Monmouth Park Racing Preview – 8/20/23 – By Eric Solomon

Two year old fillies take the spotlight today in the Sorority Stakes at one mile on the main track. Todd Pletcher is sending out the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes last month, Wine on Tap to face seven other rivals. That will be the 8th race of the afternoon, scheduled to go off at 3:55 (ET). First post for the 10 race Sunday afternoon 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 4,6,11 7,10 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 4 3,4,5 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 3 3 6 DBL, PK3
4 1 1,8 DBL, PK3
5 11 (AE)/4 4,7,11 3,13 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 4 4,5 8 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 3 3,8 7 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 6 6 7,8 DBL, PK3
9 4 4,7 2 DBL
10 7 7 5


Race 1:

The day starts off with conditioned $16K-$14K claimers going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course, where the rails are out at 24 feet today. Everyone entered in this race qualifies under the N2L condition. Compared to other races at this condition during this meet, this is one of the softer fields on paper. This is a race where there’s not a lot of early pace signed on, especially if the two AE runners, Morethanicanhandle (#11) and Sailor’s Return (#12) are excluded. I think that should allow two runners that had less than ideal trips in their starts on turf, to sit a little closer to the front end. Okletsgo (#6) will be my top pick, making his second start at this level. He was bumped hard and shuffled back when coming out of the chute. He broke well, but was forced to sit behind several horses while a runaway leader set the tempo. As they began their run into the final turn, he was shuffled back to last and had nowhere to run. He did switch out and run on late to get up to 7th, but his trip was not good at all. I see him sitting closer to the front end today instead of at the tail end. He’s a three year old that has run well against better fields, so I’m thinking that this is a fine spot for him to rebound. Frenchy Departed (#4) is another three year old that had a rough trip in his last start on the turf here. He finished last against a much better group for this condition in May, but he also was likely affected by some poor racing luck. He was shuffled in between horses and got very uncomfortable, fighting Carlos Rojas into the first turn. He settled down and ran up on heels with nowhere to go as they made their way into the far turn. At that point, this lightly raced gelding’s day was over. His two turf tries earlier this year at Tampa and the Fair Grounds were competitive, breaking his maiden with $16K maiden claimers in Florida and finishing third with state bred allowance company in Louisiana. His two local races were poor, but I’ll forgive the turf try and draw a line through his last race on the dirt. While the condition stays the same, he’s getting class relief from his last race on the grass and could be another longer priced runner that is live in this wide open event. If he draws in, Morethanicanhandle is going to be a player in this race. His post will not be ideal, but he’s run two strong races in his last two turf routes. He broke his maiden on this course at this distance last year. He’s been doing a lot of different things since, like racing on synthetic in sprints and routes, and sprinting on the dirt and the turf. He’s done all of his best work at longer distances, so I’m not deterred by his recent dull efforts in one turn races. He likely need to be hustled away from the gate, but I do think Rivera can ration his speed if he’s able to clear. I like that he’s getting back to what he does best, assuming he’ll be able to draw into this race. Tap the Candy (#7) was 19-1 at this same level on August 5th, where he finished 6th. He’s the morning line favorite today because his speed figures are typically better than most of his rivals. He narrowly missed at Parx three starts back and has finished midpack in his two local starts at this level. I don’t love him as a favorite in this spot, but I’m not sure there’s any runner in this race that I’d be satisfied with getting 3-1 (ML) with. General Command (#10) is an improving four year old gelding that finished third, beaten less than a length last month. Apprentice Melissa Iorio got him into a good spot after some early bumping and shuffling out of the chute. He was well spotted, leading the second flight of tightly group runners in the same race where Okletsgo was in. He got first run on the runaway leader and battled against two shorter priced horses. They narrowly took got the advantage, but he was in for the fight. Another wide draw is not ideal and I’m not sure he can get such a sweet trip once again. However, he’s another one that is worth using in this spot. 


Race 2:

Fillies and mares will sprint six furlongs in another conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race. However, four of the six runners here are three year olds with multiple wins. Four of these runners met in a race at this level on 7-28, where Astonishing Anabel (#3) narrowly defeated Wheelingndealing (#4) and Belmar Summer (#5), with all three heads hitting the line together. It’s very hard to separate this trio, but I do think that Wheelingndealing ran very well, especially when things got tight in the stretch. In a narrow finish, that might have been the difference between first and second. He broke on the outside and was three wide that day. Today, it looks like he’ll get the perfect stalking stalking trip, right off Astonishing Anabel. That one broke very well last out, but Lopez deferred to the cheap speed on the rail. She outfinished three rivals in the stretch, but adds an extra half furlong today. She could be lone speed and she has some higher speed figures earlier in the year than both fillies that she faced last time. However, with Paco back in the saddle, she figures to be a shorter price than those runners where there’s little that separates them. Belmar Summer was a little slow to get going in that race. She came with a wide bid and couldn’t quite get by, Conventional wisdom says the added distance should be the difference maker for her. That wide move was not working on Friday, but most winners on the main track yesterday came with that kind 3 or 4 wide move that she’s been doing in her last several starts. She’s a five time winner, so I have a lot of respect for her in a race like this. If she can win with that slingshot move, that should give us a pretty good clue about how the course is playing today.


Race 3:

I’m going to get a little aggressive in this N1X allowance race and make Tapestry Colors (#3) my single. She was an impressive debut winner, beating a well meant filly here last year. She went on the shelf for 11 months and returned in a much tougher race at this level. She bobbled and bumped her rival coming out of the gate, allowing a more experienced runner, Lady Irvine to easily make the lead and wire the field. She was chasing that day and tired late. Kathleen DeMasi wins a ton of turf sprints, and I think she’ll have this Tapwrit filly ready to fire today, while facing some rivals that continually get close, but can’t seem to seal the deal in the N1X level. I’ll back up with Hihellohowareyou (#6) shipping here from the Spa. She was 5th in her first trying sprinting on the turf. She broke her maiden at two turns on synthetic, so I’m not completely convinced that this kind of race is what she’s going to do best. I see her as being the runner coming from behind that might have the best chance to run down my top pick in this race. 


Race 4:

New Jersey bred fillies and mares will sprint six furlongs in this maiden special weight. Carats Forever (#8) has been a money burner, losing as the favorite in her last three starts. She was bet down to 2-5 and 1-2 in her last two dirt starts, so the 3-5 morning line feels about right. This is as soft of a group as she’s seen up to this point and I’m willing to forgive her dull effort at this level on the turf last month. She’s handily defeated the runners in this race that she’s faced so far and she’s racing on a track that should play to her strength. As a result, I’ll be compelled to use her. However, Without a Net (#1) feels like the unknown commodity that could beat her here. She’s sired by Daredevil and Breen debuted her on the grass, where his runners win 18% of the time. His runners win 15% of their races sprinting on the dirt, so the surface switch isn’t an issue for me. She broke from Post 8, which is not an easy spot to start from in 5 and ½ furlong turf races, especially for an inexperienced runner. She was four wide out of the chute, and was forced to back out of a tight spot and duck over to the rail. The winner was much the best that day, and that race should prove to be educational for her. This is a weaker group and while I don’t love the rail post for her, the inside has been the better part of the track this week. 


Race 5:

14 two year olds are entered in this maiden special weight contest, but only ten will start. There’s a few runners that are stuck on the AE list that will need some help in order to participate. Rapture Bay (#11) would be the top pick if he draws in. He’s sired by Flatter, who gets 11% winners with first time starters and 10% winners in turf sprints. All three runners that the dam has foaled have been winners, with one winning on debut and another winning second time out. Chiseler her foal that won on debut at two. He was stakes placed at five furlongs on turf was a stakes winner last month at Ellis at 5 and ½ furlongs on grass. This barn is sharp with debuting two year olds if he gets to run. If he is unable to draw in, Perrotto (#4) would default to the top pick. He’s sired by Redesale, who doesn’t have a ton of horses in training. However, he was a Speightstown colt, and his few starters on the turf have won twice when sprinting. The dam won her debut in a two furlong race on synthetic in California and was stakes placed on dirt and synthetic. She foaled Get the Candy, who is a four time turf sprint winner. Greg Sacco is underrated with his debut runners, but he’s had at least one debut winner here in each of the last four meets. Horsepower (#7) is the morning line favorite and he makes a lot of sense, racing for a sharp barn. He was a solid second in his debut last month at this distance, finishing a length behind the winner (who debuted for Jorge Delgado and Carole Star Farms, the same trainer and owner of Rapture Star). Experience is always a plus in races like this, but there’s enough potential talent and pedigree in this field to make sure that you’re getting fair value on this one. Arrow Speed (#13) is another debut runner that is on the outside looking in for this race. The dam foaled the graded stakes winning turf sprinter, Avie’s Flatter. She’s sired by Tapit, so I suspect longer races are going to be in her near future. However, the works are good and this barn is always dangerous with turf sprinters. Todd Pletcher has a pair of runners, and I’m more interested in the longer priced Roi Soleil (#3) and Trevor McCarthy. His dam finished second in her debut on the synthetic and was a Grade 1 winner on dirt and a Grade 2 winner on the turf. Typically, Pletcher’s runners have a longer worktab than this colt, so I like that he’s sending out in this race. While he’s not necessarily known for training turf sprinters, Pletcher has hit with 20% of his debuting two year olds in turf sprints.


WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $75 Ticket

It was challenging to put a ticket together, knowing that there are a few serious runners on the AE list in both the first and the fifth races. The All A/B ticket is $75 as is, however, without the also-eligible runners, the ticket drops to $36. I like Tapestry Colors (#3, R3) a good bit in her second start off the layoff. Kathleen DeMasi wins a ton of turf sprints and I think she showed a lot in her two year old debut last season. 


Race 6:

Conditioned $30K-$25K claimers start off the Late Pick-5. All eight runners in this six furlong race qualify under the N2L condition. The rail might not have been the place to be yesterday, and One America (#1) with his early speed, might have trouble getting off the rail. There;s other runners that will likely be battling the favorite for the lead, and while his figures are sharp, he’s gone over a year without winning and he’s burned a lot of money in the process. I’ll try to beat him with some prices. Threethirtythree (#4)makes his third start off the layoff and interestingly cuts back to a sprint for this race. He closed well to be a close second at this distance at Parx back in March, and I think he’ll get a similar setup in this race. He was a well-beaten 5th in a salty allowance race here on the Haskell Undercard. Coach Adams finished about seven lengths in front of him and he was an easy winner when dropping in class last time out. If closers coming over the top are doing well again today, he’ll be in with a big shot. I Run (#5) is a new acquisition for Claudio Gonzalez, who had another multiple win day yesterday, winning three races. This Cross Traffic ridgling was a winner on debut at Churchill Downs, going a one turn mile with $30K maiden claimers. He struggled in the slop with starter allowance types in the slop at Ellis and he came up empty with $50K claimers at the Spa last month. Gonzalez takes over and hands the reins to Jomar Torres, who rode his winner in the 6th race yesterday. East Coast Girl (#8) is the second choice on the morning line, and should be a part of the early pace battle. He ran some big time efforts in New York in the spring in sprints, and his outside post might be beneficial here. His last two efforts have been subpar, so he was moved to Carlos David’s barn. If he can get him back on track, he might just be better than his seven rivals in this race. 


Race 7:

I like a few price horses in this N1X allowance sprint at 5 and ½ furlongs on the grass. Tap First (#3) comes back to a turf sprint after finishing third at this level on the dirt last week. This is a quick turnaround for Silvino Ramirez, but he’s won with two of his last eight runners to run back in a week or less. He ran very well at this level to be third behind a next out winner when sprinting on the turf for the first time. He drew Post 14 in a tough N1X allowance race on the Haskell Undercard, and the runner-up of that race, Ronstadt, came back to win on yesterday’s card. I see some speed in this race that could set the table for him to get rolling late. Two Steppin Kluki (#8) is another price horse, and I’m thinking that this might be a good spot for him to turn things around. He showed a lot of potential, sprinting on the turf last year, winning a N2X allowance at Tampa. He made less than $17K in that race, so despite clearing the N1X and N2X conditions there, he remains eligible for the N1X level here. He had significant excuses in his last two starts and his effort three back at this level wasn’t bad. Both Ikigai and Biz Biz Buzz, who finished in front of him that day, came back to win in their next starts. Lane Luzzi is going to have to work out a trip from an outside draw, but I think he’s another one that could be involved late. King Moomracer (#7) is going to take attention at the windows after posting a big Beyer on yielding turf at Belmont last month. He’s shipping here for George Weaver, who swept the two year old turf sprint stakes races earlier in the meet. I do suspect that his speed figure for this race might drop a bit from his last race. He is cutting back in distance and will likely be competing on firm going today. However, his prior efforts were still good enough to be right there with these, and I see some vulnerable runners that could be battling on the front end. I don’t know if the value will be there, but I will make sure to cover with him.


Race 8, The $200K Sorority Stakes:

Two year olds will go one mile on the main track, with six of them doing this for the first time. This is a tricky race, but I think Princess Indy (#6) is going to be tough to beat. She was up against Brightwork in the Adirondack two weeks ago at Saratoga, and she finished 5th. Her debut effort on this course two starts ago was solid, coming from off the pace to win. Carlos Rojas had a pair of winners on Friday’s card and he’s been getting a lot of live mounts for Claudio Gonzalez. I think she’ll be running on late here. Wine on Tap (#7) is the morning line favorite, coming off a dull effort in the Schuylerville as the heavy favorite. Her debut win was originally assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 76, but that was downgraded to 56. Equibase still designates that race as a serious effort, so we’ll see how that plays out. She’s bred to be able to handle the distance, and a strong effort here likely punches her ticket to the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland at the beginning of October. Trevor McCarthy comes into ride for Todd Pletcher. When Wine on Tap was defeated in the Schuylerville, she was beaten by a maiden that was saddled by Gary Contessa. He sends out a maiden in this race, Classy Mischief (#8), and he attracts the leader riding, Paco Lopez, to ride. She had a rough time in her debut at the Spa, but she ran well at this distance in an off the turf race on July 30th. She’s entered as a MTO in a maiden allowance race at Saratoga today, but I assume she’ll end up here. The distance experience is a plus for me, as I think many of these fillies could be struggling to find in the later stages of this one. 


Race 9:

The final turf race of the afternoon is a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race where all the runners qualified under the N2L condition. I see an honest pace developing on the front end with Couth (#1) drawn inside of I Lucked Out (#2) and the stretch out sprinter, Chief Engineer (#8) to join them from a wider draw. I think that should set things up for Larger Than Life (#4) who just missed at this level two weeks ago. He’s been sharp in his last two races at this condition, so it seems apparent that this is where he belongs. He has only one win in 16 career tries, however, many of those races came against significantly better fields. Stirling’s Gold (#7) almost got home in a slower race at this level on 7/29. After being roughed up a bit at the break, he was flying home after spending much of the race as the back marker. He may have moved a touch early, but it was a strong effort where he was nailed on the wire by a better runner. He’s been gradually improving and should get a favorable setup again today. I Lucked Out might be good enough for Paco Lopez to find a way to ration his speed. He was strong, losing by only a length at this level in the same race where Larger Than Life was third. He’s making only his 5th career start, so the ceiling could be higher for him. Lopez has been extra sharp this week and I think the public will be all over his horses, more so than usual. However, the work he’s doing on the track can’t be ignored either. 


Race 10:

The shorter prices feel like they have the advantage in this $8K-$7K N4L claiming race that wraps up the week. Mister J T (#7) was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez out of a race at this level last month where he came through late to get into third, about three lengths behind Box of Chocolates (#5) who is favored today. That was his first start over this course and now he runs for a higher percentage outfit and gets a significant rider upgrade to Jairo Rendon. Look for him to be rolling off the turn over the top today. Box of Chocolates narrowly lost at this level and now gets the leading rider, Paco Lopez, to pilot him in another race at this same condition. He’s been popular at the claim box, as Wayne Potts re-claimed him after losing him to Silvino Ramirez two starts ago. He came with the over the top move last time and almost got up. My major concern is taking such a short price on a horse that hasn’t won a race in over a year. He’s been right there in his last two and figures to be right in the thick of things again today. 


Meet Statistics/Notes:

Top Pick Winners: 87/381 (22.9%) – $611.20/$1.60 ROI 

After a Friday afternoon card where all six races were won by horses on or near the front end, horses coming from off the pace on the main track were back to having a significant advantage on Saturday. Horses that stayed away from the rail seemed to run significantly better and that seemed most apparent in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes. As expected, Zozos was able to make the lead quite easily, and Geroux had him down on the rail for the entire race. Both Trademark and Whelen Springs came with their moves, wider on the course, and Zozos looked like he was traveling in quicksand. The Arkansas bred, Whelen Springs, was better in the stretch and he held on to win, giving trainer Lindsay Schultz her first graded stakes victory as a trainer. She’s done a fabulous job bringing this four year old along this year, and he continues to get better under her care. 

Leading jockey, Paco Lopez won three races on the Saturday card, and his ride on No Valla in the 7th race yesterday is a perfect example of how he can upgrade a horse. This five year old mare has been a tricky horse to ride, and at 3-2 in that N1X allowance, I was all about trying to beat her. She had a rough trip, breaking out and then fighting Lopez while getting stuck in behind horses. Instead of trying to get her to settle in behind the leaders, he found an early seem and sent her through to the lead before they got into the second turn. That aggressive move was the difference maker for her clearing the N1X condition. 

In that same race, I mentioned Kotyle as a crazy longshot to keep an eye on. She went off at 60-1, and was a part of the early mix. She settled in behind horses as Lopez moved early and she was in position to make a run before before forced to steady on the turn. I liked that she still finished with interest and got back on track quickly, finishing 5th, beaten 9 and ¼ lengths. I doubt she was going to win had she not been forced to check, however, I do think she showed that she is continuing to progress and should be able to handle two turns on the turf. I’m not sure if she’ll be able to clear the N1X condition here or at the Meadowlands this season, but I do think her unheralded trainer, Otabek Umarov, is doing a nice job with her. She might be a name to throw into your stable mail to see where she ends up next, because I do think there are many races where she could be a live longshot.

One other performance of note came in the third race yesterday when Camila T. crushed a maiden special weight field of two year olds. She’s sired by No Nay Never, who also sired No Nay Mets, the dominating winner of the Tyro Stakes earlier in the meet. This one clearly will be considered for a stakes race for her next start, and I would think the Matron at the Belmont at the Big A meet might be circled for her encore performance. 


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