The week ends with a nine race program at Monmouth Park. New Jersey bred fillies and mares are on display this afternoon in the Smart N Classy Handicap, which drew a competitive field of ten. Paco Lopez will be a key figure on the card today, as he rides 8 of the 9 races. 7 of those 8 horses are the morning line favorites, and 5 of them are starting off at 2-1 or less. These were the kind of cards that Lopez would win five or six races on last year, especially in the second half of the meet, but I would argue that the jockey colony right now is considerably deeper than last year. Some of his mounts are definitely going to be tough, but I do think some others are vulnerable. Post time favorites are continuing to struggle at this meet, so that’s another trend to keep an eye on.
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|
|1||6||4,6||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6||1,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|4||4||1,2,4||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||2||2,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||4||4,5,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The Sunday opener is an optional $12,500 claiming/$6,250 starter allowance race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. The heavy morning line favorite, Free to Fly (#4) is super consistent, finishing on the board in her last 19 starts, winning 11 of them. More recently though, she has only one win in her last six starts, and looks like she has maybe lost a little step in this, her six year old season. She takes a slight drop in class after a third place finish last out at short odds. She wins too much to not use her on the A line, and I don’t think the competition in this race is that fierce. However, I’ll try Shackleford County (#6) on top, hoping that her last race signals that the better version of her is back. Hollendorfer claimed her two back and she improved significantly last time out when making her third start off a layoff. She hasn’t won a race since 2020, but she’s had to start and stop a bunch in that time span. I think Isaac Castillo can sit the right trip with her, just off the speed. I’ll cover with Domineer (#2) on deeper tickets, as she’ll likely try to take them gate to wire after faltering late last month at Gulfstream. She was done in by setting too quick of a pace when going 6 and ½ furlongs in that race, under similar conditions.
There’s a heavy favorite to contend with in this maiden special weight race for three year olds and up going 1 mile and 70 yards. Todd Pletcher’s Be Better (#1) had the misfortune of running into Jack Christopher in his only other career start last summer at Saratoga. He was third that day, beaten 10 lengths. The runner up, Hoist the Gold, won his next start in maiden special weight company. He has been working well up at Saratoga for his return, and racing at Monmouth may be more desirable than Belmont for him right now, as it affords him the opportunity to go two turns. He is clearly the one to beat, but he is coming off and layoff and trying something new for the first time. I’ll use him on the A line, but I’ll take a swing with the Maryland bred, Carvellian Quest (#6). This gelded son of Practical Joke tried two turns last out at Pimlico and finished a decent third in the slop. He makes his third career start today in what should be his first start on a fast track. There’s not a ton of speed to contend with here, so Ferrer may try to put him into the race early, in order to avoid conceding ground going into the first turn. I do expect an improved effort from him today.
This is a field of seven conditioned $7,500-$6,500 filly and mare claimers going six furlongs. All seven runners are entered under the N2L condition. R Love On the Run (#6) is the morning line favorite and strictly the one to beat here. Her dirt figures are consistently better than her six rivals. Her form gets muddied up a bit with some synthetic and turn races in there, but running on the main track is what she does best. I think Paco Lopez might be pleading with her late to get home, but I think she’s simply better than these. Folk Hero (#4) would be where I would look to for a saver in here. She was moving late to get into second at this condition last month. She’s a three year old filly that has been improving since Delgado reached into claim her at Tampa over the winter. The added half furlong should help her cause here.
We switch to the turf for the first time today with a $16K-$14K N3L contest going 1 mile and 1/16 out of the chute. I’m siding with Big Perm (#4) making his first start of 2021 today. He came into the 2021 meet here as a professional maiden, but he won his first race off the layoff on June 6th last year. He would go on to clear the N2L condition later in the year at Parx. Douglas Nunn is looking to get off the duck for the meet, but he has very good numbers off the layoff and when adding blinkers. I think his horse can sit the winning trip in this race, just off a pace that doesn’t look to be very fast on paper. Mr. Mazza (#1) tries the grass again for Jesus Cruz after some respectable races on the dirt at Charles Town and Tampa in his last few outings. He has developed some early speed, which he didn’t employ in his only two races on grass earlier in his career. When the rails were all the way out on Friday, early speed was good in the turf races. They are at 24 feet today, but he could be able to sneak away on a slow pace from his rail draw if he can show the same early foot on grass that he’s shown on the main track. Call Bros (#2) is often in the mix, but he doesn’t win a ton, which isn’t ideal as the favorite. However, consistency is not a hallmark with many of the others in here, so while I might try to beat him vertically, I think he’s run too well in the past to leave off the multi-race wagers.
Fillies and mares go six furlongs in this optional $25K claiming/N2X allowance contest. If Edie Meeny Miny Mo (#6) is the same filly as she was as a three year old, I think she’ll win this race handily. She was a winner when running with waiver at Pimlico in a maiden optional claiming race last April. She came back and ran a monster race in her second career start to decimate a field, clearing the N1X condition. She took on graded stakes foes in her next two starts, finishing second in the Monmouth Oaks when going two turns for the first time. She cut back to a sprint in the Prioress at Saratoga, on closing weekend there, where she finished off the board in her last race of the season. Her return at Tampa, after being moved from Miguel Veras to Michelle Hemingway, was uninspiring though, finishing a dull 4th, while not really showing the same early zip she showed last season. She’s another short priced Paco Lopez horse that I’ll use, but I’ll try to beat her with Bourbon Rebellion (#2). The ingredients are there for a horse to come from off the pace, and she’s the only one that has proven that she can run that way. She stumbled last out when Delgado claimed her for $30K when running with N3L claimers. She rushed up and still finished second with that group. She has shown that she can close over synthetic courses, winning an allowance race at Presque Isle last season going from last to first. The track has been fair so far at this meet, and closers have been getting home.
WIN-EARLY PICK-5 Ticket:
You have to go into this ticket, understanding that there is a legitimate chance that Paco Lopez could sweep this wager and a winning ticket will pay under $100. While I am using all five of his runners, I do think some of his horses will lose in the sequence. I’m thinking that his most likely winner is going to be R Love on the Run (#6, R3), as I’m not really seeing a horse that has shown they can beat her on the dirt if she is right. I’ll use a few others that seem like logical alternatives in the other four legs to make up a modest $18 ticket.
The Late Pick-4 starts with a New Jersey bred maiden special weight contest for fillies and mares that will travel six furlongs. Five of the eight entered are exiting the 5/14 race in the slop, which was won by Caliente Rum. That one came back to easily defeat state bred N1X runners on Friday. It’ll come to down value for me in this race, as they’re likely to get a fast track today. Epic Queen (#4) at 5-1 would be the top choice in her second career start. She moved well on the turn but was outfinished late when coming home third. There’s reason to believe that she can improve in her second career after a good debut effort. Random Luck (#5) is also making her second career start after a respectable try at seven furlongs with open maiden special weight company over at Parx. Jeremy Laprida and Cesareo Marquez are both looking for their first win of this current meet. She’s cutting back in distance and facing a softer group, while running for a higher purse. Bikini Baby (#6) is the morning line favorite and the horse to beat here. She ran on gamely despite breaking slow in the slop last time. She came up just short when making her first start of the year and her first start on the main track. I’m thinking we’ll see this daughter of Summer Front back on the turf at some point during this meet, but her last race was strong enough to merit another chance on the main track.
This is a wide open $22K-$18K claiming race for three year olds and up, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. I ended up with South Sea (#5) as the top pick this afternoon. This six year old gelding gets back on the turf after four consecutive dirt tries over the winter and spring. She was an open lengths winner in January on the main track, but he’s a better runner on the grass. He just missed in his last two turf tries and has hit the board in his last five, winning one of them. 5-1 (ML) is more than fair in my eyes. Gins and Tins (#3) is another runner getting back on the grass after running twice on the synthetic to start his 2022 season. I expect him to be the best version of himself getting back to grass and making his third start off the layoff today. He’s only won three times in 28 career turf starts, but one of those wins came in his only start on this course. Strong Breeze (#6) made his first start off the layoff last month, running up the track when facing a strong optional claiming/allowance field. He’s better than that effort and I’m thinking that he will get better after shaking off the rust. Like What I See (#8) is the lukewarm morning line favorite that I’ll use on my deeper plays. He won impressively at Gulfstream in his last start of 2021, but his first four starts this year have been far from his best. Perhaps the drop in class will make a difference. He’s worth including on multi-race tickets because of his class, but I’ll try to beat him with some better races in the vertical exotics.
Race 8: The $85K Smart N Classy Handicap
Alta Velocita (#6) is going to attract a lot of attention in the featured race for New Jersey bred fillies and mares going one mile on the main track. She’s one of the best New Jersey bred female sprinters in training, if not the best at this moment. She won the Spruce Fir three weeks ago, while making her first start of the year, where she probably was a bit rusty. She’s never gone two turns though, and her trainer, Andrew Simoff, doesn’t have great numbers going from sprints to routes. I’ll use her as a saver, but I really like the chances for Dantastic (#4) this afternoon. She was struggling to win races for most of last season, but she started to end up at the end of her 2021 campaign, winning once here and again at Parx before finishing 5th against some classy open rivals at Aqueduct. She was a winner in her return to the races, beating open company at Laurel last month. She moves back to Jersey bred races at a distance that she’s very comfortable at. I think she can sit a very cozy trip and continue her winning ways. I’ll also use Mia’s Crusade (#7) as a saver and also as a horse that might offer some value to the bottom of some of the vertical wagers. She’s an improving three year old filly that might not quite be ready for this kind of race. However, She’s been dominant in her two starts facing Jersey breds. She also goes two turns for the first time, but at longer odds, I’d be willing to take that risk.
The nightcap is a $30K-$25K maiden claiming race on the grass. Tap the Candy (#7) has a pair of decent turf efforts on her three race resume. She struggled a bit with maiden special weight company last out at Tampa, but she was very when facing $32K maiden claimers there two starts back. I think this gelded son of Cupid has more upside than many in here. Fusion Jazz (#8) didn;t show much on the grass in his debut at Gulfstream, but his last effort on the Tapeta there was solid enough to think that there’;s more in the tank for him. Jose Sanchez has good numbers with his turf runners, and Angel Rodriguez is riding well right now. Le Coste (#10) is a professional maiden making the first start of his five year old season. He’s hot the board in 7 of 16 career starts, but he’s yet to break through. We’ve seen a lot of these kind of horses win races at this meet, so I’m not comfortable completely tossing him, but I think from a post and price standpoint, we can do better. Chiquito Baby (#6) is an interesting longshot in this spot, going two turns for the first time in his young career. Three of his four efforts were not very good, but his synthetic effort in his comeback race this year was solid. Verrazano is more than capable of producing horses that can run at two turns on the grass, so perhaps there is some upside here.
Top Pick Winners: 22/83 (26.5%) – $221.80 / $2.67 ROI