It’s hard to believe that there’s only three weeks left in the 2023 meet at Monmouth Park and today is the last Friday card for the season. There are three days of racing this week, following the normal schedule. There are three days of racing next weekend, however, instead of racing on Friday, they’ll race on Labor Day Monday here. After that, we’re left with two final days of racing on Saturday 9/9 and Sunday 9/10. Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey shifts to the Meadowlands for five weeks of all-turf racing on Friday and Saturday nights. First post for the final Friday, eight race card of 2023 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||4||4,8||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||7||7,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||1,2,8||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||8||8||4,9||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||8||3,8||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
A field of eight (not including the MTO runner) are entered in this maiden special weight sprint on turf. The race is carded for three year olds and up, but all runners that passed through the entry box are three. I’m siding with the second time starter, Egyptian Quest (#4) in this race. He debuted at this level for Kathleen DeMasi, finishing 5th, beaten four lengths. Five of DeMasi’s six winners at the meet have been with turf sprinters. Horses sired by Nyquist have won 15% of their turf sprints. The dam broke her maiden going a mile on the turf and one or her two other foals to race has a win on the grass. I think with the race experience and the fact that he was recently gelded, he’ll be able to make up the necessary ground. Italian Symphony (#8) finished second in his turf debut in the same race. He had a pair of second place efforts at Presque Isle on the Tapeta there prior to shipping to the Jersey Shore. The dam was a multiple stakes winner on dirt, winning all ten of her career starts on the main track. This Mendelssohn gelding has never run on the dirt, but has been effective in his first three tries. I’m hopeful that he’ll show a little more speed while posted to the outside in this field. Early speed is not an issue for Classic Performer (#7) who crossed the finish first when facing maiden special weight fillies last week.She wheels back quickly and faces the boys when doing so. On one hand, I respect the confidence her connections have in her. However, this is a deeper field than what she was up against last week.
Two year old $25K-$20K maiden claiming fillies will dash five furlongs on the main track here. Two of the runners with experience, Lisa’s Palace (#7) and Raichu (#8) are getting significant class relief and I’m going to ride with both of them here, giving slight preference to Lisa’s Palace. She adds blinkers after debuting in a restricted maiden special weight at Saratoga last month. It’s never easy breaking from the rail, which she had to do in a field of 10. Her trip wasn’t great that day and moving to an outer stall should work to her benefit. Breen brought her back to his home base here and drops her to a more suitable level for her second career try. I’m expecting a better effort against a lackluster field. Raichu tried the turf last out in an open maiden special weight race at Saratoga. She was beaten by a nice horse, Kodiac Wintergreen, who was second to two-time stakes winner, Amidst Waves, in her previous start. Her debut came on the main track at Belmont against a slow maiden special weight there. Avila has two runners in this race and for him to assign Batista to this one (whereas Huayas rides his debut runner), tells me that she is the better of the pair.
Fillies and mares will go six furlongs in this conditioned $5K claiming race. There is a decent amount of speed signed on for this race. Last week, closers coming over the top had a distinct advantage in the dirt races on Saturday and Sunday. It was definitely advantageous to be closer to the front end on Friday though. I think Ninja Abarrio (#2) is a dangerous horse regardless of how the track is playing. She made her first start since January last month and was a little keen in the early stages of that race. She tired late to finish 3rd, a little more than eight lengths behind Kashan (#7) that day. This is one of those times where I think this runner should be able to make up that ground today. I think Kashan overperformed last out when setting the fractions on the front end. Ninja Abarrio wound up right on her heels, chasing her, instead of rating kindly off the pace. She should be more fit after that last start, while making her first start off Carlos Perez off the claim. I didn’t love seeing this one at that level last time out, but I do think she’s capable of improving today. Nothins Free (#8) is one to watch if it looks like early speed has a fair shot. I think she’s faster than her rivals from the gate and her outside draw should allow her to cross and clear while on the lead. She has two wins on this oval and 8 wins in 33 starts at this distance. Michael Pino has strong numbers with new acquisitions, and horses that are running back off a 2-6 month break, which she is doing today. Wilfred Vasquez has ridden two winners for three starts elsewhere for Pino and he is named to ride at Monmouth for the first time today. Peacelovenkarma (#1) is a deeper closer in this race and she might get the right setup, depending on how much pace pressure is applied to Nothins Free. She’s making her first start off the claim in this spot and is another runner with a good record at this track and at this distance. Luis Rivera Jr. might have to concede a little bit of ground on the leaders to get off the rail, but I think she’s worth using in this spot as well.
The three favorites in this $12,500-$10,500 maiden claiming sprint are all professional maidens that tried and failed to win in 36 races combined. I can’t play them with any confidence in this race, but I think M B’s Munning (#8) could be a major player in this race and I’d be thrilled to get anywhere near his 8-1 morning line figure. He was well backed in his debut against $20K maiden claimers at Churchill. The remnants from a tropical system were coming through Louisville that day and the course was extremely sloppy and this colt didn’t fire at all. He went to the sidelines and returned in a turf sprint against $16K-$14K maiden claimers where he faded to 6th after showing a little early interest. He makes his second start off the layoff and comes back to the dirt today which is a bit of a question mark. His half brother, Francatelli was a stakes winner on this oval and won both of his starts here. He was a multiple stakes winner, winning stakes races on turf as well. The dam has produced another runner that was stakes placed on turf and another one that was a two-time winner in dirt sprint races. While he might not be as talented as his siblings. There is enough in his pedigree to suggest that he can move forward at this level. I’d be comfortable using him as a single in the multi-race wagers. I’d use both Dr. Roger (#4) and New Jersey Heist (#9) as backups in this spot. Dr. Roger is one of the short priced, professional maidens I was referencing above. Of that trio, he is more appealing to me than either Liotta (#2), who seems to be better on grass, and West Star (#5), who seems to want more distance. He’s making his first start in nearly two years, but his figures would make him competitive at this level if he’s able to run back to them. Avila has good numbers off longer layoffs and the works aren’t terrible. New Jersey Heist continues to improve for Anthony Margotta, showing speed figure gains in his last few starts. He’s cutting back to a sprint on the main track, which his pedigree suggests should be suitable. His gains have come in route races on dirt and turf, so that is a bit of a question mark. However, at longer odds, he’s more interesting than some of the shorter priced options.
There’s several logical options in this $40K-$30K maiden claiming race going 1 mile and 1/16 on the grass. I’ll try the New York invader, Whenlovestakesover (#8) on the drop in class. He was very good when narrowly losing in a two-turn maiden special weight race at Aqueduct three starts back. He struggled in a one-turn 1 mile and 1/16 race at that level at Belmont two back and again in a 10 furlong race there at that same level. He’s faced better fields and now comes back to a shorter distance at two turns against softer competition. I like that Samy Camacho is taking the mount and I’m expecting a better overall effort. Interstellar (#3) has two dull efforts in maiden allowance company, but he does have a strong race against maiden/optional claimers two starts back in April at Gulfstream. He might have needed his last race and wheels back in two weeks after having significant gaps between his other races. This feels like a better spot for him after having a wide trip with better in first local start. That Sun of a Gun (#2) ran his best career speed figure on the grass at this level last out when making a four wide bid. He should benefit from this draw and he’s been gelded since that last effort. Even though he hasn’t been close, I do like that his speed figures are improving. Life On the Nile (#1)is going to try the turf for the first time after faltering on the dirt in his first 14 tries. He’s faced some tough fields and missed by narrow margins in a few of those races. He drops back in for a tag and draws the rail, which should play well on this course for his style. Pioneerof the Nile gets 14% in turf routes over the last five years, and his dam was a multiple winner on the grass and won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on synthetic in 2009. I know he has raced several times at his Oaklawn base over the past two years, but I’m a little surprised this is his first try on the turf. Regardless, he’s too classy to ignore at this level.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $36 Ticket:
I’m hoping to cash in with this ticket by trying to get skinny in two of the races that might be considered “spread races”. I think M B’s Munning (#8, R4) makes a lot of sense in the 4th race, so I’ll try to get away with using him as a single, in spite of his 8-1 morning line figure. With the two year olds in the second race, I think the class edge for both Lisa’s Palace (#7, R2) and Raichu (#8, R2) should be the difference maker in a race where I don’t think much of the first time starters.
$50K-$40K conditioned claimers are going six furlongs in the race that will start the final Pick-3 of the afternoon. Leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez, has a pair of runners here, and I’m interested in both. Turn On the Charm (#3) is the one that’s going to draw more attention from the betting public, but I think Sistren (#5) is more interesting. There was a race last Saturday where Gonzalez sent out two runners. Jomar Torres rode one of them to a dominating win in his previous start, but opted to ride Gonzalez’s other runner in that race. Torres won the race aboard his new mount, a horse he had never ridden on race day before. Gonzalez doesn’t have one “go to” rider at Monmouth, and from what I can tell, his rider choice seems to be tailored to the individual horse. We get a similar type of scenario today with Carlos Rojas, who rides Sistren today. Rojas has won 17% of his races in 2023, but he’s won 30% of the races he’s ridden for Gonzalez. Rojas rode both horses in lower level claiming races last out. Turn On the Charm was an easy winner last out with conditioned $30K-$25K claimers, coming over the top with a four wide rally. Sistren dropped to $25K-$20K claimers last out and ran an improved second when Rojas rode her for the first time. She had gone off form for a bit while facing stiffer competition. She was claimed for $12,500 and even though she hasn’t won yet for her new connections, I think she well-regarded by them based upon how she’s been campaigned. She appears to be trending back in the right direction and I think she’s sitting on a big race. Turn On the Charm has finished in front of this filly the last two times they met, so I’m not ready to toss her by any means. She’ll likely be a short price though, and I think the value will be with her stablemate today. On deeper tickets, Raw Power (#7) is a horse that feels like a bit of a wild card here. She was very good when running a big race in maiden allowance company two starts back, being two Pletcher horses and one Brown runner. She posted a career best Beyer that day when routing. She tried allowance company on the Haskell Undercard, in a race that wasn’t as deep as some of the other allowance races that day. She was a non-factor that day and now drops in class while cutting back in distance. She was wide throughout that day, and could move up when going shorter. I’ll save her for deeper tickets and underneath in the vertical exotics, assuming she’ll offer the right value.
$16K-$14K N3L claimers will go 1 mile and 1/16 in the final turf race of the afternoon. More Than Work (#9) is the one to beat in this race, getting back on the grass after two off the turf races with better company at Saratoga. He stumbled at the break last time, losing Kendrick Carmouche. He was a voided claim in the start before that, so this pick is not without risk. Kathleen DeMasi takes over the training and gives him another shot on the grass, where he has done his best work. There’s been some tailing off in his form, but if he’s able to revert back to his better races, he’s going to be awfully tough to beat in this race. Title Shot (#7) is the morning line favorite after a pair of competitive efforts when facing $20K-$18K N3L claimers in his last two starts. He ran very well last out, but had to check pretty significantly in the stretch when a tiring runner came in tight on him. I’m not sure he was going to win that race, but the final effort was likely going to be better than the 73 Beyer that he posted. He did have a pretty sweet trip up until the interference in the stretch. He breaks closer to the outside this afternoon, so Camacho will be tasked with avoiding ground loss out of the chute and into the first turn. For me, he’s a major player in this race and it’s going to come down to what kind of value I’ll be getting on these two shorter priced runners. Kabod (#2) is a little interesting to me here, making his first start on the grass, while moving up the class ladder after a win on dirt last month. He was a tough one to figure that day, going off at 19-1 when facing $12,500 N2L claimers. The second and third place finishers from that race came back winners when making their next start, so even though it was a lower level race, there was some definite quality for that condition. The dam ran twice on the grass, finishing a close up second in a maiden special weight race at Santa Anita. Union Rags doesn’t have great numbers with turf routers, winning only 6% of the time. However, I think he’ll be well positioned and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull off another upset here.
Two year old $40K-$30K maiden claimers will go one mile on the main track in the nightcap. I’m interested in a pair of runners from the freshman crop of Preservationist in this race. Peace Not War (#4) is the shorter price, but I think there’s value in trying Real Sensation (#7) on top. Greg Sacco sends out this baby for his third career start. He’s the only runner in this race with distance experience, even though that race came on the turf. It’s not uncommon to see horses that are more likely to succeed on the dirt entered in early two year races at two turns on the turf, just because there aren’t many two turn dirt options available until later in the racing season. His debut wasn’t terrible, finishing 4th in the slop at five furlongs. His pedigree says he’ll be better at longer distances and I see that last race as being a huge plus here. Peace Not War has a pair of nice efforts in maiden special weight company to start his career. He stretches out for his third start, which is always a pattern that I find to be favorable. He’s the 2-1 morning line favorite though, and I would prefer to see him entered in a two turn maiden allowance race on the dirt, instead of being in for the tag. His first two efforts are too good to ignore at this level though. I don’t love the outside draw, but I think Catalina Kid (#8) will also improve at two turns. He was a distant second to a runaway winner with racing experience when making his debut. He didn’t have a clean break, but I do like that he was able to recover to get a piece of the action. Sacco also trains him ,and his numbers with second time starters are strong.
Top Pick Winners: 91/391 (23.3%) – $641.20/$1.64 ROI
It was a banner day on Sunday for jockey Samuel Marin, winning with four of his six mounts on the afternoon and finishing second with another. He swept the early double, riding both races for Tony Wilson, and scored with a $25 horse (Fitts) in allowance company later on the card. That effort allowed him to leapfrog both Isaac Castillo and Nik Juarez into 4th place in the jockey standings.
The featured race Sunday was the Sorority Stakes, which was won by Princess Indy, who rallied past the heavy favorite, Win on Tap for Todd Pletcher. Princess Indy stopped the clock in a slowish 1:41:72, but she’ll get some black type, winning this race for leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who was able to win three more races on the Sunday program.