Sunday is the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival at Monmouth Park, featuring twelve races, all of which are exclusive to New Jersey breds. The card is highlighted by three handicap races, the Charles Hesse Handicap (Race 5), The New Jersey Breeders Handicap (Race 8), and The Eleven North Handicap (Race 11). There were a few passing showers throughout the card yesterday that created a sloppy track for some of the later races and a good turf course. They finished the card, running all the turf races on grass as intended, so there’s reason to believe that as long as there wasn’t any more rain overnight, they’ll be on the turf for this big day of racing in the state of New Jersey.
|1||2,3||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||2,4||1,7||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||2,3,7||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|8||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||3,7||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 2
An optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance at 1 Mile and 70 yards for fillies and mares kicks off the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival card. This is not the strongest field for the condition, so I’m going to try to get out of this race using the inside trio. Bamboo Garden (2) is the tepid top pick in here after finishing third in a race where five of the seven in here were in. The dominant winner of that race, Beatubyachubinose, is entered in the Charles Hesse Handicap against the boys in Race 5. Bamboo Garden was a distant second to her at this level three back as well. She gets some post relief after getting widest trip last out, while still beating the other four that are back to compete here. Taffy Candy (3) came into the year with high expectations, but she hasn’t lived up to them yet. She was very dull last out, finishing last of eight in a sprint at this level in her second race of the year. She has been the heavy favorite in her three career races and tries two turns for the first time today. She finds a soft field that might help her wake up. Postino’s Secret (1) is the lukewarm morning line favorite who was 4th in the Beatubyachubinose race last out. Prior to that, she outran her long odds when she was a close up 5th in the Smart N Classy Handicap here two back. She was in some of her better form for her career prior to her last, so if she can return to that, she’ll be tough. However, it’s hard to get excited for a morning line favorite that has never won in 12 races on this course.
Race 2: Top Pick: 2
Two year old New Jersey breds sprint 5 and ½ Furlongs in this maiden special weight race. The two with experience ran well enough in their debuts to be considered when moving from open company to state bred company. However, coverage is going to be key in this wide open race. There Are No Words (2) didn’t have the best of beginnings in his debut on the turf last out, but he closed a decent amount of ground that day to be 5th. Blinkers go on, and this son of California Chrome switches to the main track. Jose Ferrer keeping the mount is a plus. On The Come Up (4) debuted on a very sloppy course amidst heavy rains. He took some money at the windows, going off at 9-2. He showed some brief speed before fading to 8th that day. He adds Lasix and drops to the state bred maiden special weight level, where he figures to have an edge over those that are making their debuts. Of the first timers, the one I like the most is One Time Willard (7). He’s sired by Micromanage out of an Unbridled Jet mare, and his workouts are improving in the AM. He was the second fastest of 19 runners going 5F in the AM on 8/20, clocked in 1:00:3. His trainer, John Stephens, is more than capable with young horses at first asking. Trainer Eddie Owens has a pair of horses scheduled to debut for Holly Crest Farm, Cassation (1) and Speaking (6). Both have identical worktabs in August, and both are horses that might prefer turf. Hector Diaz rides many of the Owens horses, and he ends up on Cassation, so I’ll give that one the slight nod. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to adding Speaking on deeper plays if the your budget allows.
Race 3: Top Pick: 10
Several of these horses in this optional claiming/N1X allowance race are exiting the 8/8 race at this condition that was marred by the fatal breakdown of Chublicious. That was a deeper field than this group, and I’ll take three from that race, with my top pick being Smithwick’s Spice (10). He made his first start of the year in that race and took a lot of mud in his face being in the second flight behind four dueling leaders. He faded late that day to be 6th, beaten 11+ lengths. Historically, he has been a good horse in his second race off the layoff, and getting dryer conditions should be beneficial. I think he’ll be able to sit the perfect trip from his outside post, tracking the pacesetters before making his move. Shield of Faith (3) was part of the early pace battle last out from his wide post. He battled hard and hit the front, before fading late when Brother Chub came over the top to blow by everyone. He was claimed by Jesus Cruz that day and returns to the same level. He has some sharp efforts on this course and will be dangerous drawing closer to the rail today. I haven’t given up on Lib’s Contento (2) who broke last in the same race last out, and was impeded by Chublicious while the rider was trying to pull him up. Two back, he was dull in his only try at two turns. He showed enough in his first two races this season to think that he has a forward move in him as he matures. He went off at 31-1 last out, and should go to post higher than his 12-1 morning line. He reunites with Isaac Castillo who guided him to his maiden victory earlier in the meet.
Race 4: Top Pick: 4
Here we have New Jersey bred maiden special weight race on the grass, where six of the eight were defeated by the heavy favorite, Kratos, in the 7/25 race at this condition. This race was brought back today from the cancelled card last week. All eight that entered in that race are back here and there’s no one as talented as Kratos in this race. I would think that Leo Monte (4) has the most upside of any in here. He ran 6th that day when making his first start at two turns and first try on grass. He was part of the early pace, but he couldn’t stick with Kratos, and faded to 6th, beaten only 4 and ½ lengths. Others might have a more forward turf pedigree, but I think he can build off a respectable try last out, and maybe offer a little value while facing a heavy favorite. Pal (1) was the best of the rest in that 7/25 race. He got within a length of that very promising young New Jersey bred last out. His first two starts as a five year old have shown some growth from his four year old campaign, so this race might just be his turn. However, proceed with caution as he’ll be a short priced favorite as a maiden making his 12th career start.
Race 5: The $125,000 Charles Hesse III Handicap: Top Pick: 3
The top two runners from an optional claiming/N2X race two weeks ago square off against a pair of horses getting back on the dirt after racing on the turf in the Irish War Cry Handicap here last month. There’s also a pair of mares taking on the boys to round out the field of six. Prendimi (3) was the winner of this race last year. He’s probably at his best when going two turns on dirt, which he’ll get to do here. He was a non-factor in the Irish War Cry last out on grass, finishing last of eight. He tired in his first race of the meet in the John J. Reilly Handicap, where he faced a more talented field. He’s now in his third race off the layoff and should be sitting on his best effort. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be as good as he was last year, but there’s enough history with him to take a shot, especially if he stays around his 9-2 morning line odds. I think he has the best chance of winning, and would be a worthy single in this spot based on his class. Irish Meadow (6) is the other one that is very logical here. He battled hard to hold off Amatteroftime (1), who was making his first career start on the dirt at two turns in his last race. Both horses ran a career top figure in their last race, only two weeks ago, so at short ends, I think there’s reasonable concern that they might not be able to duplicate those efforts coming back in 14 days. I think the pace set up may favor Irish Meadow though, so it feels like he’s worth including on some deeper tickets.
Win Early Pick-5: $45 Ticket
Race 1: 1, 2, 3
Race 2: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7
Race 3: 2, 3, 10
Race 4: 1, 4
Race 5: 3
Race 6 Top Pick: 1
Miss Yum Yum (1) has the misfortune of drawing the rail in her third consecutive start. However, she showed improvement from her debut in her second career start, and she drops in class from open maiden special weight company to state bred maiden special weight company. Mia’s Crusade (4) is from the freshman crop of Greenpointcrusader. She has similar running lines to Miss Yum Yum, while running in tougher heats. She was wide last out and just missed finishing second. The first time starters don’t have works that jump off the page, so I’m thinking that these are the two that will decide this one.
Race 7: Top Pick: 7
I think this optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance race for fillies and mares on the turf could be a race that offers some value as it’s sandwiched by a few races that look like they could be a bit chalky. Magic Election (7) is definitely bred for the turf as a New Jersey bred daughter of Magician. Her lone start on the turf was a win with open $40K maiden claimers earlier in the meet. She’s a three year old that has made some progress and could prove to be a player getting back on the grass. Diamond Play (3) is the morning line favorite and a proven winner. She was narrowly defeated in starter allowance company last out at Parx. She has five wins in eleven starts on this oval, and she fits very nicely with this group. I’m Listening (2) may be a bit overlooked in here after a dull effort at this level two weeks ago as the beaten favorite. She was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez who brings her right back to this level in hopes of finding the Winner’s Circle for the first time in almost two years. I don’t like her at short odds, but she’s worth considering at odds at or above her 5-1 morning line figure. Postino’s Idol (5) was a narrow winner at this level two back and she lost in a photo most recently two weeks ago. She has considerably more second place finishes than wins throughout her career. I think she’ll be able to sit a good trip here, and she’s worth playing, but do notice that she typically finds herself as a runner up.
Race 8: The $100,000 New Jersey Breeders Handicap: Top Pick: 3
New Jersey bred three year olds and upward sprint 6 Furlongs on the main track where there definitely is a standout runner. Golden Brown (3) was an easy winner of the John J. Reilly last out when facing a tougher field. The main threats that day, Prendimi and Optic Way, skipped this race and are both running in the Charles Hesse earlier in the card going two turns. This six year old gelding has won 9 times in 29 career starts. He’s a graded stakes winner on turf and a multiple stakes winner when facing state bred horses on the main track. He’s never been worse than third at this distance, winning three of five times. He feels like he’s strictly the one to beat in this spot. I’ll take the short price and hope to find value elsewhere in the late Pick-5 sequence.
Race 9: Top Pick: 3
All eyes will be on the lightly races Kratos (5), who has been very good in all three career tries on the turf. He faces winners for the first time in this state bred optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance race, at 1 Mile and 1/16 on the grass. He has two sharp works on the main track since breaking his maiden back on the July 25th, when he was a heavy favorite. Paco Lopez sticks around and Lasix is added for the first time. All signs are encouraging, but this is a big step up in class, and he’s likely going to be a short price. I’ll use him as a B horse and hope to beat him with Wolfe ‘n Hawke (3) who makes his second start of the year today for trainer Joan Milne. He made his first start on the opening race on Haskell Day when facing open N1X allowance foes on the grass. He was bumped pretty hard at the start, when he was sent to post at long odds. He drops in class to face state bred company, where he’ll definitely finds an easier field. His turf form appears to be better than his dirt form, so I’m expecting a bigger effort today. Saucy Derek (7) is also a player at this level as he gets back on the grass after two dull dirt efforts. He didn’t run poorly in his first start of the meet when facing open allowance company. He struggled in his last two on dirt, which is not uncommon for him. He has run big races on the grass and if he can revert back to his Tampa form from earlier in the winter, he could be long gone.
Race 10: The $100,000 Eleven North Handicap: Top Pick: 11
It’s not very creative, but I think the two short prices have the advantage in this handicap for J-bred fillies and mares, dashing 6 Furlongs. I prefer No Bull Jack (11) on the outside to wear down her rivals here. Her last few have been really strong as she’s cleared two conditions at the current meet before finishing a game second with open optional claiming/NX allowance foes earlier this month. She’s never been off the board in eight career starts on this oval and she should be able to sit a good outside trip off the early pace battle. Alta Velocita (8) is another one that has been very good at the current meet, winning three races and losing in a close decision to No Bull Jack two back. She wore down many of these last out when winning at the state bred optional claiming/N2X level. Paco Lopez rode her to victory last out and he keeps the mount today. On deeper tickets, Achieving Glory (7) is one that has been in very good form in her last two starts. She’s run two of her best career races so far and now she’s making her third start off the layoff. She’s probably better suited for underneath, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her take another step forward. I’d also think that D’tiger Lily (1) might be another candidate to run an improved race. She faded to 6th when beaten by Alta Velocita last out. She draws the rail today, so going to the front is pretty much her only option. She may be one to upgrade if the track comes up wet.
Race 11: Top Pick: 1
The last race carded for the turf today is another contest that looks like it sets up for a short price. Like What I See (1) simply looks faster than his rivals in this 5 and ½ Furlong turf sprint. He ran a solid effort to be third with open $22K-$18K claimers on the turf here last month. Prior to that race, he had gone off form with a few dull tries at Gulfstream and one bad race on the dirt here. He looked very good on this course back in 2020 and he seems to be rounding back into that very good form we saw here last season. Dealer’s Girl (2) is going to be the one that they’ll have to catch in here. She’s taking on the boys so she can find an opportunity to sprint with fellow New Jersey breds. She has better early foot than just about anyone here on the grass, so she should be on the front end early. Her best chance to win is if they don’t push her too hard and Albin Jimemez is able to sneak away and hold off the favorite in the lane.
Race 12: Top Pick: 3
The nightcap on the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival card is a maiden special weight for New Jersey breds, three and up at six furlongs. Pogi (1) is the morning line favorite at 6-5, and he has become a professional money burner. He has never been off the board, finishing second in four of his races another third in the other four. He tried open maiden special weight company last out, and didn’t run bad, finishing third that day. He’ll definitely be in the mix, but he hasn’t shown the ability to break thorough. I’ll keep him on the list as C horse in this sequence. I prefer Lemon Creek Louie (3) to pull off the mild upset. He was no factor last out in open company, but he wheels back here and adds an extra half furlong. His debut two back was very good, so there’s reason to believe we’ll get pretty close to seeing his best. P J’s Hidden Jewel (5) debuted with open maiden claimers on the turf last out, running a respectable second place, narrowly behind the winner. He advances to a state bred maiden allowance level off that effort. His trainer, Douglas Nunn, doesn’t have great numbers with horses making their second career start, but he won with a horse like that yesterday (Will too Shy) who was also making his dirt debut after a respectable turf effort in his debut.. I think he can be a factor here.
Meet Stats: 107/384 (Top Pick Winners) – $697.90 / $1.82 ROI per $2 win bet