Labor Day Weekend starts with a Friday card that features eight races and the first post is scheduled for 3:00 in the afternoon (Eastern Time). There are eight races on the program, four of which are carded for the turf. I’ll handicap those four races for both surfaces, but with the amount of rain that fell Wednesday into early Thursday morning, in addition to the heavy rains that fell two weeks ago, I would be surprised to see them run on the turf today at Monmouth.
|DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||3,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||4||1,2,3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 1 (Both surfaces)
The first race in the month September is for maiden claiming fillies and mares, running with a $30K-$25K tag. The first leg of the Win Early Pick-5 is carded for 1 Mile and 1/16 on the grass, but on either surface, I think Vicious Velma (1) is going to be the one to beat. She ran a decent 4th two weeks ago while facing maiden special weight foes. She’s been close in all three races, two of which came on the grass and one which was her debut in March at Santa Anita on the main track. Hollendorfer adds blinkers to hopefully get her to relax on the front end, as she does have a decent amount of early speed. I think she can succeed at this level with a front running trip on either surface. On deeper tickets, First Lady Di Da (5) is interesting first time starter coming from the Arnaud Delacour barn. Her dam, Miss Laa Di Da, was at her best on the turf. She’s sired by the 2014 Travers winner, V.E. Day, who was sired by English Channel. She has the pedigree to be successful at two turns on the turf, but there’s also some dirt ability in those bloodlines. She’s worked well on the all-weather surface at Fair Hill. Her dirt works are a little bit slower, but her most recent dirt drill at Delaware was her best work yet. Brina (2) joins the Steve Asmussen barn after making her first five starts for Todd Pletcher. She was a decent third with better on this course with $40K-$35K maiden claimers back in June. She has definitely run her best races on the grass. Her only dirt start came with a solid group of maiden special weight foes at Gulfstream going a one turn mile. The top two finishers were absolutely dominant in that race, so I’d be willing to give her another shot if she’s getting back on the dirt.
Race 2: Top Pick: 3
There’s a lot of early speed signed on for this N1X allowance race at 6 Furlongs on the main track. The beneficiary of that early pressure could be One Whirlwind Ride (3), who broke his maiden here back on 8/15. He has been steadily improving in main track races, and has run two strong efforts on the Monmouth Park oval. He sat off a fast pace and pounced on the front runners last out. If he can duplicate that effort and work out a similar trip, he’ll be tough with this group. Algebraic (5) ran at this level last week and wheels right back after a gutsy second place finish behind Money Ride, who is a very sharp runner on the main track. He’s been caught late in his last two starts at this level, and he’s likely going to have to work hard again to get to the front. He continues to run very sharp races on this track, so it’s very hard to leave him off any tickets. Causeway Jones (4) makes his first start off the meet and his first start since finishing off the board in the Oaklawn Invitational Stakes in May. The top two finishers in that race came back to win stakes races in their subsequent starts, so there was definitely some talent in that field. He was sharp at this level in two races in Arkansas in the spring, so if he’s ready off the bench, he can certainly be a player in this spot.
Race 3: Top Pick: 6 (Both Surfaces)
Multi-conditioned $20K-$18K claimers are scheduled to go 1 Mile and 1/16 on the turf. All horses that are entered qualify for the N3L condition. Lion Charmer (6) has four strong races on the grass this year, winning once and finishing second on the other three. His only bad race came on the main track here two back in a starter handicap race that was taken off the turf. He lost all chance after the break in that race where he was facing better rivals, but he has a few solid dirt efforts in his past. He’s the play for me on either surface. Croi Mor (4) has been close in his last two starts at this level on the grass. He has been moved to the barn of the leading trainer, Wayne Potts, since his last effort. Lion Charmer has gotten the best of him in both of his last two races, but he draws the better post and has been less than a length behind the horse that will likely be a considerably short price. There’s enough there to make sure this one is covered on some tickets on the turf. On the dirt, I’ll upgrade, Promo Code (1) who has been running mostly in one turn races in New York. He has shown ability at two turns on the dirt though, and he has enough early speed to play catch me if you can with this group, which will likely be a small field if they do compete on the main track.
Race 4: Top Pick: 4
Happy Tappy Tim (4) looks like the one to beat in this maiden special weight race for two year old fillies. She’s coming out of a productive maiden special weight race on 8/7 on this oval. She beat Mia’s Crusade, who came back to beat New Jersey bred maiden special weight fillies here last weekend. She might offer a bit of value as well, as Steve Asmussen sends out a pair of first time starters in this race that are likely to draw some wagering attention. She rallied wide and showed the ability to pass horses, which is always a plus from a debut runner. Waterworks (2) and Medley (3) are the aforementioned runners from the Asmussen barn, and both figure to have a shot in this race. Paco Lopez gets the call on Waterworks, who is sired by Mosler. Mosler has been a very productive sire in the mid-Atlantic region, especially with Maryland bred runners. Gerrardo Corrales has ridden the majority of Asmussen’s horses at the meet, and he is the pilot for Medley. This Louisiana bred daughter of Dominus has been working on the Tapeta over a Turfway. She ships in here where she could be a factor, as she is bred to do her best running on dirt. Gabriela’s Miracle (1) debuted in a restricted maiden special weight at Saratoga, a few weeks ago where she finished 4th, fading after being ridden hard in the early stages. Take the Backroads finished second in that race, and that filly came back to win on the turf with maiden special weight company in her last try. With her rail trip, expect to see her on or near the lead again. If the track seems to be favoring speed, she’d be worth upgrading.
Race 5: Top Pick: 5 (Turf) / 2 (Dirt)
This multi-conditioned $16K-$14K filly and mare claimer on the turf is the final leg of both the Win Early Pick-5 and the Early Pick-4, as well as the first leg of the late Pick-4 today. If the race goes on grass, I’ll be singled to Stefanie On Fleek (5) on the majority of my tickets. She makes her second start since moving to the Claudio Gonzalez barn. She finished a respectable third in the first start for him while facing $20K-$18K N3L claimers when sprinting on the turf. Her NYRA form before that wasn’t great, but she was consistently running against significantly better fields in those races. Prior to that, she ran well in many two turn efforts in South Florida. It’s been a while since she’s won, but I think she has some upside here, and fits well at this lower level of competition. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Exogen (2) and Who U Gonna Call (7). Exogen will be where I single if this race goes on the main track. Her recent form is not good, but this is a deep drop in class for a horse that was competitive with allowance and stakes company at one point in her three year old campaign. She was beaten double digit lengths in the Delaware Oaks two back and again here when facing a strong field for the N1X allowance condition. There’s not a lot of other horses with any kind of solid dirt form to speak of here, so she makes sense trying to use this spot to get back on track. Her dam sire is City Zip, so this isn’t the worst spot to try the turf if the race does proceed as scheduled. Who U Gonna Call is probably better on the grass and is coming off a pair of respectable efforts at Pimlico, one on turf and the other in a race that was taken off the grass. She’s definitely finding her better form, but looking at her previous tries, I’m not certain how high her ceiling is.
Win Early Pick-5 Play: $36 Ticket
Race 1: 1, 2, 5
Race 2: 3, 4, 5
Race 3: 4, 6 (Turf) / 1, 6 (Dirt)
Race 4: 1, 2, 3, 4
Race 5: 5 (Turf) / 2 (Dirt)
Race 6: Top Pick: 3
I thought that Politely Crowned (6) was a live longshot when she ran in a similar race last month, going off at 15-1. I think she’s playable again after finishing a respectable third behind next out winner, Mi Cleopatra and I that day. She’s now in her third race off the layoff and running at an appropriate class level at this point in her career. She does have some solid races on this track and distance and is worth considering again today. Wicked Jane (5) has two decent efforts in her last two tries at this level, most recently, finishing third to Mi Cleopatra and I last week. She has enough tactical speed to stalk the early pace and make a run late. Third Time Around (7) is definitely the X-factor in this race. She is plummeting in class, last racing with N1X allowance foes on the grass here in July, when making her first start in three months. She was dull that day, but she had better efforts earlier in the year at Gulfstream. All of her eight career starts have been sprinting on the turf, so this is definitely a change for her. Her trainer, Kent Sweezey, has brought several live horses to this meet, winning with 11 of his 45 starters. I’ll be interested to see what the final odds on her will be, as how much or little play her will be dictated on price. I don’t love her at 3-1 morning line, but it’s possible that price floats up.
Race 7: Top Pick: 5 (Turf) / 8 (Dirt)
The co-feature on the Friday card is another N1X allowance race, this one for fillies and mares, scheduled to go 5 Furlongs on the turf. There is a ton of speed on the inside and outside in this race, so I would think that both Frosted Blue (5) and Band Sweetheart (6) would stand to be upgraded, as both have shown the ability to be effective closers when sprinting on the grass. Frosted Blue broke her maiden last out with maiden special weight foes in her second race on grass. She took a huge step forward two back when trying the grass for the first time, finishing second at 36-1 odds. She was bet down to the even money favorite last out, and she didn’t disappoint her backers, closing well to get up in time to win her first career race. She faces winners for the first time today, but she should sit a great trip. I’ll give her the narrow advantage over Band Sweetheart, who probably would have been my top pick if this race were carded for 5 and ½ Furlongs. She came up just a bit short while flying late at this level last time out. She’s shown she’s more effective coming from off the pace on the grass, after being more of a frontrunner earlier in her career. She’ll likely get the right pace set up, but I worry the five furlongs could be a little short for her. Mumbai (1) and Strongerthanuknow (2) are the two early speed threats that could keep finding, especially with them being posted on the inside. Mumbai was swallowed up late with a strong field at Saratoga last out going 5 and ½ Furlongs. She was an even second two back on this course, never really threatening the winner that day. Her maiden win three starts ago was really good though, proving she definitely has the ability when she’s right. Strongerthanuknow has two good tries while coming up just a bit short on the turf at this level. She likely needs to take a small step forward to beat these.
On dirt, Exact (8), who still might be better on turf, is my top pick. She disappointed last out when she was claimed for $30K. She came up empty that day after beating similar two back. She was an easy winner on the dirt with claiming company three back in a race that was taken off the turf. A lot of the early speed will likely scratch out if this race goes on dirt, which should make her tough at this level. Madera (9) is the lone main track only entrant on the card, and she’s coming off a dull try with starter allowance company at Belmont in May. She’s been off the radar since with no published workouts since. She’s running for unknown connections here, but she has some sharp dirt races on the NYRA circuit earlier in the year. I think she’s well spotted in here on dirt if she is able to come back running. Both Frosted Blue and Mumbai might be worth another shot on the main track. Frosted Blue was bad in her first three dirt tries, but she’s run two big efforts on the turf, and may have figured some things out. Mumbai debuted on the dirt, where she didn’t run well. She has improved dramatically on the lawn over her last several tries. Like Frosted Blue, she was probably bred to be better on dirt. However, if they stay in the race, what kind value I get on these two will be a factor for me.
Race 8: Top Pick: 1
There’s no denying that 4-5 morning line favorite, Sneakiness (6) is going to be the one to beat in this time restricted $12,500-$10,500 claiming race, going 6 Furlongs. Paco Lopez gets the return call on this son of Into Mischief after a second place finish with optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance foes last out, He was claimed for only $5K three back by Delgado, so he’s already been a productive claim. However, based off his current form, I feel that he would have been competitive in the allowance race in Race 2. A win in that race would be more profitable for than connections than a win and being claimed for $12,500 here. I would have preferred to see him in that race over this race. Maybe that’s being picky, but if I’m going to invest in a 4-5 favorite, I want everything to feel right. I’m still using him as an A, but I’m going to look for a price and use Fix Me A Sandwich (1) as my other A horse and my top pick in the nightcap. At 8-1 or better, I can look past the current form and hope that he can find the version of himself that was running well last fall and winter at Parx. Perhaps that track is his happy place, because he hasn’t yet shown that same energy here. However, he’s the only one that has consistent races anywhere in his recent form line that would stand up to the current form of Sneakiness. For that reason, I think he’s worth using today.
Meet Stats: 112/396 (Top Pick Winners) – $751.70 / $1.90 ROI per $2 win bet