Labor Day Weekend is here at the Jersey Shore and there are only five cards left in the 2023 meet at Monmouth Park. The Saturday card which gets underway at 12:40 (ET) is headlined by the $100K Violet Stakes, which will be the 5th race of the afternoon today. The forecast calls for a dry and warm weekend, so the races carded for the turf should be good to go.
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||1,2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||2||2,4||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||7||6,7||1,3,4||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||1||1,2,4||8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||8||7,8||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts with a ten horse, $16K-$14K maiden claiming race for three year olds and up. Despite the fact that as many as ten can run, this feels like a two horse race. Please Baby (#1) was two lengths better than Power of Nature (#2) when they finished second and third at this level last month. Neither horse has much early speed, but I think there’s a little more upside with Power of Nature. She was making her third career start and her second on the grass when taking a significant drop in class in that race. While she was able to work herself over to the rail from post six, she was bumping with other horses fairly hard to do so. The race winner set the pace and made an early break for the wire which proved to be the difference. I think Power of Nature can sit closer to the pace than her rival today and should be able to get first run on the leaders, while Please Baby is going to have to try to circle the field again. I think Power of Nature is well spotted to turn the tables on her very capable opponent.
I thought the debut effort last week from Feelin So Lucky (#2) at Timonium was good enough to play her back in this one mile $40K-$30K maiden claiming race. Admittedly, I have no idea how her form will hold up going from a four furlong race in the Maryland bullring track, to a one mile race on a mile oval course. Despite being a bit flat-footed from the gate, she accelerated impressively, and despite racing greenly, she was flying home to come within a head of winning that race. Despite the rise in class, I don’t see a ton of difference between the two fields. Offspring of Madefromlucky have won 20% of the time in their first routes. Princess Anisa (#4) makes her debut for leasing trainer, Claudio Gonzalez. Gonzalez has won with 21% of his debuting two year olds over the last five years and three of those 18 winners came at this one mile distance. His sire Superninetynine was a debut winner and he gets 21% winners from his horses that route for the first time. Bright Kohana (#6) stretches out after two respectable tries in sprint races. She added late to be 4th in her debut on the dirt and she was a distant third last out behind a filly that rocketed away to win by 13 lengths on the turf. The dam won both of her races on the turf, including a stakes race as a two year old. However, there’s enough there to play her in this spot.
On paper, this state bred optional claiming/N1R allowance sprint, going five furlongs on the turf, looks to set up perfectly for Exclusive Champion (#4). She was excellent when breaking her maiden in her first try sprinting on the grass three starts back. She ran okay at this level in a pair of one mile races on the turf, but judging by the way she powered home in that maiden race, I think this is what she wants to do. There’s a decent amount of cheap speed in this race with Amazing Graces Joy (#2), Bustin Down Doors (#5), and Fixed Odds (#6)all in the mix. While the shorter distance (5 furlongs instead of 5 and ½ furlongs) and the fact that this will be her third race in four weeks are both factors that caused me to try hard to find a horse to beat her. However, I think she gets the right trip and could just be better than her eight rivals. I’ll include Violets Smile (#7) on the ticket. She ran two races at this distance early in her career, running a decent 4th here in her second career start. Her first five tries at this year’s meet have all come on the main track, and for the most part she looks like a better horse than she was last year. I’m not sure if she’s at the level of Exclusive Champion just yet, but she feels like the best alternative to the favorite.
As these state bred races, optional claiming/allowance races go, sometimes you get evenly matched fields where anyone can step up and win. However, because of the purse structure, you sometimes get horses that drop into this level and tower over their competition, That is the case with the three year old filly, Riding Pretty (#8) .She was wide when finished a distant 3rd in the Monmouth Oaks at the end of July. She just missed in state bred stakes company earlier in the year and she’s run well against open company. She finds a field of pushovers here, which is why she’s even money on the morning line. She feels light years better than her rivals in what should be a good confidence builder for her moving forward.
Race 5, The $100K Violet Stakes:
The feature race today is a 1 mile and 1/16 contest on the turf for fillies and mares. I do see this race as a bit of a wide open affair. Miss Carol Ann (#7) is the top pick for Graham Motion in this race. She won twice at seven furlongs overseas before joining this barn last fall. She tried graded stakes company, where she was 6th, beaten less than three lengths last fall. She went to the sidelines and returned with a solid effort in a seven furlong sprint at Belmont. She was caught late in an allowance race at Saratoga that featured two others that are in this race today. Horses sired by Kingmax are winning at a 24% in North American turf route races over the last five years. In the span, there have been 15 starters sired by him on this course with six winners (40%). She’s had some gaps in between her three starts, so I do think she’ll be more fit for this race. Beaute Cachee (#6) is one of two runners that Chad Brown is sending out, although, this one is entered without a rider named. She was second in that same allowance race that Miss Carol Ann is coming out of. Her first two North American starts have been solid, pairing her Beyer Speed Figures in those two starts. She could be sitting on a bigger effort here and if that’s the case, she might win by open lengths. However, Brown could also be eyeing another spot for this filly, as he named his local first call rider, Samy Camacho, to ride Veronica Greene (#4). That Tapit filly is looking to rebound after a dull effort in the same Saratoga allowance race. She added blinkers that afternoon and ran the worst grass race of her career. The blinkers come right off, which seems like a logical decision. She’ll likely be jockeying for position to get first run on the pacesetters. Tic Tic Tic Boom (#1) might be doing the same thing, if Alan Bedard opts to race her in this spot. She’s another runner that has entered this race without a jockey named to ride. In the past, that was a tell-tale sign that the horse was not going to be running, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case this year. She’ll be one of the longer prices in this race, and seeing how she is 1-21 in her career on the turf, that makes sense. Her figures on her best day could be competitive at this level, assuming no one takes a huge step forward. I prefer her underneath, but of the tree longshots, she’s the most appealing. I’ll also cover with Join the Dance (#3), who like Veronica Greene, is trying to rebound after a dull effort in her last race at Colonial .She was very good in a small stakes race two starts back. So there’s reason to believe that she can rebound off that effort. Mark Casse hasn’t started many horses at this meet but the few he has sent out have been live.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $30 Ticket:
I do fear that this sequence could wind up being very chalky, so I’m not really interested in spreading much farther than this modest all A/B ticket. Riding Pretty, (#8, R4) looks like she’s going to be an easy 1-5 winner in the 4th, so even though there cou;d be tremendous value in playing against her, I don’t see many viable alternatives. The same could be said for the opener where Please Baby (#1, R1) abd Power of Nature (#2, R1) appear to lay over this field.
The late Pick-5 gets underway with a contentious $50K-$40K conditioned claiming race. I see this race as one where you could make a solid case for any of the eight runners. I landed on No Confession (#1) as my top pick in this race. He drops in for a tag after four straight races in stakes company. He won the Rittenhouse Square Stakes at Parx in March when sprinting 6 and ½ furlongs, drawing off the win impressively. He tried a pair of two turn stakes races here, finishing off the board in both the Long Branch and the Pegasus. He was given two months off and returned to finish 5th in the Salvatore DeBunda Sprint at Parx. He was making his first start since returning to the care of Rafael Schistl. While running for Schistl in the winter, he made a big jump in his second start off a similar layoff. While I don’t love the rail draw, I see him as a good fit at this level of competition. V Mart (#2) feels like a solid value play in his return to the Jersey Shore. He ran two sharp races here in N1X allowance company at a time when early speed horses were faring better than they’ve been over the last few months. He faltered at that level when trying the turf for the first time two back. He dropped in for a tag against a sharper field at Saratoga where he ran a dull 4th. He’s technically moving up in class, but facing a field that is not as deep. I think his past efforts on this track make him interesting at his 10-1 morning line figure. Lookin Super (#4) is another Claudio Gonzalez success story from this meet. He claimed him three starts ago for $30K. He came to run okay in his first start off the claim, but he took a solid step forward to win handily at that level last time out. When looking at his speed figure progression, I do think he’s capable of repeating his last effort, which would likely put him right in the thick of things as he climbs up the class ladder. He and No Confession are the two multiple winners in this field facing six others that qualified under the N2L condition. While I’m often willing and eager to bet horses like that throughout the meet, the later it gets in the year, the more significant that advantage becomes for the three year olds. On deeper tickets, I’ll back up with Three Zero (#8), getting back on the dirt after 11 consecutive turf tries. Unless there’s a decent jump from her 7-2 morning line, I’ll likely be trying toi beat her in the vertical exotics. I am intrigued to see that Paco Lopez is taking this mount though. His four starts to start his career weren’t great, but he is a better horse now. He feels like a horse that I don’t want to have knock me out of the Late Pick-5 completely, so I will backup with him.
Pugilist (#7) has owned this $12,500-$10,500 claiming condition in New Jersey over the last year or so, winning three times and losing in a nail biting photo in her last four tries at this level. She faced a softer field at this same level last month and was an easy winner at 4-5. She was listed at 2-1 on the morning line that day, and I thought we might be able to get her closer to 8-5, but the public was spot on, as she won like a sub-even money favorite should. There are some better runners in this race today that could challenge her today, the most notable being Red Wind (#8), coming in from Maryland for leading trainer, Claudio Gonzalez. Pugilist was three lengths better than her when they faced off in May, however, Red Wind broke from the outside stall in a race out of the chute, when the course was at 24 feet. The rails are at the same position today, but this race starts in the straightaway instead of the turf chute. She conceded ground to her rival there, as Pugilist was able to drop in along the rail. As the tempo picked up and the back markers were beginning to launch, a longshot that was falling back through the field caused her to steady, which all but took her out of the running for the win. She closed well to get into third, and she backed up that effort with three strong efforts in a row and Parx and Laurel. She’s been more forwardly placed in her last few starts and drawing directly outside of Pugilist could make her uncomfortable enough to keep her from going back to back. It;s going to come down to price disparity for me, because at even odds, I’d lean toward Pugilist, but if the odds differential between the two runners widens from the morning line, I think Red Wind becomes the better value play. I’ll make her the top pick, in hopes that scenario plays out. Underneath, I think Boston Princess (#1) is also interesting. I don’t love her at the same 7-2 figure that we’re getting with Red Wind on the morning line. I do think both of those mares are still a few lengths better than her. However, she has some upside, drawing the rail, while her rivals risk a wide trip into the first turn. She’s dropping in class after facing a salty group in N1X allowance company last time out. White Lilacs just missed with N2X company when she ran a few weeks back. She was a winner with conditioned claimers three starts back on the grass at Gulfstream. I’d need her odds to float up for me to consider using her, but I do think she’s only one of a few in this race with a legitimate chance.
I thought this N1X allowance race for fillies and mares was the toughest race on the program to handicap. There are four runners that I have significant concerns about in this race, including the morning line favorite, Ziaerati (#3). She is coming off a race where she was stuck down inside on a course that was not playing well for horses on the rail. She faded to finish a distant third that day. While she has a few big efforts, I’m concerned that she’s going to battling for the lead in between horses, and after re-watching her races, I’m not sure that’s the kind of race she wants to run. I don’t love the rail draw for Royal Poppy (#1), who seems obligated to gun it from her inside post. Kotyle (#2) is an absolute wildcard in this race, but I’m not as interested in her at this distance on the dirt as I was when she tried routing on turf at huge odds last time out. Beautiful Karla (#8) has yet to run a race fast enough to compete with this field, and while she is a still developing three year old, I think she’s going to be overmatched. That leaves me with four runners that I’ll be using in the julti-race exotics, giving the top pick to Kingdom Queen (#4). She’s a filly that has three career wins on the dirt, all coming on this oval. I think the potential for a bit of a pace meltdown is there in this race, and if that scenario plays out, she might be the one that will be closing the fastest. Starship Defiant (#6) is a consistent California bred mare that was claimed by David Jacobsen last June. She was third at this level here two starts back and was overmatched when facing a significantly better group at this level at Saratoga last out. She was entered as a MTO on Friday at Saratoga where she was a scratch. She’s a consistent runner that should be stalking the speed from a good spot. Athena’s Wisdom (#5) could work out a similar kind of trip, drawing outside of some of the early speed. Her last two dirt races were excellent, albeit while facing softer competition. Her last race at this level seemed like an odd time to try to try the turf, and she was no match for a next out stakes winner (All That Magic) that afternoon. She comes back to the main track to face a tougher group than she faced in her last two tries on the main track, and she’s likely going to close to a solid pace. However, there’s enough upside with her to make sure she’s covered. Cumberland Falls (#7) is coming back to the dirt after three off the board finishes on the turf. She broke her maiden in her only try on the dirt, coming in a two turn race on a wet-fast course here back in May. The cutback to a sprint feels a bit odd, and she is unproven as a horse that comes from off the pace. However, she has proven she handle this surface and there’s no real standout in this one.
Nine horses are entered in this optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race going nine furlongs on the turf. I find it interesting that two sons of Violence with a combined 31 starts on the dirt are both entered in this race to try the turf for the first time. I think that both Montauk Point (#2) and Logico (#8) could have an impact on the outcome of this race in different ways. Montauk Point cleared the N1X condition at this distance on dirt two starts ago at Pimlico. He came back 2 and ½ months later in a very salty race at this N2X condition going nine furlongs on the dirt at the Spa. He was wide and outclassed that afternoon, finishing well behind the winner. Violence gets 10% winners in turf routes and 11% winners with horses trying the turf for the first time. His dam foaled the 2019 champion female sprinter, Covfefe, but she also foaled two runners that were winners at two turns on the turf. Shug McGaughey has good numbers with horses going from turf to dirt and horses trying the turf for the first time. Logico is owned by the same stable partially owns Kygo (#4), both of whom are trained by Elizabeth Dobles. While Violence has some respectable numbers with turf horses, his dam ran poorly in her other foal to race is 0-2 on turf. I’m wondering if he’s entered to help ensure an honest pace on the front end for Kygo, who feels like the class of this group. He ran well at this level to be 4th behind Kingmax back in July. He broke from the outside post that day and didn’t have a great trip. He was last of 9 in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, although he was beaten less than eight lengths, so his effort wasn’t terrible. I was a little baffled to see him entered in a 5 and ½ furlong sprint last out where he never was able to get involved. He comes back to a more appropriate distance for his running style. He’s the only winner in the field at this distance on the grass and I think he’ll be tough here. Forever Souper (#5) is coming off an impressive win in a strong N1X allowance race here on Haskell Day. The runner-up that day, Ronstadt, came back to win here at that level two weeks ago. He’s never run a bad race at two turns and his ceiling is higher than most in here. I don’t want to take too short of a price on a horse moving up in class though.
I think this conditioned $5K claiming race that will close out the afternoon runs through the morning line favorite, Fast Break (#6). He was no match for Coach Adams in starter allowance company last month, when making his first start since May. That one ran his eyeballs out that , drawing off to win by over 13 lengths. He lost a desperate photo at this level at the beginning of the meet, and his barn has been sending out live horses all season long. Robert Falcone’s runners have won 12 of 42 times (29%) at this meet and have finished in the money 30 of 42 times (71%). When I look at the other major players in this race, I have some concerns. Indian Buzz (#1) ran a monster race at this level last out riding the rail on a day where horses in the outer lanes seemed to be running much better. While it was a huge effort, I’m concerned that he won’t be able to back up that effort today. Rerally (#7) was re-claimed by Starry Knight Racing and Kent Sweezy, but even though he’s running for a lower tag, I think this is a tougher spot that the $7,500-$6,500 N3L claiming races that he has been racing in. There’s other early speed signed on inside of him, so he’s either going to have to concede ground or work very hard to make the front end. His last two tries haven’t inspired enough confidence in him for me to take him at short odds. I’ll use Off the Meds (#9) as a backup in this spot. He came with a rally that was too little too late when getting into their last month at this condition. Alcools, who was an easy winner that day, was a big class dropper that swooped into this $5K claiming level to take the top prize. There should be a respectable pace to set us his late close and horses that have been coming with that wide, over the top, kind of move, have been faring well on the main track over the better part of the last two months.
Top Pick Winners: 94/413 (22.8%) – $676.00/$1.64 ROI