Monmouth Park Racing Preview – 8/27/23 – By Eric Solomon

The weekend ends with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival this afternoon at Monmouth Park. All ten races on the program are restricted to horses that were bred in the Garden State. There are big fields and competitive races throughout the afternoon. The New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap and the Eleven North Handicap are the co-featured races on the program. First post for the Sunday action 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 2 2,7 5,10 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 11 3,11 7,13 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 5 5 8 DBL, PK3
4 8 6,8 2,11 DBL, PK3
5 3 1,3 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 11 11 2 8 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 6 6 1,3 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 4 4,5,8 DBL, PK3
9 8 7,8 5 DBL
10 11 11 2,12,13


Race 1:

The card begins with a state bred maiden special weight contest for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. Several of the runners in this race are coming out of the maiden allowance race at this condition on July 29th. Changing the Karma (#1) finished second, Vesparo (#7) was third, Jersey Gregg (#5) was 4th, and Just Comply (#10) was 5th that afternoon. In that race, Just Comply drew the rail and set the tempo, with Vesparo pressing him on the outside. Jersey Gregg sat just off the leaders while Changing the Karma sat near the back of the field. Go To the Kingdom was the winner that day and he was the best runner in that race once the was able to shake free. All four of these runners are live and evenly matched, while coming back at this level today. However, I’m going to try a longshot to beat them. Max’s Glory (#2) is the pick for me in this race, trying a turf route for the first time. He debuted at the Meadowlands last fall in a five furlong sprint on a good course where he was outrun. He waited until May to make his return and he just missed in a 5 and ½ furlong dirt sprint that afternoon. He had notable trouble two back and was a wide third last time out, both when going six furlongs on the main track. He’s sired by Tonalist, who gets 9% winners on the turf and his dam, who has had 12 different runners hit the track, has had five of them find the Winner’s Circle in races on grass. He has a good post and appears ready to try to stretch out. Vesparo drew a wide post last time out and sat a little closer to the leaders than I think he prefers. I can’t blame Castillo for trying to be aggressive in that race, especially when some of the other speed in that race didn’t materialize. He weakened late that day in what was his 4th career start and only his second turf route. I see him having more upside and a better turf pedigree than Changing the Karma or Jersey Gregg.  Greg Sacco adds blinkers with Jersey Gregg today after he finished 4th last time out. I thought Paco Lopez gave him a brilliant ride when not putting him on a pace that looked like it could be contentious. He was in the perfect striking position in 4th with a clean, ground saving trip. I was all in on Go To the Kingdom that day, and I thought I was in trouble when watching his trip. However, when he came through along the rail, he wasn’t able to quicken and go with the winner. Perhaps he doesn’t want to run that kind of race, and the blinkers are an indication that he;s going to try to set the tempo today, with Just Comply stuck on the outside. He has gradually improved and he paired his Beyers in his first two turf routes, so a forward move is not out of the question. Just Comply was a horse that I though could be a sneaky longshot last time out, and I was interested in playing him back in his next turf route. I don’t love the post, especially for the race that he wants to run. I do think he could improve, but I think he might be up against in his third career start. Changing the Karma has had 15 chances to break through and has only been second three times. 4-1 feels way too short for him in the win pool. He’s reserved strictly for underneath in the vertical exotics for me. 


Race 2:

14 two year olds are entered in this maiden allowance sprint at 5 and ½ furlongs on the dirt, but only 12 will run. As is the case with many of the races on today’s card, many of the rivals with experience are familiar with each other. Book’em Danno was a standout debut winner two weeks ago at this level, drawing off to win by over 9 lengths in one of the better two year old efforts of the meet so far. There was only about two lengths that separated Electric Eel (#11), Legendary Thunder (#3), and Charlie’s Express (#1) in second, third, and fourth. I don’t see much separating Electric Eel and Legendary Thunder. They have faced each other twice and have beaten each other twice. They dueled on the front end last time out, and I’m not sure that’s really what either of them wants to do. I think the outside post gives Jairo Rendon a few more options than Jose Ferrer will have with Legendary Thunder. However, the margin between them is paper thin. J.T. Three (#7) is a longer priced runner that could be interesting in this race. He’s getting back on the dirt after racing one mile with open maiden special weight runners three weeks ago. He had a wide trip that day when finishing 6th. He drops back to the state bred level and cuts back to a sprint, which, when looking at his pedigree, should be what he’ll do best. I do think that last race could help him be finding more energy late. Sea Streak (#13) is on the outside looking in for Eddie Owens, but he’s done quite well with first timers sired by Sea Wizard of late. The works are solid for him, running the fastest four furlong drill of 192 workers on 8/20. He’s a half to Speaking, who is one of the better New Jersey bred sprinters, who we’ll see later on today. Of the ten foals that this mare has produced, Speaking was the only one to win on debut. Sea Wizard has sired 11 horses to debut on dirt so far, and five of them won at first asking (45%). 


Race 3:

On paper, there are two standouts in this optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance race, which carries a $75K purse. Both Irish Meadow (#5) and Amatteroftime (#8) are eight year old New Jersey bred geldings, and their opportunities for facing state bred competition on the dirt are getting more and more limited as the meet winds down. The Charles Hesse Handicap, which was supposed to be run on this card did not fill. There’s a chance that it could be brought in the next two weeks, but there’s no guarantee. Irish Meadow was third in that race and was recently a winner with state bred optional $30K claiming/N2X runners. He beat Amatteroftime by over four lengths that day. It’s undeniable that Irish Meadow had the better trip that afternoon, and Amatteroftime is probably the classiest horse in this race. My concern with Amatteroftime is that I did not like the way he was traveling at all last time out. He looked like a different horse from his previous starts at the meet, and not in a good way. He had two distinct areas of trouble in that race, and I was impressed that he continued to keep trying when watching the replay on the pan shot. However, when watching the head on replay, I think it’s a fair argument to say that his troubles were at least in part due to the awkward way he was traveling. Parlay that with the fact that he was a voided claim in that race and is now running for a $15K tag, it’s enough to cause some concerns. I’ll use Irish Meadow primarily, while saving Amatteroftime as a backup. 


Race 4:

Fillies and mares will get their turn to go 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf in maiden special company. The rails are at 0 feet today, so the course can accommodate a field of 12 when running out of the chute. That leaves longshot Whiskey and Rain (#13) on the outside looking in at the moment. Like the first race on the card, the second-fifth place finishers from a race at this condition on 7-21 are back with hopes of graduating from the maiden ranks. Desert Passion (#6) ran a huge race that day when making her first start on the turf and her first start since September. Her sire, Desert Party, gets 11% winners in turf routes, and while the dam has yet to produce a winner on the turf, her runners have been competitive at times on grass and synthetic. Rojas made a bold move on the turn to take the lead, but she weakened to second late when Joy and Prosperity came with her late bid. Duchess of Destin (#8) was well backed in that same race, but she had a bit of a troubled trip. Jose Gomez was able to secure a good spot along the rail in the 5th position, but as the field bunched up, he got stuck behind a longshot that was fading out of the picture. She was relegated to the back of the field as horses like Desert Passion were making their move. She ran on gamely to get back in the picture for 5th, but she definitely didn’t get to run her race. I think an outer draw in this race might be beneficial for her. Her first turf race was two back was good enough to be third at this level, finishing in front of some others in here. She stands a chance to be overlooked and with the gap between odds of her and both First Reign (#3) and Desert Passion, she looks to offer the best value in the field. I’ll use her on top, but I’ll keep Desert Passion on the A line here. I expected a better effort from First Reign last time out with no real excuse for her average third place finish. I’ll use Lookingfortreasure, who had to navigate a lot of ground loss in that race, on the B line. I thought she ran very well to be 4th that day, fading late after moving early. That race was contested when the rails were at 36 feet, and early moves are typically decent ideas for closers on that course configuration. Of all the runners coming out of that race, she’s the one that’s getting the most help from the post draw. I’ll also back up with Sunnyridge Jaime (#11) making her first start at two turns. Her turf sprint form is solid and I do wonder how far she’ll be able to go. The dams other runners have mostly been sprinters on the grass, and they’ve had no success at two turns. McBurney has great numbers going from sprints to routes though, so fitness won’t be an issue. She’ll have to work out a trip from a tough post, but she’s another one that is worth considering in this spot. 


Race 5:

A field of 10 has been assembled for this optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance sprint, that will wrap up the Win-Early Pick-5. I see two horses that feel like they are well-spotted here. I’m On Fire (#3) makes his third career start this afternoon. He was a winner for Pattrick McBurney on debut in state bred maiden special weight company in July. He made his next start in an open optional $16K/N1X allowance race, which drew an unusually large field of 12. He was never a factor that afternoon, pairing his winning Beyer Speed Figure when finishing 10th. This is a significantly softer field that he’ll be up against this afternoon and if horses coming from off the pace continue to run well, I think he has a big shot with this group. Hello Pop (#1) draws the rail when cutting back to a six furlong sprint on the dirt. That was the distance in the maiden special weight race that he won back in June. He ran well in a turf sprint three starts back, but he’s struggled in his last two starts. He might not have appreciated the sloppy course two back and he stumbled badly at the break when trying one mile at this level last month. His other races are much better, so he feels like a logical rebound candidate here. 


WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $64 Ticket:

I’ve put together a $64 ticket, but it will go down to $48 if Sea Streak (#13, R2) is unable to draw into Race 2. Irish Meadow (#5, R3) is the focal point of this ticket, looking for his second straight win, while facing a softer group of runners than he saw last time out. The drop in class is understandable, especially with the winner’s share of $75K on the line for these allowance races today. 


Race 6:

After a dominating performance on debut, I thought Toot Your Horn (#8) was going to be very tough to beat in a sprint race two weeks ago at this same optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance condition. However, she was a vet scratch that day and now is favored in a one mile turf contest. We see moves like this often toward the end of the meet, since there’s no guarantee that there will be another dirt race at this condition for New Jersey breds this year. She’s sired by Constitution, who gets 15% winners in turf routes, and her dam foaled Here Comes Billy, who won a turf sprint and has been competitive in turf routes. While the pedigree is there, I would have preferred to see another race in a sprint before progressing to this race, and the fact that she was entered to do just that, tells me that her connections would have liked to have done the same thing. I can’t play her much as the favorite in this race, but I will use her as a saver because she does look like she has the potential to be the best horse that comes out of this race. I’ll make Joy and Prosperity (#11) my top choice, coming off a third place finish when facing winners for the first time two weeks ago. Midnight Heiress kept finding after setting slow fractions on the front end. Joy and Prosperity was in behind runners and had to go four wide on a course where the rails were out to 36 feet. She’ll need to work out a trip from the 11 hole, but I see her as a candidate to move forward off that last race. Te Amo (#2) has put up big figures in her last two turf starts. She’s had a solid meet, while breaking her maiden on the grass in May. She ran okay as a huge longshot in the Jersey Girl Handicap and was last of four in a race taken off the turf two back. Pedro Cotto kept her in range throughout, but she wasn’t able to keep up with the winner. She makes some sense in this spot as well. 


Race 7, The $100K New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap:

The first of two six furlong sprint races on the program drew a field of nine colts and geldings, including the winner of this race last year, Speaking (#1). He narrowly defeated No Cents (#6) in the John J. Reilly Handicap in May and was two lengths better than him in this race last year. However, I think this is a spot where he can turn the tables on his rival. Speaking is drawn on the rail, where No Cents was drawn when they last faced off. With not a lot of pace on, No Cents was forced to go early. He was game throughout, but couldn’t quite get to Speaking. The tables are turned today, and Speaking is on the rail, which hasn’t been the best place to be for the better part of this last month. I think Speaking has to go and he’ll likely be joined by Bustin Loose (#9) from the outside. No Cents has the tactical speed to stalk and pounce from there. Cathal Lynch gives the reins to Paco Lopez, who had two winners yesterday. I think he makes a lot of sense here, and I’ll plan to use him on the majority of multi-race plays. Speaking is a nice horse that is always tough in these state bred races. He has five wins in eight starts on this oval, with four of them at this distance. He;s the one to beat on paper, but I think his rail draw could work against him here. I’ll use him as a saver here. Dr. Doyle (#3) is one that I’ll look at using underneath in the vertical exotics at a price. He ran huge in this race to be second behind Speaking last year when he was definitely in better form. After that runner-up effort, he would go on to lose his next five races, beaten by double digit lengths each time. When he was in his best form, he was running for Claudio Gonzalez. He was reunited with advance of his last race, where he was victorious, albeit in a slower off the turf allowance race. I’m not sure that this six year old gelding is going to get back to where he was last year, but he did his best work for Gonzalez in the past and he’s had four drills since his win last month, improving in each one. I don’t know if he’s good enough right now to beat the shorter prices, but I do think he will move forward off his last race. 


Race 8:

The last Pick-3 opportunity of the afternoon starts with this optional $15K claiming/N1R allowance race going one mile on the turf. Isabelle de Tomaso owns and bred two of the major players in this race, including Indiantown (#4) who is making his first start since flying home late to be second at the Meadowlands last year. He was facing winners for the first time that day and he was shuffled toward the back of the field as Here Comes Billy (#11) spurted away on the front end. He came with a powerful four wide move and couldn’t quite get to Optic Way before they crossed the wire, but he was several lengths in front on the gallop out. Graham Motion has great numbers off the layoff, and while he doesn’t have great local numbers, the fact that he’s been a winner with this one here in the past is encouraging. Irish Rill (#5) is the other horse owned and bred by de Tomaso, but Cathal Lynch trains this one. He was a string maiden winner three back. He had a tough race with winners for the first time, but looked much stronger last out at the same level. I’m thinking that he’ll continue to progress and be a threat with this group. Jesters Honor (#8) is an eight year old that tried two turns on the turf for the first time three weeks ago. While sprinting might be his game, he wasn’t bad at all when going one mile last time. There’s reason to believe that he can take another step forward in his third start off the layoff for Mike Dini. 


Race 9, The $100K Eleven North Handicap:

Ten fillies and mares will go six furlongs in the co-featured race today. Precious Avary (#5) was one of my better picks and hits at this meet when she won the Jersey Girl Handicap last month at 22-1. However, I’ll be trying to beat her in this spot today, where she has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. I think she’ll have pace pressure to her outside, and even though she was a winner at this distance here in June, I’m not sure this is her preferred distance or surface. I’m looking for some to rolling late, and that feels like it could be I Can Run (#8), who was moving well late after missing the break in the Smart N Classy Handicap back in June. She was the winner of this race in 2022, but has gone 0-3 since. However, she caught a sloppy track in two of those starts and was asked to go two turns in the other. She does not run well on off tracks, but she’s dangerous when sprinting on a fast track. Mia’s Crusade (#7) will be keeping Precious Avary honest in the early stages of this race. She runs well when she’s forwardly placed, so I don’t see her falling too far off the pace. After going off form for a little while last year, she’s been rock solid this season. I see her as the main threat to the top pick. I will use Precious Avary as a saver because her local efforts are strong. Draw a line through her last at laurel against open company where she ran her races before getting into the starting gate. 


Race 10:

An overflow field of two year old maiden special weight fillies will go 5 and ½ furlongs on the dirt in the nightcap. I’m going to use a price on top and make Courageous Wildcat (#11) my top pick. She’s sired by Paynter, who won the Haskell back in 2012. His runners only get 8% winners at first asking, but they have won 17% of their races on the main track over the last five years. The dam was a dominating debut winner and two of her three foals to have made it to the track were handy winners on debut. She’s been working well for Dan Ward and figures to be prominent from outset in this race. Gee Whiz (#12) makes her first start from the outside stall here. She’s sired by Sea Wizard, who has been very good with debuting runners, especially here. The dam was unraced, but she did foal Crafty Don, who was a winner at first asking. Gravity Hill (#13) is on the outside looking in here, but this Cathal Lynch firster is another debut runner worth including on your tickets in this race should he draw in. Lynch has been firing on all cylinders with debut runners over the past two seasons, winning 33% of the time. The dam produced No Cents, who was my top pick in the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap earlier on the card. He’ll need a defection to participate, but he’s another debut runner that has a live look to her. Summer’s Comin (#2) is the experienced runner that I’ll include here. He came from off the pace to come within two lengths of My Two Sophias last time out.I like that she is proven to be able to run on from behind, which might be what she needs to do to be successful in this race. 


Meet Statistics/Notes:

Top Pick Winners: 93/403 (23.1%) – $672.00/$1.68 ROI 


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