Closing weekend at Monmouth Park begins with an excellent 12 race program, highlighted by the $500K Nownownow Stakes, for two year olds going one mile on the turf. A field of 10 is entered for that race headed by Skidmore Stakes winner, Oxymore. Jose Ortiz is skipping the first Saturday of the Belmont at the Big A Meet in order to ride this gelded son of Astern for Chad Brown. There’s several large fields in races across the card today and many solid wagering opportunities. For a meet that started off with some miserable weather, it appears it will be ending with a pair of beautiful days where the track conditions should be fast and firm. First post today is 12:15 (ET).
I’ll be covering the Monmouth Park meet for the second 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|
|2||9||5,9||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||8||8||2,4,6||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|8||4||4,5,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||3||3,12||13,14||DBL, PK3, PK4|
There’s a lot of speed in the opener, which is for $12,500-$10,500 maiden claimers going 5 and ½ furlongs. I’m not seeing any kind of quality late speed in this race, so my inclination is to go with the runner that is most likely to make the lead, which I see as Kamenshek (#7). She’s dropping in class for the third straight start, finishing second to runaway winners in her last two tries. She’s made the early lead in her last two, and at this level, I’m not sure there’s anyone good enough to pass her. If there is a filly good enough to catch them in the late stages, perhaps it’s N Y Fancy (#6). She’s gradually improved over her last few starts this season. The cutback from 1 mile and 70 yards to 5 and ½ furlongs is not ideal, but after a pair of two turn races, she might have the stamina to be gaining late with this group.
The first of three baby races on the card is a maiden special weight for two year olds going one mile on the main track. It’s been a good few weeks for the offspring of Arrogate, and Easy As A.B.C (#9) looks to continue that roll in his third career start. He’s found trouble in both career starts so far. He was pinched back in his debut at 5 and ½ furlongs on the dirt in his debut. He stumbled out of the gate last out when trying the turf in a one mile test. He looks like a runner that will be better at two turns, and Jose Ortiz will have to navigate a trip from the outside stall. However, he looks like the kind of horse that will continue to improve. Kelly Breen, who is trying to catch Claudio Gonzalez for leading trainer at the meet, sends him out along with Icy Intent (#5). He’s a Frosted gelding and the first foal from the multiple graded stakes winning mare, Ahh Chocolate. He was a bit slow from the gate when breaking from the outside in his debut. He put some pressure on the leaders early, but was no match for El de Chimi that day. There’s room for improvement here as the leading rider, Paco Lopez, sticks around for his second career start. On deeper tickets, I’d consider including the son of Accelerate, Antonov (#6) in his dirt debut. He ran twice on the turf, closing well to finish second in a slower race two weeks ago. Horses sired by Accelerate seem to be improving with more starts. Derek Ryan is capable of winning with some two year old longshots, so this one might be worth a shot, especially if his odds float over his morning line figure.
The first turf contest of the afternoon is a $20K-$18K maiden claimer for fillies and mares going one mile. I like City Speaker (#8) to possibly pull the upset here. She’s making her third start off the layoff for Eddie Owens today, while also dropping out of state bred maiden special weight company. She’s sired by Mr. Speaker out of a City Zip mare, so turf definitely should be on the table for her. She’s made four career starts, three of them on the main rack and one on the turf. Her turf try was definitely her best, but she was a bit headstrong that day while making her first start in nearly ten months. She faded to finish 4th behind a better group than what she’s facing today. Capture My Dreams (#1) may have a tactical edge in this race, breaking from the rail and having more early foot than most in this eleven horse field. She didn’t look comfortable setting the pace three back when facing $40K-$30K maiden claimers here, so maybe expect her to be right off the lead instead of controlling the pace. The top two finishers from that race came back to win in their next starts. She had a tough trip two back when being forced to steady on the turn. She dropped to $30K-$25K company last out and was wide most of the way when breaking from the outside stall. She moves to the rail gate and should find herself in a good position early on in this one at this lower level of competition. Like Capture My Dreams, Ripley Effect (#11) is also trained by Kathleen O’Connell, and she’s set to make her first start since the end of April today. She was gradually improving over the winter months at the Tampa meet, finishing third with $16K maiden claimers in her latest try. She’s a three year old that can come from off the pace. She certainly could have grown over the summer and could be ready to roll while fresh here. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Judgement TIme (#5) dropping in class for Glenn Thompson. Thompson is looking for his first winner in 2022, and this might be the right level of competition for this Optimizer filly. She’s finished well in her three tries with maiden claimers, but she’s come up just short each time. She definitely fits on figures, so I will cover with her, but I feel the price will be lower than I’d like.
New Jersey breds go 1 mile and 70 yards in this optional $30K claiming/conditioned allowance race. Last Romance (#7) is going to take some money in this race, while trying two turns for the first time. He started off the meet red hot, winning twice, but has not been nearly as good in his last two. The biggest price on the morning line, Hit Me I’m Lucky (#2), finished in front of him two starts back. With that one, along with Optic Way (#3) both slotted inside of him, I think there’s a good chance that Paco will have to send him three wide into the first turn. Instead of taking the shorter price on this Cathal Lynch horse, I’ll try the longer priced three year old from his barn, Irish Boolum (#4) as the top pick. He has been steadily improving at this meet, winning two of his last three starts, and never finishing worse than second on the dirt on this course. He’s a late developing Exaggerator gelding who is starting to figure some things out. I think there could be an honest pace in front of him and he could get first run on Irish Meadow (#6). Irish Meadow got the best of Optic Way in their last start, and I think he’ll do it again today. Both runners are seven year old geldings with six career wins. Optic Way likes to be closer to the front end, but I think his task will be harder with stretch out sprinters to his inside and outside. Irish Meadow does tend to rely on a decent pace in front of him to set up his powerful late charge. I think there’s a decent chance he’ll get that set up today. Couple that with the fact that he’s been in very good form, and I think he’s a solid runner to use in this spot. Optic Way will be a saver on some deeper plays, giving me some protection if a strong early pace doesn’t happen.
The Win-Early Pick-5 ends with a conditioned $16K-$14K claiming race going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. This race drew an overflow field of 14, but only 12 will run. All of the runners qualified for this race under the N3L condition. This is another wide open race where there are several chances, and most likely, it’s going to come down to the right trip that wins this one. Of the 12 runners, only one is dropping in class, and that is Spark (#8). He was very good three starts ago when finishing second with $20K-$18K N3L claimers. He finished in front of Candy Kingdom, who was a winner at this level two weeks ago. His last two haven’t been great, but he had a tough trip when he was claimed two starts back. Hollendorfer tried him with a stronger group in $16K starter allowance company where he finished last of eight. I think he can sit a nice trip just off the early speed, getting first run on the closers. Jo Jo Katz (#6) is another price play that has a shot here. He was not prepared for the start last time out, breaking slowly and then being allowed to lope along at the back of the field. He was moving well late, despite going wide and being left with way too much work to do. I like the jockey change to Isaac Castillo, and I’m thinking that this closer will be not as far back, leaving Castillo with more options for the stretch drive. Supply Chain (#5) is moving up in class, but his two turn form is too good to ignore with this group. He was sharp when breaking his maiden for Chad Brown at Tampa in March and he ran a credible race at Keeneland in his next outing. He went off form, dropping into claiming company and being taken for $30K in June at Belmont. He had a tough trip for his first local start, but he rebounded nicely when getting Paco Lopez to ride for the first time. I think he’s likely to get another favorable trip in this field, and if he can get back to his first two races, he’ll be too good for this group. Sir Terre (#13) needs a scratch to get into this race, but he’s worth using if he can compete. He’s coming in from Colonial off a pair of in the money finishes with $25K N3L claimers there. He’ll need to navigate a trip from his wide draw, but he fits nicely with this group. Beau Brown (#12) is another runner that will need to create a winning trip here while breaking from a wide post. However, he has been very good in three of the four races this season on this course. His only poor race was three back where he had a miserable trip against a sharp group. He moves up in class after being a much the best winner last out after being forced to the back of the pack at the break.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $60 Ticket:
I’ll invest a little more in this ticket, knowing that I’m using an AE in the last leg that may not get into the body of the field. On paper, the dirt races feel like they’ve got a chance to be very formful. Kamenshek (#7, R1) is worthy of being a short priced single in the opener, where she looks like the fastest early in a race where no one wants to come from behind. The turf races in the sequence are absolutely wide open, and I’m hoping to connect with prices in both in order to make this ticket payout well.
A field of eight two year old fillies will sprint six furlongs in this maiden special weight event. Chad Brown sends out the morning line favorite, Shidabhuti (#6) with Jose Ortiz aboard. I imagine she’ll take a decent amount of the wagering attention at the windows, but I do have some concerns. Brown is only 1 for 15 with two year olds debuting on the dirt at Monmouth over the last five years. Despite the low win percentage, his horses have hit the board in 53% of those races, so they’re not running poorly, but they’re also maybe not quite as good as the public thinks they might be. She feels like a horse to make sure you have underneath, but I’ll be trying to beat her on top with the multi-race wagers. Lindsay Schultz has quietly had a nice meet in her first season training horses. Her first two year old to run will be Classic Farewell (#4), who is a $100K daughter of Classic Empire. This filly’s works stack up well with this group and there’s definitely some precocity in this pedigree. Schultz’s horses have offered decent value all meet long and this runner looks like she could be live. It seemed a bit odd for Super Caro (#3) to debut on the turf in a route, at least from a pedigree standpoint. However, she didn’t embarrass herself, finishing 5th in her debut, beaten by a Chad Brown first time starter. Her dam was best when sprinting on the turf, but she was stakes placed in some dirt sprints. Super Saver was a Derby winner, so obviously he had an affinity for the main track. There’s a large sample size for horses sired by Super Saver, going from a route to a sprint, and they have won 12% of those races over the past five years, with 38% finishing in the money. Three Carats (#2) is one of three Practical Joke fillies in this spot, and she’s the one that interests me the most. She’s been working steadily for Hollendorfer, gearing up for her debut. She’s the first foal to race from the unraced Pioneerof the Nile dam, Jennifer’s Jewel. Castillo and Hollendorfer have paired up to win at a 23% clip on this course since 2021.
I think class matters in this N1X allowance race. The 8/21 race here at this condition was on the weaker side, and others are emerging from conditioned claiming races. Stuck on Kitten (#8) was a winner at the $50K starter allowance level at Saratoga last time out. She ran well in both starts at that condition at the Spa, finishing third two back, just behind Misspelled Mooon for second. That one beat Prudent Song (#5) handily earlier in the meet. I think she’s a fresh face that ships in here, who will also get a great setup for her closing style, assuming both Ulikeapples (#2) and Zuboshi (#4) are in the starting gate. I’d feel confident using her as a single in multi-race wagers. If either Ulikeapples or Zuboshi scratches out of this race, I would upgrade the filly that remains. Both horses are typically set on making the lead, and if both go, I think there’s a good chance that they duel themselves into submission, setting the table for someone to come from off the pace to win. I would still use Zuboshi as a saver on some deeper plays here, seeing as how she’s proven that she can be tough to pass in the stretch. I’d also consider covering with Hazardous Humor (#6), who looks like she offers some of the better value on the morning line. Her last in that below average 8/21 was not her best effort, when facing winners for the first time. She beat Prudent Song on the square two starts back to break her maiden. That one is entered in this race and listed at 6-1 on the morning where Hazardous Humor is 12-1. I think the outside draw did her no favors last time out, and I’m thinking Jorge Vargas can work out a better trip with her.
A field of ten conditioned $5K claimers are set to go 1 mile and 70 yards here. I’m not loving the claim and drop maneuver with the morning line favorite, Curlin’s Thrill (#1) here. His race two back was strong, but his last try with starter allowance company was not good. He was claimed for $12,500 and wheels back four weeks later, in for a $5K tag. Ten Pin Ally (#4) is making her 4th start of 2022 today. She clearly needed her first two races, but was much better last out when finishing third with time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claimers. Paco Lopez picks up the mount on this Air Force Blue filly, who will be taking on the boys today. A similar effort to her performance last week should get her close with this group. Blood Moon (#7) was third at this level last month when running for Oscar Barrera. He has since been moved to Jose D’Angelo’s barn. D’Angelo is a higher percentage trainer and he has good numbers with his new acquisitions. His form has been up and down this season, but this feels like the right level of competition for him. Tiz Triumphant (#5) has missed most of the meet, making his last start at the end of April at Tampa against $8K N3L claimers. He’s a consistent type that has hit the board in his last four starts and six of his last seven starts on the main track. Gerald Bennett has had a good first local meet here and he has been hitting with 16% of his runners off similar layoffs over the last two seasons.
A full field of 14 has been assembled for this $16K-$14K N2L claiming race going one mile on the turf. Since they’re not employing the chute for this race, all 14 will be able to run. What makes this race more interesting is that the two shortest prices on the morning line are stuck out in posts 13 and 14. I’m intrigued by Nonna Patrizia (#3) in this spot as a 20-1 longshot. She ran Wednesday at Parx on the main track in a race where she didn’t pick up her feet on the main track. She will be asked to go two turns for the first time today, while moving back to the turf. She has two starts in turf sprints, and I thought her effort here three starts back, finishing 4th behind Zuboshi, was a solid effort. She’s sired by First Samurai, so there’s reason to believe that she can get the mile on the turf. Blue Neith (#12) was nailed late on the wire at this level as the even money favorite last out. She’s yet to get back to the form that she showed she was capable of at Tampa this spring, however, there are reasons to believe that this three year old Big Blue Kitten filly will improve in this spot. She’s making her second start off the Jose Sanchez claim, and his numbers at this meet have been solid. She likes to be forwardly placed, but she ran a strong race while coming from off the pace in her most recent outing. Perhaps Juarez moved a little early with her that day, but she still ran her race. On deeper tickets, how I’ll use Princess Blakely (#13) and Investment Outcome (#14) will come down to price. For multi-race purposes, I’ll cover with both, because with the right kind of trip, either filly has shown they are good enough to beat a field like this. However, it’s clear that both horses have had some physical issues that have kept them racing sporadically. Chad Brown brings Princess Blakely in from Saratoga after finishing 3rd with $35K N3L claimers in New York. That was her third career start and her first on turf after a pair of synthetic efforts at Gulfstream. She makes sense at this level, but 4-1 feels light, especially with that wide draw. I don’t see us getting much better than that though, considering she’s running for Brown. The odds might float up on his former trainee, Investment Outcome though. She was claimed for $16K when beating maiden claimers last out. Lindsay Schultz brings her back for the same tag in her first start against winners. She’ll have to show that she’s capable of getting back to her efforts in New York from 2021 in order to beat this group from her high draw. However, she was gaining ground late after being covered up for part of her journey last out. While the time came back slow and she only got up by a narrow margin, I think her effort was better than it looked on paper.
This is another spot for conditioned $16K-$14K filly and mare claimers, this time sprinting six furlongs on the main track. Champagne Sister (#9) is a three year old filly dropping in class for Claudio Gonzalez. She was 5th here last month when facing conditioned $30K-$25K claimers and was 6th with N1X allowance types in her start before that. While both of her career wins came at two turns, she’s sired by Lord Nelson, so I feel she can be effective as a sprinter, especially at this level. Itsy Bitsy Betty (#6) looms as the one to beat in this race. She was a solid second with starter allowance company last out and she was a winner three back at this distance on the main track. She’s run solid races at this meet on both turf and dirt and looks to find another field where she should be competitive. Cabra Chica (#1) is worth covering on some deeper plays, especially if her odds float over her 6-1 morning line figure. She’s the only filly in this race with more than two wins, finding the Winner’s Circle six times in her 18 races career. She’s been a popular filly in the claim box because of that and she’ll need to run faster than she’s been to beat this group. However, she’s won two of her last three starts, including a race on this oval. I’ll be against the morning favorite, Kashan (#8) in this race. She’s had tough trips in her last two starts, bolting two back while losing the rider, and then closing wide in her last start at Delaware. Paco Lopez picks up the mount on this Khozan mare that has come up short a lot lately. This will be the lowest level she’s faced yet, but she hasn’t been finishing well enough to encourage me to take her at short odds in this spot.
Race 11, The $500K Nownownow Stakes:
A field of 10 has been assembled for the biggest race of the weekend, a $500K stakes race for two year olds going one mile on the grass. Jose Ortiz, Dylan Davis, Eric Cancel, and Kendrick Carmouche are all scheduled to be in to ride in this race. The morning line favorite is Oxymore (#7), coming off a win in the Skidmore Stakes when sprinting at Saratoga in her last start. He’s based in New York and has been working well on the turf at the Spa in preparation for this start. She’ll likely go into the gate at odds lower than 2-1 based on his early success and powerful connections. However, horses sired by Astern have not fared well in their first turf route, winning only once in 21 tries over the last five years. He has sprinter’s speed, but I’m not convinced he’ll have the stamina, especially at short odds. I plan to cover with him on deeper tickets, but I’ll make El de Chimi (#4) my top pick here. Horses sired by Cairo Prince have a 16% winning percentage when routing for the first time on the turf. He was a very impressive winner on the main track when covering this one mile distance two weeks ago. His dam broke her maiden on the turf and produced two winners in turf routes. I loved the way he drew off late on the dirt last time and I believe his form will translate to the turf. I like his chances a lot in this race. Love Me Not (#6) was one of the more impressive maiden winners on turf at this meet, opening up at the top of the stretch and holding on for a clear victory. The dam’s only other foal to race has run several strong races on the turf, despite still being a maiden. He took some money at the windows last out, and has every right to move forward here.
The final Saturday program of the meet concludes with a $25K-$20K maiden claiming race going one mile on the main track. After chasing home Todd Pletcher horses Loose Goose and Commandperformance in maiden special weight company at this meet, Strasbourg (#8) drops in class and finds a field that feels just right for him to notch his first victory. The turf experiment last month did not work out, so he comes back to the main track today. Christian Rojas will have to work out a trip from his outside draw, but I think his tactical speed will help. On deeper tickets, Jersey Perfection (#3) is one of the more interesting longer priced runners in this race. Being a New Jersey bred, he’s able to be entered with the waiver at this time. His turf effort was a disaster, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise. His best effort was his only career turf route, which is what he’ll get to do today. He needs to step up his game, but he feels capable of at least finishing in the money at this moment.
Top Pick Winners: 142/533 (26.6%) – $1,014.80/ $1.90 ROI