It’s Iselin Day at Monmouth Park, which is the last graded stakes of the 2023 meet. A field of six has been assembled for the signature race for older dirt horses in New Jersey. While this is not a Win and You’re In Race for the Breeders’ Cup, the winner does receive $15K toward entry in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita this November. There’s also a pair of competitive turf allowance races that will sandwich the feature race on the ten race program. First post for the Saturday 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||3||3||4,9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6||6||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||2||2||5,13,14||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||3||3||6,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||2||1,2||9,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$16K-$14K maiden claiming fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf will get things started today. In a field where many have had several chances and failed, I’ll give the edge to Never So Lucky (#3), making her third career start. She was a distant third in a strong race at this condition when making her debut. A Chad Brown class dropper crushed that group by 11 lengths that afternoon. She drew Post 11 that day and was about 6 or 7 wide coming out of the chute. She was three wide on the first turn and made a solid middle move into a strong pace. She was three wide on the second turn and flattened out to narrowly lose second, but to hold off two others that were coming on late. I thought her effort was solid for her debut and today she’ll get significant post relief against a field that lacks a standout. She feels like the one to beat. Pimenova (#4) moves to the Robert Falcone barn after struggling at Saratoga with state bred $40K maiden claimers in her most recent try. Falcone has great numbers with new acquisitions and he scored with one of them here at decent odds last week (Extreme Access, 8-1 on Friday, 8-11. While I don’t think we’ll get that number on this filly, I do see possibly being able to get back on track with the class relief. Even though her last effort was dull, her best career efforts were at two turns and prior to that race, she sprinted twice in New York, with slowish figures to show for those efforts. Kelly Breen brings back Aperol Spritz (#9) for the first time since a career top effort on the grass with state bred $40K maiden claiming company at Aqueduct in the spring. She was slow into stride that day, lingering in last place, but she came with a powerful late move, while swinging very wide on the turn. She got into third that afternoon, beaten less than three lengths. Post 9 is not ideal for this race, but she should be able to slide ear the back of the pack and come with a similar type of run today.
Fillies and mares go 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track in this conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claiming race. Even though she’s dropping a notch in class, I like the move by Claudio Gonzalez to reclaim Coal Mine (#6) here. It seemed like he was just figuring out how to get the most from this filly when she was claimed by Dawn Skelton. Her three efforts after the claim were poor, although, some of those races came against significantly better company. He reached in and took her for $16K in a 5 and ½ furlong sprint on the dirt where she was a non-factor. She ran a decent figure when she finished third at two turns against better and she’s sired by Mineshaft, so there’s reason to believe to that she’s going to be better at two turns. I’m looking for a rebound effort against a soft field where she may have a tactical edge, stalking some of the speed to her inside. Saweetie Girl (#1) is the likely pacesetter in this spot, getting back on the dirt for the first time since she broke her maiden with $25K maiden claimers at Tampa in January. She led for awhile in a nine furlong turf race against significantly better horses last out before fading badly. She drops in class and comes back to the dirt for Carlos David. His numbers with horses going from turf to dirt are strong and she figures to be one they’ll have to catch today.
Two year old fillies are dashing five furlongs on the turf in this maiden special weight contest. 13 are entered, but with rails at 12 feet, only 11 can run. Kent Sweezy and Lane Luzzi teamed up to win with a 30-1 debut runner on the turf here a few weeks ago and today they’ll team up to debut Master Jane (#10). Sweezy only has hit with 7% of his debuting two year olds in the last five years, however, that number goes up to 13% (3-24), when talking about his babies that debut on grass. She’s sired by Candy Ride, who does well first firsters on the grass and she’s the first foal to run from a mare that did all of her work on the grass and synthetic. Camila T. (#6) is from a sharp barn, especially with their turf sprinters. As a daughter of No Nay Never, the pedigree is there for juvenile success. Her dam did not run, but she was sired by War Front, which is another plus in my book. Amy Mule (#3) makes her second career start after finishing midpack in her debut. Tony Wilson has done well getting his runners to improve in their second career starts. Army Mule horses have been awesome sprinting on the dirt, but not nearly as productive on the grass. Samy Camacho rode the dam to her only two career wins, one of which came on the turf, and he’ll ride this filly for the first time today. Bright Kohana (#9) debuted in a $40K-$30K maiden claiming race on the dirt, where she led most of the way and faded late. Chuck Spina’s horses do improve with more races, and I’m not completely sold that turf is where she;s going to be her best work. However, I do like betting back horses that showed speed in their debuts, and the fact that she has a race under her belt could certainly be beneficial.
I was really trying to find a viable alternative to the heavy favorite, Miss Casey (#4) in this spot, but I think she’s just faster than these. She has a significant edge in Beyer and Equibase Speed Figures. She was second with better two back and now drops in class for the leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez. Her last win came at this level in January at Laurel so this is the first time that she;s been eligible for this N1Y condition since then. I don’t trust that Del Ray Dolly (#3) can get back to her July 2022 form, so Salsa Rita (#7) feels like a better backup, especially after watching the way the main track was playing yesterday. She draws the outside and she has the early speed to clear this field if that’s what Melissa Iorio wants to do. She’s another apprentice rider that has gained a lot of confidence in her rides as this meet has gone on. I think she’s better at shorter distances than six furlongs, but I’m not sure that there will be many legitimate shots coming from the back of the pack here.
I’m going to wager that Dream Liner (#2) is strictly going to be the one to beat in this open $12,500-$10,500 claiming event on the turf. He ran in all four legs of the Malouf Auto Group Starter Series races last season, winning the race contested at 1 mile and 1/16. He was competitive at Tampa in their starter handicap series over the winter before going on the shelf. He was flat in his return to the races at this level at the end of June, but he was claimed by Robert Falcone, who has great numbers first off the claim. He gave him a little time off and has worked him three times since that race, with each work getting progressively faster. Falcone’s winning percentage with horses running back within a month of him claiming them is only 8%. However, when he runs those horses back in 31-60 days after the claim, his win percentage climbs to a stellar 32%. Dream Liner fits that condition in here and should get the right setup to run down his rivals in the stretch. He’s drawn well in a race where I think his two biggest foes are stuck on the AE list, and even if Cabinet Pik (#13) and/or Graded On a Curve (#14) draw in, they’re going to be stuck on the far outside, and they’re going to need to navigate a trip where they’ll have to avoid significant ground loss. I’ll be comfortable using him as a single in the payoff leg in the Win-Early Pick-5. If either Cabinet Pik or Graded On a Curve draws in, I’d be okay backing up with either or both of them. Assuming they’re both on the outside looking in, Dazzling Truths (#5) would be the one I’d turn to. He was flying late when facing better, to be a close up 5th last time out. He’s best when he can stay within range of the frontrunners though. He went off at 65-1 in his last race after not showing up in a loaded field at this level on the Haskell Undercard. I think he ran well enough l;ast out to consider using him on deeper tickets, and if his odds float above his 12-1 morning line, I’d be willing to throw a few bucks on him to win.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $24 Ticket:
My All A/B ticket will cost a modest $24 this afternoon, keying in on Dream Liner (#2, R5) in the final leg. I think that race will be wagered as a wide open event, but I think he has a big shot in that race, running for a barn that has been red hot at this meet. Staying narrow in the second and fourth races keeps the ticket cost low enough to spread deeper in the two year old maiden sprint in the third race.
The Late Pick-5 starts with an optional $16K claiming/ N1X allowance race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. Leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez sends out a pair of runners coming off career top efforts. Catch the Smoke (#2) is the morning line favorite and the runner that I’ll be trying to beat in this spot. He beat time restricted claimers easily with an over the top rally on a day where the inside speed was struggling. The course seems to be playing very differently this week, giving an edge to horses that are on the front end. He’s moving up in class and the fact that Jomar Torres seemingly close to ride Your Analysis (#7) for Gonzalez after romping with him last time feels meaningful. I think Roadtriptonowhere (#3) is a major player in this race/ He could be loose on the lead on a course that was very kind to front end speed yesterday. E’s coming out of a strong race at this condition at Parx, which was probably their best N1X allowance field of the summer there. He won his two prior starts on the dirt before that last race and should be tough to catch in this spot with Paco Lopez taking the mount. Beyond Best (#6) is one that I’ll be backing up with in this spot, also coming in from Parx. His trainer Ernesto Padilla-Preciado doesn’t run a ton of horses here but he did get his first local winner two weeks ago. He is 5 for 13 in the last 90 days with horses that are coming back after winning their last start. His pedigree is strong as a son of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare and he looks like he’s starting to come into his own. I will also backup with Your Analysis, who handily defeated a softer claiming field here last month. Gonzalez gave him a little extra time off after that big effort, but he moves him up in class, which I see as a positive. He’s worked four times since that race, and I’m assuming Torres was aboard for some of them. He’s going to have to work out a trip, but I do see him having a shot in this race.
This is a very nice N1X allowance race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. I’m not sold on the morning line favorite, No Valla (#4), who doesn’t seem as sharp this year as she did last year. I thought her effort at this level two back was disappointing and she should have easily beat the starter allowance field she was in last month which was a much softer group than she’s facing today. She opened up at the top of the stretch but was nailed on the wire. I see Ruda (#2) as the most likely winner in this spot. She’s coming off a win in a slow, off the turf, starter allowance race at Saratoga. She comes back home and gets back on the grass where she ran three sharp races this season. She was flying home late to be third when drawing the outside post at this level in July. She was pace compromised when finishing 4th two back. She didn’t seem as comfortable rallying in between runners that day. The winners of those two races, Uncorked and White Lilacs, just dueled to finish one-two in a very narrow photo in N2X company last week. I think it’s her turn today. The Classy One (#1)is an interesting New Jersey Bred filly moving back to open company after tough trip in a state bred handicap last month. She’s making her third start of the year and I see her sitting on a career top effort. She is bred to be strong on the turf and I think she’s an interesting runner with this group. Kotyle (#9) is an interesting runner in this race that could be a huge number when making her first start at two turns. She broke her maiden over the winter at Turfway in March and was privately purchased. She now runs for a trainer, Otabek Umarov, who appears to only have her as his only active runner in his stable. She ran a credible third at this level when sprinting on the synthetic when making her first start for Umarov. She was entered in the Andy Guest Stakes at Colonial where she was the longest shot on the board at 70-1. She finished 9th that day, but her effort wasn’t terrible. She makes her third start off the layoff and her first at two turns. Her sired Kantharos gets only 6% winners from horses routing on the turf for the first time and 10% winners from horses routing on turf in general. The dam sire is Kitten’s Joy, so the potential to go longer should be there. She’s listed at 15-1 and could easily be overlooked and sent off at larger odds than that. I think she’s more likely to finish at the bottom of an exacta or trifecta, but if her odds go north of 20-1, I’d be willing to throw a few bucks on her to win as well. Good American (#10)is another wild card, making her first start since December for Shug McGaughey, Her European form wasn’t anything special and she struggled in an off the turf marathon at 12 furlongs on the Tapeta in the Via Borghese Stakes, which was her only North American start. This feels like a more realistic spot for her to make her four year old debut. Most of her races have been at longer distance, so this could be more of a starting off point for her. However, she has been working well at Fair Hill and McGaughey has strong numbers with runners coming off the bench.
Race 8, The Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes:
The last graded stakes race of the year in New Jersey has a history of some brilliant winners. Names like Ghostzapper, Skip Away, Formal Gold, Black Tie Affair, and Spend A Buck, are just a few of the runners that have taken home the top prize in this race. All signs point to the favorite, Zozos (#4) for Brad Cox and Florent Geroux adding his name to this impressive roster. After jumping into the Derby Trail quickly last year, Cox has mapped out a much more conservative campaign for him this year. He’s coming into this race after three straight wins and three straight triple digit Beyer Figures. I don’t see anyone going with him in the early stages of this one and he’s more than capable of handling the two turns of this 1 mile and 1/16 contest. His main rival, Weyburn (#1) for Todd Pletcher, has been a much better horse at one turn. The track was very kind to front end speed yesterday, so the recipe is there for a 4th straight win. On deeper tickets, Trademark (#5) would be the runner that I would use. After sniffing the Derby Trail last year, he made steady progress in his four year old season, winning the Schaffer Memorial Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis Stakes last month. His last four speed figures on the dirt are trending upwards. If this race were run two weeks ago on a course that was very kind to runners coming from off the pace, I think I would have made him the top pick. However, if this course appears to be playing anywhere close to where it was playing yesterday, I think he’s more likely to finish second or third today.
This is another N1X allowance race on the turf, and this one feels like the best betting race on the card. I really like the efforts on the turf from Speight’spercomete (#3), who I’ll try on top. He was good defeating a modest N3L claiming field at this distance in his turf debut two starts back. He faced a very salty allowance group where he was stuck in Post 12. Rivera had no choice to send him, especially when the likely pacesetter broke poorly. He battled on the front end all the way down the backstretch and faded late to 5th, beaten only 3 and ¼ lengths. He’s versatile enough to run any kind of race and I think after pairing his first two turf Beyers, he could be sitting on a bigger effort today. Samburu (#6) is also very interesting, joining Kent Sweezy’s barn after competing in Southern California this spring. He cleared the N1X condition when winning a handicap at York last spring, however, his purse share translated to less than $17K, thus making him eligible for this level at Monmouth. He’s been facing much tougher N2X fields in Kentucky, Florida, and California, so there is definite class relief coming his way. I think this four year old gelding also has a big shot here. Hoku (#4) did not draw in off the AE list yesterday at Laurel, so he figures to be racing today. He’s a lightly raced four year old that always seems to show up in his grass races for Michael Pino. Jairo Rendon has won at a 26% in turf routes on this course in the last 60 days, so in this spot, I see that as a positive rider change. On deeper tickets, Great King (#1) feels like a wild card in this race that could be overlooked in the wagering. He’ll be making his first start at two turns on the turf today. He started his career in Europe and had one second in four turf tries over there. He ran well in a pair of routes on synthetic when he first came over to the States, but he’s been focused mainly on one turn dirt races since. He draws the rail for his third start off the layoff. On Redboard Rewind with Spencer Luginbuhl a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d likely be trying to beat Ronstadt (#5) when he ran back after his game second place finish in that loaded N1X allowance race on the Haskell Undercard. He got a beautiful rail trip to get into second, but that hole became wide open when others were trying to avoid an injured rival. Many in that race were affected by the incident, but he was one that was able to benefit. He’s a nice horse, but I think he’ll be bet down with the presence of Florent Geroux on his back. I’m also siding against the morning line favorite, Cosmic Speculation (#9). He posted a huge figure on a soft course at Delaware last month, but his efforts on firm courses have been more pedestrian. He draws a wide post in a race where there is a lot more talent. I respect the connections, but I think they’re going to have to send him hard and there are many talented rivals that will be running on late.
The day wraps up with a $7,500-$6,500 N3L claiming race where I think there two short prices have a strong edge over their six rivals. I think Bullet On Tap (#7) has the pace edge over the morning line choice, Song Saver (#2). She’ll be getting a fast course today after racing in the slop in her last two tries. She has a good amount of tactical speed from her outside draw and should be able to stalk and pounce when R Love On the Run (#1) comes back to the field as she has been doing in her last several starts. She’s dropping in class and should be finishing much stronger today. Song Saver broke her maiden on this course last season, and cleared the N1X condition in her next start. She has struggled since and since coming back from a layoff, she really hasn’t shown the same early speed that showed when she was running her best races. She did close well last out to get into 4th at Penn National, but that kind of trip wasn’t successful yesterday. She still figures to be better than most in here, but I think Bullet On Tap will have the edge.