There’s only three days of racing at Monmouth, starting with this special holiday card today featuring a pair of stakes races, one on turf and the other on dirt for older state bred horses. There’s also the conclusion to a four-race starter handicap series on the turf, where the third installment featured a four horse photo. All four runners are slated to duke it out again. First post this afternoon is 12:40 (ET).
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||5||1,4,5||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||7||7,9||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1||5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||6||5,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||6||6||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
As the meet starts to wind down, it seems that the races for New Jersey breds have either had a dominant favorite or have been absolutely wide open. I feel that the latter is the case with the opener today, which is an optional $15K claiming/N1X allowance for three year olds and up, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. There isn’t a ton of early speed signed on, which tilt the advantage to Hello Pop (#5). He was a game second on the dirt last week at this level and he also was second in his last turf sprint back in June. He ran poorly in the slop three back when the race was taken off the turf and he found the mile distance a bit too far two starts ago. He reverted to his better form when cutting back to six furlongs and I think he might be even better on the grass. Horses that were more forward have run well on the turf this weekend, and with the warm and dry weather projected to continue, I would expect the same today. Cassation (#1) broke his maiden last year when sprinting five furlongs on the grass here and his lone turf sprint effort this year wasn’t terrible. Ramon Moya rode him that day and he let him slip too far back with a slower pace in front of him. He closed well to be third that day with both Sunshine Charlie (#6) and Hello Pop finishing in front of him. Paco Lopez takes over today and drawing the rail in this spot should keep him closer in the earlier stages of this one. Grouch (#4) is the morning line favorite in this race and he’s cutting back to a turf sprint for the first time in his career. His races at one mile have been solid while facing better competition than what he’s facing today. There’s a decent amount of sprint influences in his pedigree so it’s not a reach to think he’ll handle the cutback in distance. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Here Comes Billy (#7), who broke his maiden at five furlongs at the Meadowlands. He’s been better at longer distances of late, so I’m not sure if sprinting on the grass is going to be what he’ll do best. However, after a dull effort last out, Douglas Nunn is trying to switch things up a bit.
I’m going to look to the outside stalls in this beaten $7,500-$6,500 claiming race. Michael Simone doesn’t race here much, but he claimed Dance Step (#7) out of a tougher $7,500-$6,500 N3L claiming race here last month. She comes back to this beaten company which is a N2L claiming race for non-three year olds, and she finds a field where many are coming into this spot in less than stellar form. Simone has good numbers first off the claim, hitting at a 22% since the start of 2022. Both of her career wins came on this oval. Throwback (#9) is an interesting longshot that is racing for Jose Camejo’s stable. Camejo’s runners have struggled at this meet, but he has good numbers with new acquisitions. This one showed promise when winning on debut at Delta. They tried her in stakes company next out where she struggled. She was sent to Mike Dini and she had two discouraging efforts, both with better in her two local tries. She was not interested in the turf two back and didn’t appear to like being on the rail last out. She gets an outside draw in a race where there are many that might be going the wrong way. I could see her taking a step forward here, Baby Sox (#8) ships in from New York for Rudy Rodriguez after a pair of dull efforts at Belmont and Saratoga. She was trending up prior to those races, breaking through to beat $20K maiden claimers at Belmont three starts ago. This is a serious drop in class, and the barn has been cold at this meet, winning with only one of 15 starters. However, there’s enough there to make sure she’s covered, especially if she goes off at or around her 9-2 morning line figure.
Two year old fillies are going one mile on the turf in this maiden special weight contest. Two years ago, a daughter of the mare Lemon Liqueur named Bleecker Street, debuted at Monmouth as a three year old. She would win that race, and go one to win her next six starts, including a win in the Grade 1 New York Stakes. Chad Brown campaigned that filly and he is set to unveil Blue Horseshoe (#2), who is another daughter of Lemon Liqueur. She has been working steadily at Saratoga and is shipping here for her debut. I always get a little nervous whenever Brown or Pletcher ship here from Saratoga. There was a maiden race for two year old fillies yesterday at Saratoga, which was won by a Brown second time starter (Weigh the Risks), who went off at 3-5. There’s not another race for two year old fillies routing on turf at the Spa, and the Belmont at the Big A meet doesn’t begin for another two weeks. Peter Brandt paid $475K for this filly, so if there’s a chance that she could get to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she’s going to need this race before entering a race like the Miss Grillo or the Jessamine next month. She faces a field where the most threatening horses are stuck on the AE list. She has a huge pedigree edge over her rivals and she won’t have to be nearly as talented as her half sister to beat this group. It’s Hot in Here (#12) is also from the Brown barn and she has the advantage of having a race under her belt. She finished third behind Weigh the Risks in her debut. Jairo Rendon will get the mount for Brown if she does get to compete, and if she’s in, it does change the way that I’ll bet the race. However, she will have to overcome a wide draw to graduate from the maiden ranks.
We’ll have back to back baby races with a $40K-$30K maiden claiming sprint going 5 and ½ furlongs on the main track here. This is another spread race for me, as there are some interesting first time starters in this race. I’ll make Fidelightcayut (#4) the top pick, making his second career start. He broke well on debut, but found himself in a bit of a tight spot when a horse seemed to catch him off guard, bursting through to his inside. Olivero shifted him to the inside, which was not the place to be that day. He was fighting, while racing a bit greenly, before being checked hard, causing him to fall back significantly. His effort was better than it looks on paper and the winner of that maiden allowance ran a big race. Don’t Listen (#1) will have to overcome the rail draw, but he seems well spotted for his debut. Jorge Duarte and Colts Neck Stables have had a disappointing meet by their standards, winning only three times at this meet up to this point. However, they campaigned his half sister to win on debut in a maiden claiming contest. Offspring of Will Take Charge have won 8% of the time when debuting in maiden claiming races. Centz (#5) debuts for Gregory Sacco, who is capable of popping with a two year old first time starter. He’s sired by Adios Charlie, who is the only sire in the field whose percentage of debut winners goes up when debuting in maiden claiming company .The works are solid enough to think that he can run a bit. Neigh Neigh Now (#3) is the morning line favorite, debuting for Carlos David. David has very good numbers with firsters and firsters in maiden claiming company. Bellamy Road is not a great first out sire though, so there’s reason to believe he might be overbet in this race from a connections standpoint. I’ll cover with him out of respect for the barn and what they can do at first asking, but if he’s at or around his 7-2 morning line figure, I’ll likely try to beat him in the vertical wagers.
The Malouf Auto Group Starter Series comes to a conclusion with this 11 furlong contest on the grass. Bode’s Maker (#2) has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite, and even though he’s 1-1 at this distance, I don’t think he’s as effective at longer distances as he is between eight and nine furlongs. There were four heads on the wire in the last version of this race with both Rough Sea (#1) beating him, Six Minus (#5), and Ready to Fly (#9) in one of the most thrilling races of the meet. All four runners are back in this contest today, but I think both Rough Sea and Six Minus are the two that are better suited for this distance. Rough Sea never lost on this course and won this race last year. He’s sired by Include, who was by Broad Brush, so he feels like a horse that can run all day. He’s won both of the races in this series that remained on the turf, losing only in the off the turf edition. Samuel Marin always seems to ride this one perfectly and he’s back aboard today. Todd Pletcher brings back Six Minus, who likely had this race circled on his calendar when he entered in the last edition of this starter handicap series. He cleared the N1X allowance condition when going 12 furlongs at Gulfstream this winter and he was competitive, despite a tough trip at that distance at Keeneland two starts back. He’s sired by English Channel, who was a two-time winner of the Grade 1 United Nations on this course at this distance. I think Rough Sea is still a little better at this point in their careers, but he has plenty of upside and will be used on many of my tickets as well.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5, $48 Ticket:
I’m putting this ticket together under the assumption that It’s Hot in Here (#12, R3) won’t draw in off the AE list in the third race. If she’s not competing, I don’t see anyone in the body of that maiden special weight that can compete with Blue Horseshoe (#2, R3) at least on paper. If she does draw in, I’d likely re-calibrate this ticket, including her, while excluding Here Comes Billy (#7, R1) in the opener.
Race 6, The $125K Charles Hesse III Handicap:
The late Pick-5 gets underway with a state bred stakes race that didn’t fill last week, but was brought back to be a part of a strong Monday program. I see this race as being a showdown between the two morning line favorites, Smithwick’s Spice (#5) and Irish Boolum (#6). Irish Boolum was so impressive when crushing his rivals in the Friendly Lover Handicap back in June, so I’m going to go back to the well with him here. He’s coming off a poor effort on the turf in the Irish War Cry Handicap, however grass racing simply doesn’t seem to be his thing,He gets back on the dirt and he finds himself on a course that is playing well for horses with his running style. I think this four year old has a little more upside than Smithwick’s Spice, who is still the one to beat. He runs well on any surface at any distance. Douglas Nunn claimed him 13 starts ago (last July) and since then he has only finished off the board once, which was a 4th place in open allowance company in a turf sprint at Laurel. He was disqualified from purse money after winning a race at Delaware earlier this year. While he is a fierce competitor, I do think two turns on the dirt might be where he might not be at his complete best. He’s been too good of late not to use him prominently, but I think Irish Boolum has the slight edge in this race.
Race 7, The $100K Red Bank Stakes:
We’ll go back to back with seven horse stakes races in the 7th race of the afternoon. There are three shorter prices in this race, and I’ll play against the Chad Brown runner, Principled Stand (#2), who is making his first start since running third in a salty $35K claiming race at Gulfstream. I think there are other horses that will pressure him early, and I’m not convinced he’s good enough to hold off the back markers. I’ve enjoyed watching the maturation of There Are No Words (#6) over the last few seasons and I think this is the spot for him to put it all together. He showed a lot of promise as a two year old, running in three turf races in three straight weeks, breaking his maiden with a ten length win in that span. He was a run off speed horse, which was sometimes his downfall. However, he’s learned to rate kindly off the early pace, and while he has been second in his last two, he’s run two big races behind two very nice horses. I think he gets the right set up today to get his first stakes win in open company. St. Anthony (#7) was a strong winner in N3X allowance company when making his local debut at the end of July. The rails were at 36 feet that day and Paco Lopez gave him a flawless ride while getting the perfect trip. He keeps running high 80’s Beyer Speed Figures, so I’m not sure how high his ceiling really is. However, he clearly likes the course and like the top pick, he should be able to work out another favorable trip, in spite of his outside draw.
Beaten $30K-$25K filly and mare claimers will dash six furlongs here. I thought Sistren (#4) was interesting last Friday until the course came up sloppy. I don’t think wet tracks are her thing and she ran like that. She was a solid second with $25K-$20K beaten claimers two back when Rojas rode her for the first time. She appeared to be headed back to her Gulfstream form from earlier in the year prior to getting the sloppy course last out. I expect better things from her in this race, Shiny Slam (#7) and One Tough Dame (#8) faced each other on 7/29 at this level and they ran 4th and 3rd, respectively, with only a ¼ of a length separating them. Both ran decent races and both are multiple winners, facing many who qualified under the N2L condition. I think there’s a little less pace for Shiny Slam to have to deal with early, and One Tough Dame is certainly comfortable sitting a little closer to the front end than she did last time out. Both fillies feel like they have a legitimate shot here. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with Kilmaley (#6), shipping in after a maiden allowance at Penn National. I know Penn National is coming up on a break soon, but she also ran well at Delaware two back. I would have preferred to see her try N1X allowance company before dropping in for a tag that is less than her purchase price. She’s still lightly raced, so there still is enough upside to try her if the price is right. However, I am a little concerned playing her anywhere close to her 4-1 morning line figure.
The final turf race of the afternoon is a N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs. There was a race two weeks ago at this condition with five horses finishing within a length and a half of each other. This figures to be another competitive race where I’ll try a price on top. Vingativa (#7) broke from the rail in her debut when facing $40K-$30K maiden claimers here last month. She showed some speed and looked like she was going to be falling back, but she dug in gamely and oufinished Nicky’s Notion for a narrow victory. You don’t see that kind of trip from too many debut runners, so it’s not surprising that Kathleen O’Connell is moving her to a protected spot for her second career try. She’s off the rail today, so she’ll have to navigate some potential ground loss, but at 10-1 (ML) or better, I think she’s worth taking a shot with here. I don’t love seeing Jairo Rendon hop over to Miss Sakamoto (#4) to ride her for the first time, however, you won’t do much better than having Samy Camacho as the replacement. He won four races on yesterday’s program, signaling that he is definitely back from his injury that sidelined him for the better part of six weeks of this meet. World Traveler (#1) comes back home after faltering in an off the turf starter allowance race at the Spa last month. Two back, she ran into a next out stakes winner, All That Magic at this level. She was 4th that afternoon after running a solid second in her start before that. I like her first two efforts sprinting on the turf enough to use her in this spot. Free to Roam (#8) tried grass for the first time in that same 8/20 allowance race and she was rolling late to be third, beaten only a neck. That was her first start while racing for Carlos David. She had a wide draw that afternoon as well but Maddie Oliver rode her very well. She’s back in the saddle once again here. On deeper tickets, I’ll also include Queen Karima (#5). There’s other speed horses that she’s going to have to deal with and her early speed was her best weapon at Gulfstream. She was also in the All That Magic race where she was unable to make the lead. They did go pretty fast early on a course that was playing fast. I think she could benefit from the added half furlong because she might not have to work quite as hard to make the front. Front end speed wasn’t a bad asset on grass yesterday, and Paco Lopez getting the mount won’t hurt.
Eight fillies and mares will go 1 mile and 70 yards in the nightcap, which is a beaten $7,500-$6,500 claiming race. Accel Rose (#4) was a winner at this level two back, taking the field almost gate to wire. Her winning effort was good enough to earn a trip to the Spa where she had some issues in a beaten $14K claiming contest in the mud. She did finish third behind a winner that romped home by 15+ lengths. She clearly likes this course and should be able to rebound with this group. The last few dirt races seemed to play kindly to horses coming from off the pace and if that seems to be the case again, Welcometomyworld (#1) would be an upgrade for me. She was second behind a clear winner at this level last month and she broke her maiden here three back. Accel Rose was all over her two back, but she wasn’t the best version of herself in that spot. I’d like to see her odds drift up a touch for this effort today. Zippy Zinny (#8) will face winners for the first time after graduating in her 9th career attempt. She’s paired her last two Beyer Figures, so she could be due for a slight bump up in her numbers, and if that’s the case, she feels like she could be a bit of a live longshot here.
Top Pick Winners: 98/430 (22.8%) – $715.30/$1.66 ROI