It’s closing day at Monmouth Park and the track management and racing office have done a tremendous job putting together an excellent 14 race program to close out the meet. All of the odd numbered races are carded for the turf and the even numbered races for the main track. All races yesterday, with the exception of the stakes race were taken off the turf, but after several nice days in a row, I’m hopeful they’ll be able to compete on the turf in all races as scheduled today. There are a pair of stakes for two year olds, the $100K Smoke Glacken Stakes at six furlongs on the dirt and the $500K Nownownow Stakes at one mile on the turf. The investment into building the Nownownow Stakes, named for the winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf run at Monmouth, into a legitimate prep race for the Breeders’ Cup has paid off as a solid ten horse field has been assembled. It’s also a two turn prep race whereas the Pilgrim at Belmont is a one turn contest, which may be desirable to some trainers, as most venues for the Breeders’ Cup run the juvenile turf races at two turns. There will be no drama in the either of the races for leading jockey or trainer, as Paco Lopez and Wayne Potts have their respective titles locked up. It’s going to be a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore, so if you’re in the area, make sure you stop out for your last chance to see live racing in Oceanport until 2022.
|1||7||1,6,9||5,10||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||4,12||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||7,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|9||8,9||2||4||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|10||3,8||4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|11||3,4||2||10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 7
Closing day kicks off with a $16K-$14K maiden claiming race on the grass at 1 Mile and 1/16. I want plenty of coverage in this race, as I think there are many ways you can go. Paco Lopez is on the favorite, Drum and Drummer (5), who hasn’t gotten back to his springtime form since being claimed by Mike Dini. I can forgive his effort last out in an off the turf sprint, but he doesn’t feel like the same horse we saw earlier in the meet. I’ll save him for deeper tickets and use Noble Cross (7) on top, while stretching out and dropping from a pair of maiden special weight races to start his career. He ran a pretty decent race on a good course in his debut when finishing a distant second. He regressed a bit last time, but from a pedigree standpoint, two turns on the grass should be where his comfort zone lies. It’s a steep drop, but I think he fits well here. Shimmering Light (1) is a value play here, moving into a higher percentage barn after a debut with $30K-$25K maiden claimers in a sprint here last month. He’s bred to get better with added distance, and he closed some ground late that last race, despite never really factoring in the outcome. Corrales rode three winners yesterday, and he gets the call here on a horse that figures to be overlooked in the wagering. Jack Rabbit Quick (6) is another second time starter in here that could also be overlooked by the betting public. He ran evenly in his debut at this condition last month. He’s had two interim works to build stamina for trainer Rafael Schistl. Both figure to be live in race where many of the shorter prices have had many chances. Kanithappen (9) has had eight chances to break his maiden thus far. He was a nonfactor last out at this level, but he had two nice races prior to that at this condition. There could be a lively pace in this spot and he could be the best closer of this bunch. Spiritual King (10) is likely to want that early lead, but he’ll have to work hard to get it from post ten in his 15th career try. Speed has been good on this course all month long, and the only race on the grass yesterday was won gate to wire. Keeping that in mind, I’ll use both him and Drum and Drummer on deeper tickets instead of tossing them completely, which was my initial inclination.
Race 2: Top Pick: 4
I think you’ll only need two to safely escape this $8K-$7K N4L claiming race. I’ll take Sour Kicks (4) on top to rebound after a dull effort with starter allowance company last out at Delaware. He left Tampa this spring in very good form, running strong races throughout the second half of the meet there, while climbing the class ladder. Since coming to the mid-Atlantic region, he’s been facing tougher fields, so this is a pretty significant drop in class. He has tactical speed in a race where there isn’t a clear front runner, so I think Jomar Torres might have a slight advantage over the favorite, Katie’s Cowboy (6). He returned from 26 months away from the track and ran on a dirt track for the first time since 2018. He looked comfortable here, closing late to beat $5K restricted claimers. Jose Sanchez, who has won with 27% of his starters in 2021, claimed him two weeks ago, and runs him back in a more challenging spot. Paco Lopez picks up the mount, which is a positive sign. I just don’t love the 3-2 (ML) number, which is probably about where this one will go to post at.
Race 3: Top Pick: 6
Open $7,500 claimers go 5 and ½ Furlongs on the turf here. Speed has been good on the turf, but there is a lot of it in this race. I liked the effort from Mr. Who (6) two back in a turf sprint with open $12,500-$10,500 claimers on a good course three weeks ago. He went back to the dirt last week and was an even 6th against a good starter allowance field. He drops in class, but finds a talented group of runners at this level. The set up should be right if he’s good enough and horses are able to make up ground on this course. Mr. Edgar (2) was one that I flirted with the idea of using as a single in this spot. He was claimed for $12,500 in a win three back here at five furlongs on the turf. He just missed with $22K-$18K claimers two back, which was enough of an effort to take a swing in the Rainbow Heir Stakes in his most recent start. He was not up to snuff against that field, but he’s very logical at this level. I don’t love the rider switch to Heriberto Figueroa, as he’s had some questionable rides at this meet over the last few weeks. Paco Lopez, who has done just about everything right over the last few weeks, gets the call on Our Destiny (3), who might be the speed of the speed in this race. He was beaten handily in starter allowance company at Saratoga by Christopher, who went on to be a gutsy second place finisher in a N1X turf sprint at the Spa toward the end of their meet. Potts has done well spacing his starts out, which seems to be what he needs. This one makes a lot of sense on the drop in class, but, like with most runners that are ridden by Lopez, you’ll like pay a premium.
Race 4: Top Pick: 7
State bred $10K claimers go six furlongs here. Double Chubble (7) is a rebound candidate after struggling with some tougher fields. He hasn’t been as sharp since being claimed by Pompeyo Gomez three starts back. Perhaps he was going off form prior to the claim as he was dull that day. He’s finished mid pack in his last two races against better fields, including an effort on a very sloppy course two back. He seems to have the best early foot in this race, where there should be less pace pressure that what’s he’s been seeing in the optional claiming/N1X races. Lucky Lover Boy (2) was a shrewd claim by Kent Sweezey in a restricted $5K claiming field against open company two weeks ago. The purse of that race was $22K, whereas the purse of this race for NJ Breds is $50K, and he’s facing a softer field. A win and claim would net about $40K, or 8 times the initial investment, which to me shows a trainer that really knows the condition book in and out. (Also note that Sweezey is part owner of this gelding). He closed well in that race to be second by a narrow margin and he had some sharp efforts earlier in the meet with state bred optional claiming/allowance company. His races where he went off form were at two turns and on the turf, so this spot should be right up his alley. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Magical Jamie (4), who is live, but overvalued, in my opinion, on the morning line. He returned in July after nearly a two year break. He seemed to have needed his last three starts to start finding the better form that he showed in 2019. I thought he was a sneaky longshot on the turf last out with better when he rounded out the trifecta. I would have preferred to see him head back to the grass at the Monmouth at the Meadowlands meet next month, however, he’s proven that he can handle the dirt. I think 3-1 (ML) is very light though, and would probably need to get him closer to 5-1 to have serious interest.
Race 5: Top Pick: 4
I’m interested to see Speed Salsa (4) coming back to a turf sprint in this restricted $25K-$20K claiming race for fillies and mares. She is bred to be a sprinter, and I thought she ran a credible race three back in her only turf sprint on this course. She followed up that effort with a decent try at two turns two back and a duller effort on the main track last time. Carlos Montalvo has been riding well this month, and he teamed up with Joan Milne to win the nightcap for a $41 horse yesterday. I thought he won that race with a decisive move on the first turn to assume command in a field with several one-paced runners. When a rider is going well, they’re making aggressive decisions at critical points in the race that are paying dividends, and that was the case there. Smooth Pebble (12) draws wide in this full field, making her second start off the layoff and taking a significant drop in class for Christophe Clement. She came up empty behind Jill’s A Hot Mess in a turf sprint at the Spa last out. That one came back to beat NY Bred N1X allowance foes with a strong effort in her subsequent try. I’m not completely convinced that this will be her best distance, but Paco Lopez teamed up to win with a Clement horse earlier this month, and they’re back together again.
Win-Early Pick-5 Play – $48 Ticket
Race 1: 1, 6, 7, 9
Race 2: 4, 6
Race 3: 2, 3, 6
Race 4: 2, 7
Race 5: 4, 12
Race 6: Top Pick: 3
Two year old fillies go six furlongs in this $25K-$20K maiden claiming race. I think the first time starter, Valuable Breigh (3), is the one to beat. Paco Lopez gets the call for Darien Rodriguez after showing some steady drills in the AM that date back to the middle of June. Rodriguez is 3-10 with firsters debuting in maiden claiming races, telling me that he knows how to spot his horses. I’m not in love with many of those that have started before. One value play could be Jewel of Winter (7) who will likely go off at odds greater than the 10-1 that’s being offered on the morning line. This is a filly that debuted going a mile with $20K maiden claimers at Colonial last month. She finished 8th of 9 that day, not really showing much. Her pedigree suggests that she’s going to run her best races on the main track. She adds Lasix and cuts back to a sprint, while showing a work over this course last week. She may have a stamina edge over some of her rivals here. Summer Helper (9) is by Summer Front who has been producing horses that have run well on both surfaces, despite his affinity for the turf. Friends Lake is dam sire of this filly, so she may take nicely to the dirt here. Her works are on the slower side, but Dini is capable with horses at first asking. I’ll watch her on the track and watch the tote for more clues.
Race 7: Top Pick: 4
I think the cream will rise to the top in this strong N1X allowance turf sprint for fillies and mares. Sussex Garden (4) comes here for Arnaud Delacour after a very good third place finish in a turf sprint at this level at Saratoga last out. Runner up, Risky Mischief, came back to beat a sharp group at this level on 9/4 at the Spa and the winner was a game second place finisher with N2X company on 9/2 there. She gets Lasix for her third North American start for a barn that has been very purposeful with the horses that they’ve sent here this meet. Mumbai (7) is the main danger from the potent combination of Christophe Clement and Paco Lopez. She just missed at this level on this course three weeks ago when Strongerthanuknow got the best of the bob that day. She wasn’t able to stay with N1X horses at Saratoga two back, which is why I give the slight advantage to Sussex Garden. However, Mumbai has better early foot and will likely be in a better spot when the turn for home, considering how the course has been playing over the last few weeks.
Race 8: The $100K Smoke Glacken Stakes: Top Pick: 8
It’s fitting there’s a stakes race named after the 1997 Champion Sprinter, Smoke Glacken, who was very good in his two year old season, winning the Sapling here then going up to Saratoga to score in the Grade 1 Hopeful in 1996. Smoke Glacken finished with 10 wins in 14 career races for Henry Carroll, including three stakes wins on the Oceanport oval. Half of the eight horse field entered here broke their maiden on this course, but the morning line favorite is the Parx invader, Practical Coach (2). He did nothing wrong when he was well backed in a very professional debut. He sold for $270K in May of this year, so it was evident that this horse has some ability. Butch Reid has done great work with his two year olds over the last two years, so it’s hard to knock this one. I’ll definitely use him prominently, but I’ll give the slight edge to Speaking (8) who was an absolute beast in his debut when facing New Jersey breds on the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival card last month. On The Come Up, who was a distant second that day, validated his effort by handily defeating a maiden special weight field here on Friday. He’s been gelded since his win, but he’s worked sharp twice since that big effort, so that is a nonfactor in my mind. I think the outside draw will be to his benefit here. Swift Tap (7) is one of two sent out by Jerry Hollendorfer. He was a sharp debut winner during a deluge on a very sloppy course here on 8/8. He came back to run a dull 5th in the Sapling when being asked to go two turns. He reverts back to a sprint while staying on with stakes company. I liked this one in the Sapling, and I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.
Race 9: Top Pick: 8
A fourteen horse, New Jersey bred maiden special weight race at one mile on the turf, starts the Jersey Shore-6, which must payout today. Coverage will be key in this race, which will come down to value for me. I’ll side with P J’s Hidden Jewel (8) making his third career start this afternoon. He debuted with open $30K-$25K maiden claimers, which is typically tougher than state bred maiden special weight company here. He ran a brave race that day to be second, just getting caught late after trying to take them gate to wire. He was beaten by Military Drill, who ran a game race next out with, finishing second when facing winners for the first time. PJ disappointed on the dirt two back, but now stretches out to two turns for the first time. His pedigree suggests that he’ll run well at two turns, and since he ran a stronger race on the grass, I’m thinking that he can take a step forward here. Surfing (9) just missed when trying to take them gate to wire at this level two back. He didn’t run a step in an off the turf race last out where he was caught wide in the early stages. He was steadily improving on the grass before his last try, so he’s another one that makes a lot of sense here. Duquesne (2) finished in front of Surfing in the 7/25 at this race. He draws well in this field where many that could be contenders, have some tricky draws and could lose a lot of ground on the first turn. Gerardo Milan, who has one race (3rd place finish) at this meet in 2021, gets the call. It’ll be hard to take a short price on a horse with a jockey in a 14 horse field when all of the riders have been regularly riding with the new whip regulations in New Jersey during this meet. Pogi (4) is another one that would be more enticing at longer odds than his 5-1 morning line. He’ll be trying the turf and two turns for the first time. He’s been a money burner on the main track, so I want a price. His pedigree isn’t screaming turf, but Douglas Nunn has popped with longshots trying the turf for the first time in the past.
Race 10: Top Pick: 3
The last pick-5 of the meet starts with a restricted $5K claiming race going 5 and ½ Furlongs on the main track. Horses that are running at this level are generally not the most consistent animals at this point in their careers. They tend to run their race when everything goes their way, and fold up quickly when things go wrong. I think both Dubai Bobby (3) and Luckytobeinamerica (8) could both be in line to have things go their way today. Dubai Bobby moves to the Claudio Gonzalez barn after four tough starts at this meet. However, he has not been on a fast track since January 10th of this year at Aqueduct. His other starts have either come in the mud or on the turf. His fast track form fits well with this field, so there’s a chance that he could be overlooked in the wagering here. He could sit a good stalking trip behind the speed, and put himself in striking position off the turn. Luckytobeinamerica is another one that will appreciate a fast track. Draw a line through his last against better at Charles Town in the slop going 4 and ½ Furlongs. That kind of race isn’t for him, despite his quick early foot. He ran a sharp race two back at Delaware in an off the turf contest, and his race at Penn National in May would likely be good enough to get him in the Winner’s Circle here. He’ll have to contend with Romanoff (4) who is likely the speed of the speed here. He’s run twice this year, once in April off a layoff and then he wasn’t seen again until August. He showed speed in both of those races before fading badly. This is a significant drop in class for a horse that has had trouble staying sound. JD Acosta comes to town to ride a horse in the Nownownow Stakes, and he gets the call here. I have the same trepidation, that I have with Gerardo Milan earlier in the card, with him riding here for the first time this year with the new whip regulations. Acosta has several more wins on the year than Milan though, so the concern isn’t as great in this case.
Race 11: The $500K Nownownow Stakes: Top Pick: 4
I was at Monmouth Park on a cold and rainy Friday afternoon back in 2007 when Nownownow won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in the inaugural running of that race. He closed from last to first with Julien Leparoux to get up in the nick of time. Nownownow didn’t go on to have the career his connections would have hoped, only winning one more graded stakes race, which was the San Fernando on synthetic at Santa Anita in 2009. The most notable horse to emerge out of that race was Gio Ponti, who had a miserable trip that day, but would go on to be the American Champion Turf Horse in 2009 and 2010, notching 7 career Grade 1 turf wins. No horse that has participated in the 14 runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf has accomplished more, however, Nownownow was better on that day and certainly is deserving of having a local stakes named in his honor. It’s likely that the winner of this race will earn the right to start in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race in November at Del Mar. An interesting field of ten has been assembled for this race, that should be ensured an honest pace with the presence of There Are No Words (10). He has drawn wide again, while making his third start in as many weeks. He ran a strong race to be second to a very nice Chad Brown colt, Unanimous Consent on September 11th, in his first two turn turf try. He came back eight days later to decimate a maiden special weight field here when breaking from the outside. This is a huge ask of him to run back in stakes company seven days later, but it has been tough to pass horses on this course. I’ll use him on some deeper tickets, but I’ll look for someone that is a little more tactical. I liked the debut from City at Night (4) at Kentucky Downs. He made his move early and assumed command before being passed in the stretch. He faces winners for the first time without winning, but I think his effort at Kentucky will give him a stamina edge on some of the others here that will come in handy on course that will almost certainly be labeled good or yielding. Mike Maker, who also trains Pure Panic (9), has been winning races all over the country over the past year. Coinage (3) is a beautifully bred horse, sired by Tapit, and foaled by Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Bar of Gold. So naturally, this $450K won his first race at two turns on the turf in the Grade 2 With Anticipation at the Spa. He had absolutely everything his own way, which is an unlikely scenario here. However, he has four starts, so he’s more seasoned than many of his rivals. That may give him an edge here. Todd Pletcher has two maidens coming in who finished second and third in a maiden special weight at Saratoga on 8/28. Sweeping Giant (6) was second that day and Royal Spirit (2) finished a close third. Both are expensive purchases that are beautifully bred, so taking a swing with a maiden in a race the carries a purse like this is certainly logical. They paid $350K for Sweeping Giant and $450K for Royal Spirit. I think Royal Spirit has a little more upside making his second career start and getting Paco Lopez aboard for his local debut.
Race 12: Top Pick: 6
It’s not very creative, but it’s hard to build a case for someone to beat Mavilus (6) shipping here from Maryland for John Salzman. Toss her last on the turf, and her Pimlico form on the main track with better horses would be enough to likely beat these going away. She was 4th beaten 8 lengths two back in her last dirt try, but the second and third place finishers came back to win in their subsequent efforts, so that was a live race. She’s fast enough to control the early tempo, and if she can do that like she did back on 6/5, she’ll likely be long gone. Mago On My Mind (3) is the one that stands the best chance to beat the favorite here. She tried dirt in a sprint last time for the first time in her career, and she ran on late to finish a solid second. She is moving up in class as that race was for N2L claimers, and this one is for N3L (or 3yo) despite the lower claiming tag. She’ll be routing for the first time on the dirt, but she has gone two turns on the turf a few times.
Race 13: Top Pick: 8
The final turf race of the meet is a doozy. Twelve horses signed up for this first level allowance at 5 and ½ Furlongs for three year olds and up, featuring two horses coming off wins at Saratoga. I’m going take another Saratoga invader, Charmed (8) to pull the mild upset. Paco Lopez is riding, so the value won’t be ideal, but I think he can give this horse a solid ride over a course that should be to his liking. He showed ability on softer courses overseas before coming here in June. He ran well in his first North American start on this course, finishing a close up third. He showed up at Saratoga and faced a strong field in N1X allowance company there. He had a disastrous break that day, but he gathered himself and was absolutely flying late to get up for third. He broke sharp last out and found himself doing the heavy lifting on the front end, which doesn’t seem to be where he wants to be. As a result, he came up empty in the stretch. There’s quicker horses slotted to the inside today, and he should be able to take advantage of that, by stalking the pace and coming with a late run. Spun and Won (2) tries turf for the first time after a pair of tough efforts at two turns on the dirt. He was second when he faced Brice, who ran a monster race two back at this level. Wild Banker who was third that day, came back to beat a good field here a few weeks ago at this level. Spun and Run would come up empty in his next try though, thus leading to a change. Duarte worked him over the turf at Colts Neck, and with the Danzig influence from Hard Spun, there’s no reason to think that he can get over the turf. He could be another one flying late. High Limit Room (1) exits a win at Saratoga with New York Bred N1X allowance foes, after dominating open maiden special weight company here two starts back. He’ll have an honest duel on his hands with Montauk Daddy (3) in here, two stalls down. High Limit Room is third off the layoff and has been very good so far in 2021. Montauk Daddy is more seasoned than most in here, coming off a win with starter allowance foes at Saratoga. Like High Limit Room, he seems to have one way to go. These two could just be faster than these, but they’ll be testing each other every step of the way.
Race 14: Top Pick: 2
The meet ends with $12,500-$10,500 maiden claiming race for fillies and mares at 6 Furlongs on the main track. This feels like a two horse race, between the controlling speed, Prominent Henny (8) and the horse dropping in class, Julie’s Grace (2). I’ll play Julie’s Grace as the top pick here in her third race off the layoff. She regressed when going two turns with maiden special weight company last out, but that was one of the deepest maiden special weight races for fillies and mares at the meet. She had no business being in that race, but she has been more competitive when facing $25K maiden claimers. She drops and gets significant class relief in this spot. She should be fresher than Prominent Henny, who ran last week, which I think could make the difference. Prominent Henny debuted liked a good thing in July, but struggled to get back up that strong performance in her next few tries, running very poorly in two straight races. She was more competitive in a slow race two starts back. Then she finally ran much better last time out, just folding late against a similar group. She makes her third start of the month, so Nunn brings her back to try to strike while the iron is hot. If speed is playing well, I’d upgrade her chances, however, I prefer the class of Julie’s Grace on a fair surface.
Meet Stats: 145/500 (Top Pick Winners) – $995.20 / $1.99 ROI per $2 win bet