hit rate with those runners at Monmouth in that span. He unveils a three year old filly in this race named Better Justice (#5), with Maddie Oliver riding. She’s sired by Justify, who has three debut winners from 26 starters on the turf thus far in his stud career. The dam’s only other foal to race was a winner at this distance on the turf in maiden allowance company at Tampa. She’s been working steadily on the main track here and should be well suited to debut on the grass. Augie’s Girl (#8) is a live longshot from the John Servis barn. She debuted in an average maiden special weight on the turf where she was steadied at the break. She appeared to struggle to keep up with the quick tempo in the turf sprint in that race, but she did appear to be traveling comfortably on the grass. I think she’s a logical candidate to stretch out to two turns, being sired by Nyquist out of an unraced More Than Ready mare. The morning line favorite is Wardeya (#4) shipping in from Belmont after running 4th in her most recent effort. From a Beyer standpoint, she’s essentially run the same race in each of her three career starts. She’s cutting back in distance after trying 10 furlongs in her most recent effort. She was beaten by a next out allowance winner two back at Churchill. She’ll take money in this race and she may wind up being faster than her rivals in this race. However, she is giving me vibes on the kind of horse that runs decent figures, but struggles to win races. At short odds in this race, she may be worth covering, but I think better value will lie elsewhere.
I’m intrigued by Indian Buzz (#1) as a price play in this conditioned $5K claiming race. He’s not the most consistent runner in the group, but he has a pair of wins over this oval in his career, and I think he can get the right kind of trip in this race. His effort two back at huge odds in starter allowance company was solid when filling out the exacta behind a superior runaway winner. He struggled last out with time restricted $8K-$7K claimers. However, he was chasing a slow pace from an outside draw. He drew the rail this afternoon and there are as many as three horses posted outside of them that appear faster in the early stages. They should ensure an honest pace and his best races have come when he falls back off the early leaders and makes one sustained run for home. That’s the kind of trip that was winning races on the main track here last week and if the track appears to be playing the same way, I think he’s worth a flyer at 10-1 (ML) or better. The morning line favorite, Bourbon Thunder (#2) may be too good to ignore in this race. He was a handy winner against $7,500-$6,500 N3L claimers in his last start, going wide early, but never really being threatened. He appears to be rounding back into his better form, and if he’s able to duplicate his last effort, I don’t think any of his rivals can go with him here. I am concerned that he could get buried along a rail that has not been the place to be lately. Lord Mio (#5) and Honor the Fleet (#8) are likely going to go for the lead. Maddie Oliver has rail position with this gelding, but that was not really an advantage last week as most of the winners on the main track came with a three or four wide move on the turn. This should be a good race to gauge how the track is playing and if Bourbon Thunder falters with a rail trip, I’d play the rest of the dirt races as if the inside was still no good.
The boys get a chance to run on the turf in this maiden special weight contest for three year olds and upward. I’m not sold on the Chad Brown runner, Screaming Uncle (#3) trying the turf for the first time and neither of the Todd Pletcher firsters, Wisaam Sharaf (#6) or War Stride (#12), the latter of which is the first one to draw in off the AE list, are all that interesting to me. I think the morning line favorite, Coast Along (#4) is going to prove to be too good for this field today. I’m hoping that the presence of those big names, along with the seconditis that Shug McGaughey’s runners have had at this meet, will keep the odds from dipping too low on this West Coast colt. He’s run second in his last three starts, beaten by Program Trading two starts back. He was beaten by a well-meant Pletcher firster, Askari, last time out. That one went on to be a troubled-trip 4th in a loaded allowance race on the Haskell undercard. He’ll be racing this afternoon with the rails all the way out to 36 feet, which should suit his frontrunning style. I think he’ll graduate today, giving McGaughey his second victory of the meet. On deeper tickets and underneath, I think Cumberland (#13) is worth a look if he can draw in. He was vanned off after a dull effort at Belmont last time out. Prior to that, he was very sharp at Gulfstream, when he was nailed on the wire by a horse named Kalik. That one would go on to clear the N1X condition in his next start, and then win the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge Stakes after that. He’s a much better horse than his last race suggests, and he should be a factor if he’s competing. Prince of Troy (#7) would be a logical exotics play that could offer some value. He’s been gradually improving, narrowly missing in maiden claiming company last time out. He does move back up in class, but I think he ‘ll sit the right kind of trip to finish in the money with this group.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $32 Ticket:
We’ll start the week with a bit of a conservative All A/B ticket. I think Shug McGaughey’s runner in the 5th race, Coast Along (#4, R5) is better than his rivals. I do think this sequence could get a little chalky, but I think both Augie’s Girl (#8, R3) and Indian Buzz (#1, R4) are live at double digit morning line odds. I didn’t put Cumberland (#13, R5) on this ticket because I think the chances of him starting are slim, however, I would consider revisiting this ticket if he does participate.
New Jersey bred fillies and mares will sprint six furlongs in this optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance race. This division is not the strongest right now, so Toot Your Horn (#4) is going to be a very short price in this race after a dominating maiden score. She’s sired by Constitution, who currently has a stud fee of $110K. That number was $15K when he was paired with the mare Poochy, who has produced two other runners that have shown promise on the track in the state bred ranks. From a sire standpoint, no one in this field can come close to her father. It’s also worth noting that Patrick McBurney is quietly having a very productive meet, winning with 21% of his starters. He is 1-24 with his horses outside of Monmouth this year and 10-48 with his horses on his home course. Using Beyer Speed Figures, there’s no one that can really come close to her, and I think she has upside to run faster than she did last time out. She’s going to be on the A line for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins this race by daylight. However, she is facing winners for the first time, and if there aren’t scratches, she’ll be facing a larger field. I’m very comfortable with her at or around 2-1, but I feel that even money could be more likely. She’s going to be a short price and there are four horses in this race that ran in the 7/15 race at this condition. The Beyer Figures for that race are very low. However the Equibase figures are significantly higher, which tells me that there could be some value in playing horses like Random Luck (#1) or Sea Maiden (#9), who figure to be longer prices. It’s also worth noting that the runner-up in that race, Bel Pensiero, recently won at this level on the turf when making her next start. There’s enough there for me to make Sea Maiden my top pick, in hopes that we’ll be able to get closer to 12-1 as opposed to her 8-1 morning line. She was 4th in that race on 7/15, chasing the leaders from her middle draw. I like the outside post for her in this spot, and my hope is that Jorge Vargas will be able to track the leaders more comfortably from the high draw. She might be able to get the jump of the heavy favorite in this race. I’m willing to forgive her last race on turf where she finished last at this level in a sprint. I think she is a candidate to improve getting back on the dirt here. Random Luck is a four year old that might be starting to show signs of improving. Perhaps her last race suggests that coming from off the pace the right running style for her, as she came within a neck of pulling off a 37-1 shocker in the aforementioned race at this level in July. I don’t love that the blinkers are coming off after such a strong effort and Romero Maragh is going to have to work out a trip to likely get her off the rail. She’s more of a backup for me, but she’s another one that would be more attractive at odds closer to 12-1 as opposed to her 6-1 morning line figure.
The last turf race of the day is a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. The pace of this race is tough to figure out, because on paper, there are several that look like they could be interested in challenging Influentialous (#2) for the early lead. If that happens, I think a horse that could be coming from off the pace, like Love Foreverafter (#5) could have a decent shot to score here. She was very good when winning her first two starts at Tampa. She came back after a two month break to run third and fourth. She’s been away since the end of April and has been working well for Delgado. English Channel has won with 15% of horses he sired in turf routes over the last five years and the dam of this one was a stakes winner at Calder on the turf. Angela’s Party Girl (#8) is interesting while coming back to a two turn race. Her two turn form at Gulfstream would be very competitive at this level here. She ran a poor race when setting some hot fractions in allowance company here back in May. She was third in a six furlong race at Belmont before running poorly against better in five furlong sprint here last month. She’s not a five furlong horse, and looked a little more comfortable while tracking the leaders in her sprint at Belmont. I think there’s a chance she could try to hook up with Influentialous in the early stages of this one, and I don’t think that scenario ends well for either. However, if she can stalk and pounce, I see her as very dangerous at this level. Golden Haven (#3) was a winner at this level when coming off the pace two starts back. She showed a different dimension in that race after breaking her maiden in gate to wire fashion at Parx. She went to the front on a good course last out and went too quick against a much better starter allowance field. She faded to 10th that day, but she did match her winning Beyer figure from her score two back. She’s another one that could be dangerous if she avoids dueling in the early stages of this one. War Museum (#4) also fits into that category. She broke her maiden two starts back when coming from off the pace with $16K-$14K maiden claimers. She was much closer to the front end at this level when she was narrowly defeated by Golden Haven last time out. She has shown a lot of improvement in her last two starts and she clearly likes this course.
The nightcap is for fillies and mares in a conditioned $7,500-$6,500 claiming race at 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. All seven runners in this race qualified under the N2L condition. There was a massive upset in last Friday’s 8th race and this race could be ripe for another bomb. Redhairedcolleen (#2) is listed at 20-1 on the morning line, and at those odds or better, she might be worth a flyer in a race like this. She’s making her third start off the layoff for Gerald Bennett, who has been keeping her in sprint races. His numbers with runners going from sprints to routes are solid and her maiden breaking score at Tampa in March wasn’t bad. I don’t think she’s fast enough to make the early lead, but I do think she’ll be much closer to the pace, which served her well in her lone victory. She has a lot of poor efforts, so getting a price will be key. I do think she has more upside than some of the other longer priced runners in this race. Luv U Mary Jane (#3) finished 11 lengths behind Mo Town Annie (#7) when they met at this level last month. Luv U Mary Jane wound up on the lead, and that doesn’t appear to be her game. Mo Town Annie had the same wide draw that day when she was claimed by Michael Pino. He brings her right back to the same level, where she has been claimed in her last two starts. I do worry about a bounce, but I will use her in most multi-race wagers because of the lack of depth. Luv U Mary Jane is eligible to improve in her third race off the layoff, so she’ll be on those tickets as well.
Top Pick Winners: 79/337 (23.4%) – $560.60/$1.66 ROI
Fans were treated to an excellent renewal of the Incredible Revenge Stakes on Sunday, with All That Magic gutting out a win by a narrow margin over Train to Artemus, to remain undefeated on the turf. 5 and ½ furlongs, which was the distance of that race, is likely her limit right now, as she appears to be one of those horses that may be more effective in a five furlong dash. There’s not many races like that out there left this season for fillies and mares sprinting on the turf. I do wonder if Kathleen DeMasi would consider taking her to Keeneland for the Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Stakes there, since the Smart and Fancy Stakes at Saratoga comes back a little quick (8/25).