The Racing Biz is pleased to welcome Shore Bets and 19-year-old John Piassek into the fold. John will provide weekly full-card handicapping of Monmouth Park.
by John Piassek
It’s the second-biggest day of the Monmouth Park season, with the $500,000, Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on tap. A terrific field of nine has lined up here, including five Grade 1 winners and last year’s turf champ, and in the meantime, we’ll have some great racing on the undercard, including the $150,000, Grade 3 Salvator Mile. Let’s begin!
And, for anyone who can’t be at Monmouth Sunday (and if you can be there, go!), the stakes races will be on Fox Sports 1, from 5:00-6:00 PM EDT.
Weather Forecast: 84*F, Mostly Sunny
You couldn’t ask for a nicer day Sunday at Monmouth. I approve!
Race 1: Claiming $40,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs
There’s a ton of one-dimensional speed on the inside, which means it sets up perfectly for a horse coming off the pace. The 6, Just Sisters, fits that profile well. She’s shipping in from Delaware Park, where she won her maiden by five easy lengths on June 9. Since then, she’s turned in two bullet workouts to prepare for this spot. Her brisnet figure of 83 last out is the best last-out figure in the field. Trainer Jamie Ness is, of course, dangerous here at Monmouth. And, as I alluded to, the three horses on the inside are all very fast at the start, but tend to tire out late. With Just Sisters’s running style, she can rate off the leaders, and blow by if there’s a pace meltdown. She’s my choice to begin the program on a winning note.
If any of the front-runners are going to hold up on the lead, the most likely to do so is the 1, Fiesta Rose. She withstood plenty of pace pressure in her starts at Tampa this winter, before fading in her last two starts on the lead here at Monmouth. If the dirt is playing toward speed Sunday, she may re-find her stride.
6- Just Sisters (3/1)
1- Fiesta Rose (9/2)
7- Four Inch Heels (5/2)
Race 2: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile
Nobody in the field with dirt form looks especially promising here. The horse with the most ability on dirt is the 6, Panama Hat, who made a big rally from the back of the pack last out that this level to miss by just 1/2 a length. However, who knows if he can duplicate that race here?
Because no one else really inspires me in this race, I’ll go with a horse making the switch from grass: the 9, Rickashea. In his two dirt starts, he failed to hit the board, but he did run a figure of 78 in one of those races. That’s certainly promising. In addition, trainer Jason Servis hits at a whopping 28% with horses making the switch from grass to dirt. When you couple that with a not-so-great field, and a horse with some mild dirt ability in the past, it makes for a good betting opportunity.
9- Rickashea (2/1)
6- Panama Hat (6/1)
2- Ettelson (10/1)
Race 3: Claiming $35,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 5 1/2 Furlongs (Grass)
My pick in here is the 5, The Comish. In his last grass race, at Gulfstream, he won it gate-to-wire, while earning a figure of 84. No one else has done that kind of figure while sprinting on the grass. He was extremely dull in his last race, where he lost by 32 lengths sprinting on the dirt, but I think he’ll improve with a switch in surface. That improvement should guide him to victory.
The 7, D’Tumbling Dice has a ton of early speed, and it may be more effective at a sprint, as opposed to a route. The 6, Very Colorful, has steadily improving figures, but has never crossed the wire first, with his lone win coming via DQ. He’s more of a candidate for the exotic positions.
5- The Comish (7/2)
7- D’Tumbling Dice (3/1)
6- Very Colorful (6/1)
Race 4: Starter Optional Claiming $16,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile
The 4, Saturday Special, is my pick to win this solid race of older claimers. In his last start, he swooped the field to win by four easy lengths, earning a figure of 92. That’s among the best numbers in the bunch. Moreover, this race has a lot of speed horses who tend to wilt as the race goes on. Not only does Saturday Special not wilt, having won three straight route races, but this race figures to set up similarly to his last out win. That makes him the most probable winner.
The 2, Cherokee Colors, won his last start at a similar level very easily. If Saturday Special declines, he’s going to be tough. The 3, Ease on Bai, has shown terrific late speed in his last two, and will be dangerous if the pace melts down.
4- Saturday Special (5/2)
2- Cherokee Colors (4/1)
3- Ease on Bai (6/1)
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
If the 8, Delta Outlaw, was not so wide in his last race, he likely would have won. Alas, being four-wide down the backstretch, and three-wide on the turn, rarely does a horse any favors. Nevertheless, he finished second, beaten only two lengths, and was two more lengths clear of the third-place horse. He earned a figure in that race of 86, topped only by chronic maiden Have a Good Laugh, the 6. Even though there is the danger that Delta Outlaw will once again be hung wide, the edge that he possesses over the rest of the field means that it may not matter anyway.
8- Delta Outlaw (3/1)
6- Have a Good Laugh (9/2)
2- One Lucky Step (5/1)
Race 6: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 1 Mile 70 Yards
A wide-open field of twelve Jersey-breds go to post here, and not many of them have shown much ability. One exception is the 10, Tribal Honor. His last two figures are among the best in the race, at an 81 and an 80. Furthermore, he’s the only horse in the race who has both early speed, and good late speed. It’s likely he’ll be on or near the pace, and once the rest of the field folds, he’ll be able to draw off to victory. That’s how I’ll be betting anyway.
The 2, No More Music, was decent in routes earlier in the year, and finally broke through in a sprint last out. He may continue his improvement here.
10- Tribal Honor (7/2)
2- No More Music (6/1)
4- Streakin Easy (8/1)
Race 7: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
Even though he’s only made one career start on the grass, the 8, Money Changer, was impressive enough in that race for me to pick him on top. In that race, at Belmont, he closed from 13 lengths out of it, to miss by 5 1/2 lengths. That race was at six furlongs, so he should enjoy the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles. John Velazquez, in town for the stakes races, keeps the mount, while trainer Todd Pletcher is always dangerous shipping in to Monmouth.
I expect Money Changer to be the favorite here, so if you’re looking for more value, I’d pick the 3, Gourmet Delight. Last out, he was extremely wide the whole way around, but still managed to come in second, behind the talented Boot Scootn Daddy. He earned a figure of 84 in that spot, one of the best in the field. With a more ground-saving trip, he’ll be dangerous. The 7, Picozza, showed promising form last year, but hasn’t run since September. We’ll see how he does first off the long layoff.
8- Money Changer (7/2)
3- Gourmet Delight (6/1)
7- Picozza (3/1)
Race 8: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
There is no way that the 1, Bustin Out, can possibly lose this race. Her figures are tons the best, earning an 89 and a 91 in her last two races. The second and third-place finishers in her maiden win, Fakery and Pop Start, both came back to win their next races. She has the best early and late speed in the field, so she can just run them off their feet. She’ll crush this field, and hopefully bigger and better things are next.
Because Bustin Out is 6/5 on the morning line, and will likely be way, way, lower in real life, the value here is singling Bustin Out in multi-race bets, and using her on top of exactas and trifectas. The two horses likely to round out those spots are the 3, Let’s Parlay, who hasn’t run since August, but was showing good form in those races. She may need a race. The 11, Read All About It, was well-beaten at this level last out, but may find the going in here easier. Outside of Bustin Out, she appears best.
1- Bustin Out (6/5)
11- Read All About It (6/1)
3- Let’s Parlay (7/2)
Race 9: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
I’ll begin the late pick 4 with the 4, Casual Smile. In her last race here at Monmouth, she broke her maiden by an easy length, earning a figure of 84. Since that race, she’s been turning in good four furlong drills, so you know that she’s still in good shape. Her best virtue, however, is being trained by Chad Brown. He’s a ridiculous 3-7 at Monmouth this year, and is constantly winning with grass horses. While a few others in the field have run similar figures, no one else is trained by this grass maestro, and that gives her the edge that she needs.
The 2, Empress Maker, is shipping in from Belmont, where she recently ran a figure of 87. However, trainer Graham Motion has been less-than-impressive with his Monmouth horses, going 0-11. She’s still a must-use in multi-race bets, but I wouldn’t bet her to win, necessarily. The 7, Red Letter, looked clear in her last race, building up a big lead in the stretch before being run down. With a better-timed move here, she’ll have a better chance.
4- Casual Smile (5/2)
2- Empress Maker (3/1)
7- Red Letter (10/1)
Race 10: Salvator Mile, 3yo and up, 1 Mile
This race runs through two horses: the 6, Red Vine, and the 8, Race Day. Red Vine is 3-3 lifetime on dirt, never earning a figure lower than 103. His most recent win was an easy score in the Majestic Light Stakes here at Monmouth, earning a figure of 107. Race Day won the Oaklawn Handicap in his last race, with a figure of 106. He missed the Stephen Foster due to injury, but has since recovered, and looks dangerous in here. What to do, what to do?
Well, the key to the race lies in the pace setup. Race Day is a confirmed front-runner, and there’s a lot of speed in here. To his inside, Bradester and Valid both have a ton of early speed, and Race Day may get hung wide trying to contest the lead. Red Vine, meanwhile, tends to rate off the pace, and has to be salivating off a pace situation like that. Coupled with his late pace numbers, I project Red Vine to sit off the pace, then roll by the pace-setters and win it.
6- Red Vine (3/1)
8- Race Day (5/2)
5- Valid (5/1)
Race 11: United Nations, 3yo and up, 1 3/8 Miles (Grass)
This is the big one! One of two grade 1 races that Monmouth offers per year, this race features the return of superstar grass horse Main Sequence. Coming off a disappointing seventh in the Dubai Sheema Classic, he had won five consecutive graded stakes races before that one, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He also won this race last year to begin his streak.
Now, the only thing that keeps him from being a true “shore” thing is the fact that he hasn’t raced for nearly three months, and his rivals have more recent good form. However, none of the others, in my estimation, have as much raw ability as Main Sequence. Twilight Eclipse won the Man O’War two starts back, but was a dull seventh in the Manhattan. Slumber won that Manhattan, but his form hasn’t been great since. Imagining won the Pan American, but disappointed in the Man O’War. Ashleyluvssugar was a grass star out in California, but the competition there was weaker than here.
While I wouldn’t bet Main Sequence at a super-low price, he’s the most likely winner, and my rooting interests will rest with him.
6- Main Sequence (5/2)
7- Imagining (6/1)
1- Twilight Eclipse (9/2)
Race 12: Maiden Claiming $50,000, 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
I’ll close the show with the 4, We B Jammin. Last out, he was engaged in a duel, yet hung on OK to finish second. The horse he was dueling with wound up losing by eighteen lengths. If he can manage a clear lead here, he’ll be very tough to catch.
4- We B Jammin (9/5)
3- Don’s Marsh (7/2)
7- Play it Again (15/1)