August starts off with an eight race, Friday matinee card, highlighted by four turf races and some two year old action. The forecast is for cloudy skies, but the conditions should remain dry and comfortable. First post for the Friday card 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||1||1,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||4,8||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||2,3||7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||8||5,8||2,6,7||DBL, PK3, PK 5|
|5||1||1||3,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
New Jersey breds will kick off the month on the turf with a field of eight going one mile in an optional $30K/N2X allowance contest. I thought Leo Monte (#1) was a horse that makes a lot of sense in this race, at least until Paco Lopez picked up the mount. Regardless, I think this five year old gelding is better than what we’ve seen from him in his last two races. He was soundly defeated by He’spuregold in the Irish War Cry Handicap in his last start and two back he was cooked in a wicked pace battle in an above average, open N1X allowance race. He does run well on the lead when there isn’t massive pace pressure, and there are a few stretch out sprinters in this race. However, if one of those runners takes the initiative , he’s been successful when he’s had to stalk and pounce. It will come down to value for me in terms of how I play this one, but I think we’ll see the better version of him at this level. I’d love to get better than his 5-2 morning line, but regardless, I see him as the one to beat. One Time Willard (#6) cleared the state bred N1X condition on the turf with a solid score last month. While he broke his maiden on the main track, he seems to be better suited for the turf. He’s an improving four year old gelding that is moving up in class. However, this is not the deepest field for this condition, as many of the better state bred turf runners have cleared this level and aren’t going to be running with a tag. These two seem to have a solid advantage over the other six runners.
Two year olds are going five furlongs on the main track in this $40K-$30K maiden claiming race. It’s hard to look past Group Ticket (#4) for Kent Sweezy in this spot. He’s made three starts, running a pair of credible efforts over this oval to start his career. Sweezy shipped him to the Spa two weeks ago to run in a restricted maiden special weight where he finished last out five after a wide trip. This feels like the right level for him at this point, and adding blinkers may be the cure for what ails him. I expect a better effort against a soft field here. It’s My Rainbow (#8) makes his second career start after fading badly in the slop in his first career start. He was sent hard to make the lead from his rail post and faded on the turn, being eased up late. The inside might not have been the best part of the track that day. The drop in class, the dryer course, and the outside draw all feel like positive selling points for his second try. Miracle Trip (#7) finished behind both Outcat (#2) and Aves Makin’ Waves (#3) when facing $25K-$20K maiden claimers in his debut. Both of those horses have made multiple starts, so I do think he’s eligible to improve more so than the other two .
Drama’s Prayer (#2) was caught in the late stages in his last start at this conditioned $16K-$14K claiming level. He was a solid second two back in the same kind of race. Both of those races were contested at 5 and ½ furlongs, with the rails at 24 and 12 feet respectively. He cuts back to a five furlong race where the rails are set at 36 feet, which has historically been kind to frontrunners, especially at this distance. Samuel Marin and Gerald Bennett teamed up for a win together on Saturday and they’ll be back at it again with this Big Drama gelding who’ll be making his third start on the turf here. Trainer Please (#3) figures to be the main threat, on the drop in class for Kathleen DeMasi. DeMasi excels with turf sprinters, winning at a 23% clip since 2022. She has 25 starters at this meet, with four winners, however, all four of those wins came in turf sprints (24% win percentage locally). Three of the five runners that finished in front of him last time out in N1X company, came back to win in their next start, with two clearing the N1X level and the race winner winning with N2X allowance types. This Orb gelding may have lost a step from his best races last year in Southern California, but I think he fits well at this level. Outlaw Country (#7) finished in front of Drama’s Prayer last time out in a race where he was claimed for the third consecutive time. Greg Sacco brings him right back to the same level after winning in his turf debut. I do think the 5 and ½ furlongs suits him better than the five furlongs, and with Paco Lopez taking the mount, he figures to be overbet. I’ll back up with him, giving preference to the top two.
Last week, I wrote about a Todd Pletcher filly that she shipped down from Saratoga to debut here in maiden allowance company. One of the angles I discussed was that Pletcher has not had a debut winner here after July 1st in the last five years and that feels significant because he’s saving his best stock for racing at Saratoga right now. Antenna finished second, getting nailed on the wire that day. What I thought was the most interesting thing is that his filly was ice cold on the board that day. She was installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite and she went off at 5-1 in the pari-mutuel wagering. You could have gotten her at 8-1 at one point in the fixed odds wagering available on track. She broke slowly, then circled four wide, hitting the front, just to be caught late. That race was on the slower side, as they stopped the clock in 1:07.01 seconds for the 5 and ½ furlong distance. While the main track may have been playing a little bit slower than usual on Saturday, that race was still slower than average. Pletcher sends out another high priced horse in this race, Bo Valentine (#6). Spendthrift and Repole went in for $450K for this son of Into Mischief, so clearly there’s value in him racing at Saratoga, if he were good enough. Again, Jairo Rendon is riding as Paco Lopez rides another runner in this race. The two year olds at Monmouth this year have been a bit underwhelming so far, so I’m not sure I can completely toss this runner. I completely ignored Antenna last week and was fortunate enough to cash out on a win play and Pick-3 ticket, but it was too close for comfort and that head bob could have gone either way. I’ll back up with this one, and might play him a bit more if he’s overlooked the way his stablemate was. I do think this runner will be played a bit more aggressively though because there’s not as much potential on paper in this race as there appeared to be in Saturday’s race. I’m going to make Redfield (#8) my top pick for Lindsay Schultz. Ice Orchid is the most talented runner that her dam has produced, and she’s a stakes placed runner that won her third career start. The dam was a multiple stakes winning sprinter that was a winner on debut and was second in stakes company on this course when making her second career start. His full sibling has yet to win, but I think there’s enough there to take a shot with him here. Idle Union (#5) is a Union Rags firster and the first foal to run from the mare Idle Hour. The dam won on debut at the Fair Grounds and was second to eventual Grade 1 winner, Bell’s the One in her second career start. The grand dam was Downthedustyroad, who was the winner of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita in 2006. Trainer Darien Rodriguez has three debut winners with 13 two year old first time starters in the last five years. One of those winners came here with Valuable Breight back in 2021. He’ll be his first debuting two-year old to race this year. Rock N Roll Bolt (#2) is the only runner in this race with experience, fading to 5th after making a bit of a move in his debut last month. That was another race that looked fairly deep on paper but it didn’t come back very fast. The fact that we haven’t seen any “wow” performances from the two year olds at this meet yet is reason enough to cover this one in this race. Soze (#7) debuts for Joe Orseno and Paco Lopez. Orseno has done very well with the limited stock that he’s brought to this meet, winning with six of 17 starters and having four more runners to finish second. His numbers with debut runners aren’t great though, so there’s reason to believe that this runner is going to be over bet. I’ll back up with him on some deeper plays, but like the Pletcher horse, I think there’s value in trying to beat him.
The Win-Early Pick-5 concludes with a $40K-$30K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. Origami Girl (#4) is interesting getting on the turf for the time after the Mike Maker claim. The dam was stakes placed on the turf and she has a half brother, Farmington Road, who was a winner on the grass. I do worry about value, and the fact that despite his strong record with horses first off the claim, Maker’s horses don’t have great numbers when getting on the turf for the first time. He’s started 25 horses first off the claim in the last five years that would be trying the turf for the first time. While 8 of those runners have finished in the money, none of them have finished first. She feels like one that could take some money, but feels vulnerable. I’m going to try One of the Ones (#1) on top for John Servis in this race. There’s not a ton of early speed signed on for this race, assuming that neither Rich Gift (#11) or Fancy Scepter (#12) draw in off the AE list. She’s making her second start of the year and dropping in for a tag for the first time. She was competitive last year on this course and she likely needed her last race, which came against an above average field on the Haskell undercard. Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher trained the top four finishers in that race, and the winner looks like a promising filly for Brown. This is significant class relief for a barn that has done well with horses dropping in for a tag for the first time. I have some questions about some of the other runners in this race, so I would be comfortable using her as a single. Both Fearless Kristie (#3) and Exhalation (#6) are also runners trying the turf for the first time, and both could take some money, but of that duo, I’d be more inclined to backup with Fearless Kristie. Her dam has produced a winner on the turf, although most of her runners have done their best work on the main track. Her lone start at two turns was a disaster, but that came on dirt in maiden special weight company at Keeneland where she encountered some trouble. She is sired by Summer Front, so there is enough in her pedigree to think she can succeed on grass, however, the price is going to need to be right for me to dive in. I think Delightful Dixie (#8) is an interesting runner as well. She is probably better suited underneath in this race, making her second start for Dini and her first at two turns. She was away slow in her debut when sprinting, but she was moving well late. Dini had a second time starter in a turf debut last week, who ran well, but was a little leg weary late. She might be better next time out, but I think she could add value to the vertical exotics underneath.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $45 Ticket:
With my All A/B play in this race, I’m going to be singled to One of the Ones (#1, R5) in the last leg here. I think that race is evenly matched with several runners that are question marks. She draws the rail and should be able to sit a forward trip on a course that tends to be kind to horses on or near the lead when the rails are at this 36 foot position. At 6-1, I feel she offers excellent value and could be overlooked in the final leg of this sequence. I’ll look for some significant coverage in both of the two year old races in this sequence as those races have been unpredictable at best during this meet this season.
The final Pick-3 of the afternoon gets going with a $40K-$30K N1Y claiming race going 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. Bird King (#5) drops in class and returns to Michael Pino’s barn here. The last time he was in the Winner’s Circle, it was in a stakes race at Parx back in 2022, when Pino was his trainer. He made three starts after that race and came back about a year later. It’s taken him a few races to find his best stride, but he has progressively improved in his first three tries in 2023. He’s been beaten by stakes quality horses in money allowance races at Parx and now runs with a tag for the first time since his debut where he was claimed by Pino for $50K at Keeneland back in 2019. He’s been a productive horse for this barn and he’s entered in a spot where he should get a positive set up. Tops the Chart (#8) is another horse that was facing stakes caliber allowance horses in his last start when he was beaten by Benevengo in a six furlong sprint. Going two turns seems to be what he wants to do, so stretching out in his second start off a three month break makes sense. His 6th place finish last time out broke a streak of eight consecutive starts where he finished in the money. I think he’s better than what he showed last out and is another runner that will appreciate the class relief. Styner (#3) is going to have company in the early stages of this race, but he does like racing on the course, winning twice here in 2022. He ended last year in good form, winning three of his last five races. He went off form for a bit in 2023, but he seems to be getting back to some of his better efforts. However, I think the price on him will be comparable to the top two runners in this race, and both of them are coming out of tougher races, where he might be moving up in class just a bit. Paco Lopez in the saddle won’t help his overall value, but I do see him as a horse that has potential to be a player in this race.
I’ve been a fan of Comedic Timing (#1) for over a year now, and I thought he had a decent shot despite his 41-1 odds in starter allowance company last month. His effort was solid, but in a closely contested race, being wide all the way around the course didn’t help his prospects. He drops back in for a tag for the first time since a narrow miss with conditioned $16K-$14K claimers last July, in a race where I’m still now sure how he didn’t win that photo. His only poor recent efforts have been in races that have come off the turf. His off the board finishes are coming in races where the competition has been much stronger. Richard Mitchell doesn’t get a lot of chances at this meet, but he rides this course well. I think he gets the job done today. Restored Order (#6) has had to navigate breaking from the 12 hole in his last two turf races here, so soldering over to Gate 6 should feel like a whole new world. He was forced to gun it to make the lead last out, and he did while battling with Speight’spercomete, who was the race winner that came back to run a strong race at a huge number with N1X allowance company on the Haskell undercard. There’s not a ton of pace in this one, so he could very easily find himself on the lead once again, and he probably won’t have to work as hard to get there. I don;t love seeing Penner Ash (#2) at this level two starts removed from being claimed for $50K, however he does fit well with these. He narrowly missed clearing the N1X allowance condition last fall at Keeneland, taking the worst of a three horse photo. He was a bit dull when making his return at Gulfstream in the spring, so Mike Maker entered him in a $50K N2L claiming race at Belmont, where he was victorious. His first start for Carlos Martin was not his best, but he faced a strong field and was wide just about every step of the way. Seeing the visible excuse makes me wonder why he’s shipping here to run at this level. Perhaps it’s a calculated risk to get him into a race. Both he and K P All Systems Go (#4) scratched out of a $35K N3L claiming race at the Spa which was taken off the turf a few weeks ago. I’d like him better at that $35K N3L condition, but there’s not many options in the condition books here or there for him.
We’ll wrap things up with a $7,500-$6,500 N2L race which is also open to any three year old, regardless of how many races they’ve won. Let It Flow Joe (#2) and The Bearrish One (#6) are the two three year olds with multiple wins, and both are coming off strong scores at this condition at Parx and Monmouth, respectively. The Bearrish One was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez two starts back and switched tactics when coming from off the pace to win at this level last month. I think that style will prove to be useful once again in this race. I see as many as four runners that will possibly try to stake their claim to the early lead, which should allow him to tuck nicely in behind the frontrunners in this race. He came with a grinding late close to get up over Going in Style (#8), who was getting leg weary in the final 1/16 of a mile when routing on dirt for the first time in his career. His barn was on fire in the month of July and they’ll look to keep things rolling this month. Antonov (#5) has been on the dull side while facing better fields after breaking his maiden for $25K earlier in the meet. Like The Bearrish One, he’s a runner that could be finding himself on the scene in the later stages of this race. He’ll have to rebound from an awful effort last time out, but the drop in class should fit him well if he can run back to his races three and four starts ago. Going in Style takes the worst of the draw from the runners that want to be involved early, but I do think he has the most upside of that quartet. I thought his last effort was strong, despite tiring late while going off at 9-1. He’ll have to show that he can build off that effort to beat this group, but as a three year old, there is potential. A few scratches to his inside could help his cause, which would likely lead to me upgrading his chances.
Top Pick Winners: 71/310 (22.9%) – $496.00/$1.60 ROI
The week ended with a strong effort from No Nay Mets as the much the best winner of the Tyro Stakes on Sunday. He went to the front and never turned back, pulling away to win by 5 and ½ lengths. The runner-up, Ship Cadet, ran well to be second. He had a tricky draw, breaking from Post 11. He came with a 4 wide bid, but couldn’t keep up with the favorite, as he pulled away.
Prior to that race, we saw an amazing finish in the third leg of the Malouf Auto Group Stater Series race, which was won by Rough Sea, who also won the first leg. He also won the final leg of this series last year, so that makes three big time efforts on this course in the last year. He looks to be strong in the last leg of this series coming up at the end of the meet.
Keep in mind that Monmouth Park is hosting a new tournament tomorrow, offering 2 seats to the NHC and 2 seats to the BCBC for the top four finishers. There’s $10,000 in cash prizes up for grabs in this hybrid tournament that can be played in person or online. There is a 25% cash prize bonus for all cash prizes won on site, so there’s extra incentive to get to the track if you’re in the area. The tournament consists of races from here and Saratoga this afternoon, giving players 22 races to wager on. There’s no limit on the amount of races someone can play, but to remain eligible, five races at Monmouth must be wagered on ($50 minimum).