The signature day of thoroughbred racing in New Jersey is today. The $1,000,000 Grade 1 Haskell Stakes for three year olds is the centerpiece of the card, highlighted by the Kentucky Derby winner, Mage, making his local debut. Things will not be easy for him here as Bob Baffert sends out Arabian Knight, in hopes of winning his 10th career Haskell. Tapit Trice, Geaux Rocket Ride, and Extra Anejo are some of the other contenders that make this one of the deeper three year old races this year. There are five other stakes races on this 14 race card, including the Grade 1 United Nations. Post time for this loaded program is a tad earlier than usual, with the first race going off at 12 noon (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||3,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1,6,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||10||10||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|8||6||6||7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|9||4||4,7||5||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|10||6||6||4,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|11||3||3,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Haskell Day gets underway with a maiden special weight contest for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, and John Servis each are scheduled to send out a pair of runners in this eight horse field. I’m going to try to the first time starter, Startup Mentality (#8) on top for Chad Brown and Javier Castellano. Brown already has a pair of debut winners in turf routes at this meet for Klaravich Stables, winning with Program Trainer in May and Surge Capacity last month. She’s sired by Kingman, and Brown has had remarkable success with his first time starters on turf. He’s had 10 winners from 18 Kingman first time starters (56%), and another four to finish in the money (78%). Javier Castellano seems to be picking up some of the mounts this afternoon that Samy Camacho would have likely been privy to had he not been injured. I prefer taking the shot with her as opposed to using Lovers Rock (#6), who was an even 6th in her debut at Tampa in a full field maiden special weight race on the Sam F. Davis undercard. That race hasn’t produced much and the Brown horse that finished in front of her is still a maiden and was claimed out of her last start. I’ll take a shot with Gomomischief (#7) on the A line here for Kent Sweezy. She showed interest in her debut when facing Florida bred maiden special weight types at Gulfstream, closing well to be third. She didn’t seem nearly as comfortable when racing on the Tapeta in her next start. Sweezy brought her here, where she’s been based since the beginning of June. She went to Delaware where she caught a soft course where she never really had a chance to run. The race winner threw down the gauntlet down the backstretch and opened while dueling with another runner. Gomomischief was caught in behind a wall of horses on the inside and was never really able to shake free until much later in the race. I think the outside draw may help her cause and I think like her pedigree. She’s sired by Into Mischief of the Grade 1 winning mare, Gomo. That one was a debut winner on the turf. Mirabella (#3) is the logical morning line favorite for Todd Pletcher, making her third start off the layoff this afternoon. She debuted here on the dirt last year and showed some late interest after being a bit slow into stride. She was away from July to April when she resurfaced at Gulfstream on the Florida Derby undercard, where she finished third behind a runaway winner trained by Chad Brown. She met another runaway winner when facing Brown’s Utilization Rate at Belmont in her last start, where she was third once again. The 4th place finisher in that race came back to break her maiden two weeks ago in maiden allowance company at Belmont. Blinkers go on for the first time today and she’s drawn well for the race that she wants to run. However, Chad Brown seems to be her kryptonite, and she’s got another two of his runners to deal with. If I’m playing Gomomischief out of that Delaware race, I do feel that I should backup with Blonde Samaritan (#4) should be a huge price in this race. She was third in that race at Delaware, going off at 160-1. I thought her race was strong, as she broke from post 11. She was wide out of the chute and three wide into the first turn. She made an eye-catching middle move and was clearly third in that race. She ran several poor races on dirt, losing her first 11 tries while facing some maiden claiming fields in that span. Her sire GOod Samaritan was a graded stakes winner on dirt and turf. The dam ran once on the turf, and did okay, and her only other foal to race won twice on turf and twice on synthetic. I think she’s more likely to round out the bottom of the exotics, but if someone is going to blow up the toteboard in this race, I think it would be her.
While this optional $16K/N1X allowance race isn’t the worst place for a horse like Chorus Girl (#5) to try the dirt for the first time, I’m going to try to beat her in this spot. Her dam was not on the dirt and her only other foal to race did all of his winning on the turf. There’s a lot of horses stretching out to two turns that don’t feel like they are logical fits for this race. I’m going to try Miranda’s Rocky (#9), who is undefeated in her two starts on the dirt. Her first two races over the winter on the turf at Gulfstream were forgettable. She went to Tampa to face $32K maiden claimers and stayed in the race when it was taken off the turf. She came from off the pace that day to break her maiden. Joe Orseno shipped her here and ran her in a time restricted $30K-$25K claiming race for her first test against winners. She was comfortably in 4th behind a runaway leader. Jairo Rendon moved early and she forged to the front with a bold move on the turn. She battled hard with a more experienced filly and prevailed as the longshot shot on the board that afternoon. She clearly likes the dirt and the distance won’t be the issue. I think she gets a nice setup in this race with some stretchout sprinters that may push the tempo a little too hard. This is a jump in class, but I think she has a decent shot. Desert Dalliance (#3) was well-backed last out when she was beaten by Todd Pletcher’s Inventing. That one kept much better company than others in the field and was a much the best winner that day. Despite the larger field, I don’t see as much depth in this race. Her only other two turn effort was a strong score in starter allowance company at Aqueduct, When she’s right, she’s very tough to beat. I don’t want to take too short of a price on her, and with Paco Lopez riding, I fear that there might not be a ton of value. However, I think she is one of the main contenders in a race where many of her rivals feel like they’re reaching.
This is one of two turf races on this card that drew a full field of 14 runners. This race is run at one mile, so the chute will not be used, thus allowing for all 14 runners to run. Justintimeforwine (#13) has the speed to clear from his far outside post, and he was able to do just that when he was a handy winner at this same $12,500-$10,500 claiming race last month. Front end speed is his game, and Jose Ferrer had no issue letting him rip off fast fractions last time, hitting six furlongs in 1:09:4. His speed is such a dangerous weapon, I feel that he’ll need to be covered on your tickets. However, Big Red Rocks (#1) Veterans Beach (#3) both like to race on the front end and they’re drawn much closer to the rail. Big Red Rocks had trouble at the break in the same race that Justintimeforwine won last out and he never got to run his race. I think they’re going to send him to make sure that the favorite doesn’t get away with an easy lead. I’m going to try Dazzling Truths (#8) to rebound in this race after a dull effort last out at this condition. Apprentice Luis Rivera Jr. is going to get the call for Frank Russo aboard this 10 time winner. He was very good at Tampa on the grass last season and he showed some glimpses of that form when competing on the Tapeta at Gulfstream over the winter. He was given a few months away and likely needed his last start. I think he has enough tactical speed to stay within range of the free-running leader, but I think he can get the jump on the back markers in this one. Dubby Dubbie (#11) is an eight year old gelding making his first start on the local oval this afternoon. He was third in last start back in March at Gulfstream on the grass. He’s had some injury issues that have kept him from running consistently over the past few years. He showed improvement in his last and he feels like he fits with this group if he’s fit enough off the four month break.
Danny Gargan brings American Law (#4) here from Belmont in hopes of clearing the N1X condition, and I think he’s well-spotted to do so. He was dull when running in a competitive race at this level on the Belmont undercard last month. Joel Rosario won aboard the winner of that race and he’ll get the assignment today on this Constitution gelding. His previous four races were faster than what his rivals are capable of running. This is the shortest distance that he’ll have run on raceday, which is a minor concern. However, I think his class and talent will trump that. Nolo Contesto (#8) is a backup for me in this spot for David Jacobson and Isaac Castillo. He was a winner in starter allowance company two starts back at Belmont and he was a game second at this level at Penn National two back in an above average field for the condition there. He’s typically been a better exacta or trifecta horse, finishing second or third 12 times, while winning only three times. Jacobson’s horses that are running here have been live, winning with three of 11 starters and having another four finish second.
Race 5, The Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes:
The second Pick-5 of the afternoon starts with this nine furlong stakes for fillies and mares, going nine furlongs on the turf. This is always one of my favorite races of the year, because in addition to the Winner’s Share of the $300K, the winner of the race also receives a free breeding season to one of three WinStar colts; Global Campaign, Improbable, or Independence Hall. The top two finishers of the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes, Consumer Spending (#6) and Surprisingly (#7) are back to renew their rivalry. In that race, Vergara set a slow pace with both of the fillies stalking in behind. When the real running began, Consumer Spending got the jump on Surprisingly with a three wide bid, while Paco Lopez had to wait for the rail to open up once the main course met the opening to the turf chute. Surprisingly was brave and she was surging late, but she didn’t have enough time to make up the ground to beat the winner. I think the outside draw might actually benefit Surprisingly in this race, and I do think she has a very good chance to turn the tables on her rival. However, I think Canisy (#1) breaking from the rail is going to play the role of Vergara in this race, and I think this four year old filly is much more comfortable on the front end than Vergara was in the Eatontown. She set dawdling fractions to clear the N2X condition at this nine furlong distance at Belmont two starts ago. She didn’t make the lead last out in a N3X allowance race there and she wasn’t as sharp. I think she’s very comfortable at this distance and I believe she has a good chance of stealing this one with Javier Castellano on the front end.
Win-Early Pick-5, $54 Ticket:
I’ll go without a single on this All A/B ticket, going three deep in each of the turf races in the sequence. I think the favorites are tough, but vulnerable in all three of those races, so they’ll all be on the ticket.
The second of four Pick-4 wagers gets underway with this strong optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 70 yards. While there are other horses that could win this race, I think the two shorter prices, Army Times (#1) and Subrogate (#10) are going to be too tough for this group. Subrogate tried two turns in the Pegasus Stakes for the first time last out after a strong maiden breaking win at 6 and ½ furlongs two starts back. I thought his effort in that race was very good, tiring late, but finishing less than three lengths behind both Salute the Stars, who goes in the Haskell today, Louisiana Derby winner, Kingsbarns, and Long Branch Stakes winner, Howgreatisnate. He’ll have to navigate post 10, which is less than ideal, but I think this son of Arrogate is going to keep getting stronger, and is just better than his nine rivals in this race. I do see Chad Brown’s Army Times having a lot of upside, and drawing the rail for this race when his stiffest competition draws a far outside post is a plus for his backers. Chad Brown had a big Haskell Day last year and he’s in position to do so again this year. His dam is Paid Up Subscriber, who won the Shuvee at Saratoga by 33 lengths. He passed the two turn test when breaking his maiden last out, and the third place finisher that day came to break his maiden in his next try. He’s the logical alternative, and if there is a large difference in price, I could upgrade him. However, being a Chad Brown trainee, I think the value might wind up being better on Subrogate.
This is a 14 horse, N1X allowance race going one mile on the turf. I’ve been waiting for the spot to bet back Affable Monarch (#13) after his strong third place effort at 26-1 last month. While I don’t love his post for this race, I’m going to use him because I think he’s a good fit in this strong race, which is definitely an above average contest for this condition here. He has a top flight pedigree and he’s improved despite not winning a race since 2021. Most of those races came on the dirt though. I thought both of his turf efforts were sharp and the fact that his dam foaled a Grade 1 Winner on grass (Force the Pass, 2014 Belmont Derby).He’s been devoid of early speed in his first two starts of 2023, but missing the break last out didn’t help his chance. Kingmax, the winner of that race, came back to clear the N2X condition and should be considered for stakes company in his next start. Harpoon Harry (#5) is another one that could be flying under the radar here. He’s listed at 15-1 on the morning line, which would be fine with me. Toss his last on the dirt, as that is not what he does best. He ran a dull race on the turf two back when facing N2X allowance company. Catnip beat him in that race and would go on to win a Grade 3 race in his next start. He has the best early foot in the field on paper in this race, so if he can break clean, I can see him carving out the fractions on the front end. At that point, the others become a bit pace and trip dependent. Internal Capital (#2) is the morning line favorite, returning to the scene of his maiden breaking score last September. His figures at the end of his three year old campaign were better than what most have run in their careers in this race. He has been on the shelf since October though. He’s going to need to work out a trip here, showing an ability to avoid traffic in what could be a congested contest. Forever Souper (#8) makes his third start off the layoff this afternoon. He’s run twice at this level at this current meet, finishing 6th, beaten only one length two starts back and 3rd, beaten only a half-length in his most recent effort three weeks ago. I do think he’s sitting on one of his better races, but I’m also thinking that this field is stronger than the first two that he’s seen on this course. Askari (#1) is going to take some money in this spot, making his second career start for Todd Pletcher. He ran huge in his debut, breaking from the outside, falling to the back of the pack, and passing all nine rivals to break his maiden on debut. I don;t love the rail for him though in this race, because with 13 horses lined up outside of him, there;s a good chance that he;s going to struggle with some traffic trouble while closing from off the pace. I’ll use him as a backup, but at or around his 301 morning line figure, I’ll be trying to beat him.
Race 8, The Grade 3 Monmouth Cup:
Do note that the Jersey Shore 6 will start in this race, instead of the next race. Going into the week, this Grade 3 contest for three year olds and up, going nine furlongs on the main track, was setting up to be an interesting showdown between Grade 1 winners, Art Collector and Proxy (#6). However, a foot abscess sidelined Art Collector, leaving Proxy as the heavy 3-5 morning line favorite, over six seemingly overmatched rivals. Proxy is coming off one of his poorer efforts, when he finished last in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes at Ellis three weeks ago. However, he didn’t have a very smooth break, bobbling a few times before getting into stride. Smile Happy came over and forced him to steady off his heels on the first turn, which felt like it sealed his fate that it wasn’t going to be his day. Two starts back, he won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and he got his first Grade 1 when winning the Clark last November. I think with a better effort at Ellis, he would have been under consideration for the Whitney, however, this seems like a good spot to regroup, and then possibly target a race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the end of the Saratoga meet. There’s only one other horse in this race that is graded stakes placed, which is Calibrate (#3), and that came in his last start which was the Grade 2 Brooklyn. However, I think that one may have found a bit of a niche in longer distance dirt races, and this nine furlong race, which is devoid of any real speed, feels too short. If I’m looking for a backup, or a horse that could be able to be in the conversation in the early stages, it’s Whelen Springs (#7). He tried two turns for the first time and beat a solid optional $50K claiming/N3X allowance field last month. He is a stakes winner at six furlongs, pulling off a big upset to win the Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn last year. As an Arakansas bred, earning a graded stakes placing could be a decent deal for him moving toward a career at stud, so entering him here feels like a clever move. He’ll have to travel an extra furlong against a much more accomplished rival at this point, but this four year old might have the most upside of the longer priced runners.
Race 9, The $100K Wolf Hill Stakes:
There’s a $500K guaranteed Pick-4 wager that starts in with this 5 and ½ furlong stakes race and ends with the Haskell Stakes. Do note that Eamonn (#1), Alogon (#3), and Witty (#5) are cross-entered in the $150K Van Clief Stakes at Colonial Downs. There are four serious frontrunners in this race, and they drew the four outside post positions, so in addition to having to likely win a duel, they’ll have to overcome some likely ground loss as well. Nothing Better (#7) is drawn best of those early speed threats, and he’s the one most likely to be able to overcome those obstacles, but at short odds, he feels like one that might be worth trying to beat. Belgrano (#4) loves this course and is a much better horse at 5 and ½ furlongs as opposed to five furlongs, which was the distance of the Get Serious Stakes last month. Three speed types cooked on the front end, and he rallied into 4th, while making his first start in three months. He came up just short behind Nothing Better in this race last year, but I think he’ll be able to turn the tables on him today with a better pace set up. Witty is a player in this race if he opts to race here. He was installed as the morning line favorite at Colonial. He’s based at Fair Hill, so the travel time to either venue is close to the same. Tyler Gaffalione has been named to ride this Great Notion gelding that ran very well in the Laurel Dash when going six furlongs on a good course. He ran well to be second on a course that definitely had some give in it. It rained yesterday morning, so there could be another course for him here that is less than firm. If that is a positive for him, a heavier course would be a downgrade for Mid Day Image (#2), who does his best work on a hard and firm course. Jacobson transitioned him to turf sprinting in his seven year old season, winning his first two sprints. He was third in the Laurel Dash on that softer course. This race is later in the day, and there should be a decent amount of time for the course to dry out. I do think he could sit the perfect trip, just off the dueling leaders, but I’ll need to see that the course is firm enough for me to upgrade him.
Race 10, The Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes:
This race will start a $250K guaranteed Pick-5, which will run through the end of the marathon card. Last year, I thought Search Results (#4) was a lock in this race, and she won like a good thing, drawing off to win by three lengths. I think this year’s race is much deeper than last year’s contest, and while she’s still the class of this field, I think this is a competitive route for fillies and mares, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. While it appears to be a wide open contest, I think this race could be the coming out party for the Godolphin filly, Loved (#6). She’s a half to multiple Grade 1 winner, Maxfield, who won 8 of his 11 career races. This filly was flat in her debut, which was a strong maiden allowance last year, sprinting six furlongs at Gulfstream. She was beaten by Todd Pletcher’s Green Up, who would go on to win multiple stakes races. Something was amiss after that race as she went to the sidelines for over a year. She came back at the Keeneland Spring Meet and demolished a maiden special weight field and has won her last three races by a combined 28 lengths. She has more tactical speed than her half brother and this race could start her on a path to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Search Results is looking for her first win since this race last year, and like in 2022, she’s shipping here after a strong race in the Odgen Phipps at Belmont, where Clairiere once again had her number. Her strongest races seem to be at these middle distances in one turn races at Belmont. While she’s certainly capable of getting the two turn trip that she’ll have today, I think her efforts are not as strong. She’ll be a backup for me at a short price today. Le Da Vida (#5) is interesting, coming off a strong effort in the Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown on the Ohio Derby undercard. That race came up strong this year, with third place finisher, Sixtythreecaliber, coming back to win a strong allowance race at Saratoga the other day. Brad Cox’s Interstatedaydream was favored and she could do no better than second in that race. That was by far her best effort since shipping here from Chile. She was well-regarded as she was a beaten favorite in a pair of stakes race at Oaklawn earlier this year. She could be a bounce candidate off that big race, but she could also be figuring some things out about North American racing. If her odds float up over her 5-1 morning line price, which could be a possibility, I’d be willing to upgrade her. Chad Brown also sends out Distinctlypossible (#3), who will be a play against for me. She was a winner on opening weekend in the Serena’s Song Stakes. She took advantage of a definitive speed bias that day in a race where there wasn’t much other speed signed on. She was very impressive that day, and we know she likes the course. Luis Saez gets the mount, so I think she’ll be bet down from her 9-2 morning line figure. Despite her strong pedigree, I do think she’ll have a harder time at this Grade 3 level.
Race 11, The Grade 1 United Nations Stakes:
The first of two Grade 1 contests on the day is also the start of the Final Pick-4 wager. Much like I think the Molly Pitcher is going to be the race where the American public, learns about Loved, I think the same holds true for Catnip (#3) here. He’s coming into this race on a three-race win streak, beating an average field in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes last month. He’s a half to multiple graded stakes winner, Princess Grace, who has been very good between eight and nine furlongs. He’ll get a distance test today for sure, but he has more stamina influences in his pedigree, being sired by Kitten’s Joy, whereas Princess Grace is sired by Karakontie. The dam was sired by Silent Name, and her dam was sired by 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Prized. I think this is an up and coming runner that could turn out to be the best North American hope for the Breeders’ Cup Turf this year. Obviously, he’ll have to pass this test first, but I think he’s on his way. Planetario (#6) shipped here for Richard Mandella, along with Geaux Rocket Ride, who’ll run in the Haskell. He’s shipping here after a win in the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano at 14 furlongs at Santa Anita last month, earning his first North American win. Mike Smith is riding this five year old who has improved since coming to the West Coast from Brazil. He seemed to appreciate the firmer going out in California, however, many of his better efforts in Brazil came on heavier courses. He feels like the main danger in this race. The morning line favorite in this race is the nine year old, Red Knight (#9). Mike Maker has led this horse to a Grade 1 and two Grade 2 wins since taking over his training last year. He won the Man O’War at this distance two back at Belmont. He’s very consistent, but his wins seem to be more of a function of no one else stepping up. I think there is plenty of upside with my top two picks where he typically runs the same race every time. I think the other two offer more upside and if both wind up at longer odds, that feels like solid value for me.
Race 12, The Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes:
The premier race of the meet is one of only a few Grade 1 races left on the calendar for three year olds. The Derby winner, Mage (#4), whose connections seemed a bit noncommittal, is entered, where he’ll be facing the winner of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, Tapit Trice (#5). However, morning line oddsmaker, Brad Thomas, installed Arabian Knight (#8) as the morning line favorite, making his first start since an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in January. You can’t tell the story of the Haskell without mentioning the success that Bob Baffert has had in this race. He’s won this race nine times, which is a crazy number for a trainer that has been based on the West Coast.He came within a head of winning number 10 with Taiba last year. A Brad Cox trained colt, Cyberknife, snuck up on him along the rail to get the win. I’m going to predict the same thing is going to happen today, making Salute the Stars (#3) the top pick. He’s lightly raced, making only his 5th career start and his 3rd on the dirt, and I don’t know if he is good enough to win this race. However, you rarely see horses win a race with the trip and trouble (most of it self-inflicted) he had in the Pegasus. He bobbled at the break and was bumped hard shortly thereafter. He ran up on heels and was an absolute handful for Rosario for the first half mile. He was wide every step of the way, but once he changed leads in the stretch, he was still able to run down Kingsbarns to win that race. The water is much deeper today and he’s going to have to mature quickly to win this race. If he’s able to mind his manners and relax off the pacesetters today, I do think he’s capable of improving a race good enough to contend at this level. Geaux Rocket Ride (#1) ships east for Mandella after a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes. For him to be placed on the Derby trail after a maiden wins, speaks to the quality of this colt. Mandella is traditionally more patient, and unless he thinks his horse can hang, he’ll generally take the more conservative option. He has very good tactics speed, and could find himself in a great spot, just off Extra Anejo (#7) and Arabian Knight, who are likely going to be gunning for the front end. Like the top, he’s also going to have to be better to win this race, but I think he’s capable of improvement in his second start off the layoff. I’ll put all three of the shorter prices on the B line in this race. While I have concerns about all three members of this trip, none of them finding themselves in the Winner’s Circle would be a surprise. Arabian Knight was a $2.35 million purchase and has been considered the most talented member of Baffert’s loaded stable. He debuted on the Breeders’ Cup undercard in November and followed that up with a strong effort to win the Southwest on a sloppy course. An injury kept him from progressing farther on the Derby Trail, but the second half of his three year old campaign starts now. This is an ambitious spot, facing some of the best of his generation. I think others will be pushing the tempo, and I do wonder how much energy he’s going to have in the final furlong. Mage showed flashes of brilliance at Gulfstream when finishing 4th and 2nd behind Forte in the spring. He put it all together when winning the Derby at 15-1. He was not nearly as effective in a paceless Preakness, when trying to wheel back in two weeks after a career top effort. He’s been working steadily for the last month, but I do wonder about the value that we’re going to get on him. He’s the Derby winner so he’s a household name among the casual big day bettors. Many times trainers will tell you that they’re aiming for a race like this, but the goal for Mage seems to be the Travers. While I’m sure his connections would love to win a race like this, I’m not sure they have him exactly where they want him. Tapit Trice has a ton of raw talent, but I’m not sure that we’ve seen him out it all together just yet. He was good enough to win the Blue Grass, but was never a factor in the Derby. I didn’t get the ride that Luis Saez gave him in the Belmont, when he finished 3rd, beaten a length and a half. He’s more of a grinder and historically, that running style has not fared well on this course. His midpack draw should be more favorable for him and the faster they go early on, the better his prospects will be.
There will be two more races after the main event today, this one being a N1X allowance contest for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. While I think Cecile (#7) has a class edge over her rivals, I do wonder if the shorter stretch here will hinder her furious late charge. Ruda (#4) on the other hand, has a strong victory two starts ago on this course. She followed that effort up with a decent third place run at this level, while marooned in post 11. She was relegated to the back of the pack after trying to get over in an effort to save some ground when coming out of the chute and going into the first turn. She made an eye-catching move going into the far turn, but her momentum caused her to swing five wide. She came within 2 and ½ lengths of the winner that dayShe continues to improve and gets significant post relief for this race. I see Cecile as the one to beat. She was very impressive when breaking her maiden in her third career start, which was also her turf debut. She sat at the back of the pack and then swung wide with a powerful move once she had seam to run through. That effort was good enough to earn her a spot in the Wild Applause Stakes against fellow three year olds at Belmont last month. She was bumped hard coming out of the gate and became rank after another runner cut in front of her. She ended up wide throughout her journey, finishing 4th, beaten only three lengths that day. I still thought she ran an impressive race and she feels like a very logical player in this race, if he can keep herself in a decent striking position down the backside. Fortineno (#9) is the morning line favorite, breaking from the outside in this race. She’ll be going two turns for the first time, so I am not willing to take too short of a price on her, especially with the fact that she is likely going to have to compensate for some type of ground loss. She’s strictly a backup in this race for me, unless I can get her at a price closer to 4-1 or 5-1 in this race.
We;ll close out a tremendous day of racing with a maiden special weight contest for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 70 yards on the main track. Life On the Nile (#3) is winless in 13 career tries and he’s come within less than a length of winning in his last three starts. While there’s a school of thought that says he’s getting closer, he still hasn’t been able to seal the deal, and today, he’s facing a tougher group than he’s seen at this current meet thus far. I’ll try Power of Nature (#8) as a longshot top pick in the nightcap. He’s sired by Mastery out of an unraced Gio Ponti mare. He was 8th behind Askari when debuting on the turf last month. He moves to the dirt, which should help his cause, as Delgasdo has great numbers with runners going from turf to dirt. Penzance (#7) is also making his second career start. He debuted here in a sprint three weeks ago and finished 4th, beaten four lengths. His dam was dull in her debut, but was a winner in her second career start when adding distance. Ty;er Gaffalione taking the mount for Michael Stidham and Godolphin is a plus. Just Beat the Odds (#4) makes his third career start after strong efforts in a pair of sprints to start his career. His dam has sired a few runners that knew how to win. He’s finished second twice to a pair of solid runners, so this seems like a logical spot to stretch out. Chad Brown has a pair in this race, and I’m super high on Phelpsy (#1), who is a tepid morning line favorite. He is also trying two turns for the first time in his career, but I’m concerned that he’s failed to break through yet. I’ll use Leading Contender (#5) making his second career start and his first since last August. He was crushed by Expressman in that race, and that one was recently 3rd in the Grade 1 Carter Stakes this spring. That poor effort feels like a toss, especially since he’s been on the shelf for the past 11 months. As a son of Gun Runner, out of a Bodemeister mare, I expect him to improve at two turns. However, there;s a distinct possibility that he could need this race before we see his best.
Top Pick Winners: 61/260 (23.7%) – $410.60/$1.58 ROI
Since there’s several races on the card, and I haven’t had a chance to re-watch many of the races from today. I’ll reserve some thoughts for tomorrow. The course was fast and firm despite a few morning showers yesterday and the same should hold true for Saturday.