The Racing Biz is pleased to welcome Shore Bets, with a revolving cast of Monmouth Park handicappers.  Today, 19-year-old aspiring announcer John Piassek hopes to make the right call.

by John Piassek

The first post-Haskell Saturday at Monmouth Park is here. Twelve races are on tap, headlined by the tenth race, the My Frenchman Stakes. Let’s get started.

Race 1: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 1 Mile

  1. 1- Entertainer/1A- Market Rally (1/1)
  2. 5- Big Paul (2/1)
  3. 6- Buon Gusto (5/1)

It’s the first route race for two-year-olds of the season, and as such has the look of a crapshoot. It’s made somewhat easier by the fact that five out of the seven runners in here have some sort of experience, albeit at shorter distances.

My pick in here, although it’s a tenuous one, is the 1, Entertainer. Trainer Wayne Catalano doesn’t run a ton of horses at Monmouth, but the ones he does run hit at an impressive 27% rate. He’s also 20% with horses first at a route. Furthermore, this horse ran a solid Brisnet figure of 82 in his lone career start, almost fifteen points better than anyone else in the field has accomplished so far. It would take either a strong improvement or a steep decline for anyone to catch him.

The 5, Big Paul, enters this spot for the dangerous Todd Pletcher barn. The fact that he’s running here, instead of at Saratoga, is a bit worrisome, but it’s possible they may think he’s better at a route. The 6, Buon Gusto, was impossibly wide in his debut, while breaking out of the 8 post in a race close to the first turn. Now, he’s closer to the inside, which offers some room for improvement.

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Race 2: Maiden Claiming $20,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs

  1. 8- Birch Creek Crazy (5/2)
  2. 5- Banana Anna (3/1)
  3. 1- Easy Landing (8/1)

Yet another race where everyone seems so bad, that it’s hard to find a horse who is actually good enough to win. However, I’ll try my best, and pick the 8, Birch Creek Crazy. She was a respectable second in her first start, finishing three lengths clear of the third-place horse. She was a little flat in open company last out, but now returns to the Jersey-bred level. Her figures of 64 and 72 are the two best in the field. Not only that, her late pace numbers are strong, whereas almost everyone else’s are abysmal. While there is the possibility she’ll decline again here, you can’t be too picky in this race.

The 5, Banana Anna, ran a solid 60 in her debut, and trainer Daniel Lopez is 33% with horses making their second start. The 1, Easy Landing, is always involved, but sports an unsightly 0-10 career mark.

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Race 3: Claiming $16,000, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 5- Gypsy Baron (3/1)
  2. 7- Invasion Point (7/2)
  3. 2- Slan Abhaile (5/2)

A wide-open, fun field of claimers begins the early pick 4. I’ll go with the 5, Gypsy Baron. He narrowly missed while sprinting twice earlier in the meet, losing those two races by a combined one length. Now, he will cut back after losing two route races. He was close every time however, in fact, he’s been second or third in his last four races. All his figures have been strong, including an 89 in his last effort. He turned in a strong workout last Saturday in preparation for this race, showing that he’s in strong form.

The 7, Invasion Point, ran a big one last out here at Monmouth, and trainer Dennis Ward is 24% first off the claim. However, the barn he’s exiting is the more dangerous stable of David Jacobson. He also gets a major jockey downgrade to Angel Serpa. The 2, Slan Abhaile, is the fastest horse in the field in terms of pure numbers, but he’s making his third start in less than two weeks here. One must wonder what toll that will have on him. I’d tread lightly.


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Race 4: Claiming $20,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)

  1. 3- Set on Salsa (7/2)
  2. 9- Glory Style (5/1)
  3. 5- My Little Darlings (7/2)

I feel somewhat like a fool chasing the 3, Set on Salsa, yet again. She’s become a mainstay at this level this season, running four times, and never winning. However, I feel like her last race marked a big step forward for her. She battled through a respectable pace early, and hung on almost until the end, missing by a head. The 74 she earned there marked a co-season high, and is one of the best figures earned by anyone in the field. Her main pace competition will be the 5, My Little Darlings, who is primarily a sprinter. Set on Salsa has proven she runs well at routes, and I think she’ll finally become the bride here.
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Race 5: Claiming $6,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile

  1. 3- Lubango (7/2)
  2. 4- Parody (2/1)
  3. 1- Fort Boonesborough (5/2)

The 3, Lubango, will be my play in here. He’s been strong, relatively speaking, in all of his route races this year. In two out of his last three races, he’s earned figures above 80, placing him squarely among the mix of contenders. The only other one to do that here is the 4, Parody, who only ran above an 81 while in the barn of Jamie Ness. Now, he’s with the cold barn of Willard Thompson, who’s only had two winners this year. When you take him out of the mix, Lubango stands out, and hopefully will be a decent price.

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Race 6: Claiming $16,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)

  1. 5- George Cross (7/2)
  2. 10- My Enigma (5/1)
  3. 8- Stableford (3/1)

Even on the surface, the 5, George Cross, is one of the strongest contenders in the field. He’s been in the mix in all four of his starts this year at Monmouth. His figures are among the best in the race, and he has strong early and late speed. However, what really puts him over the top is that he was claimed by Jorge Navarro out of his last race. Navarro is a torrid 39% first off the claim, and that gives George Cross a huge boost in this wide-open field. Expect good value on him, along with a strong win.

The 10, My Enigma, ran a field-best figure of 80 last out, and makes a speedy one week return. The 8, Stableford, has the strong Navarro-Paco Lopez combination, but has not been impressive in his last two starts.


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Race 7: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile

  1. 7- Sonofachub (5/1)
  2. 6- D’Marin (3/1)
  3. 10- Valley Stream (8/1)

A wide-open field in which no one looks that good greets us here. My tentative pick is the 7, Sonofachub. In his last effort, he led almost the entire way around, before tiring late. Nevertheless, he earned a strong figure of 81 in that race, the best last-out number in this bunch. He’s earned other strong numbers in the past, and at 5/1, he may be worth a shot.

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Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w2x), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)

  1. 2- American Girl (8/5)
  2. 6- Danalin (6/1)
  3. 5- Scorpion Aly (9/2)

Although I’m not expecting much value, the 2, American Girl, is the most likely winner by far. Her figures are superior: her worst in her last two is better than anyone else’s best by four points. In her last start, at this level, she rallied wide, only to miss by a narrow, bitter head. She faces a smaller, weaker field here, and also gets a jockey upgrade to Trevor McCarthy. Her 8/5 morning line will likely be a lot lower at post time, but she’s still your most likely winner.

The 6, Danalin, makes her third start off the layoff here. Trainer Eddie Plesa is a strong 24% with that angle. The 5, Scorpion Aly, greatly improved in her last start, defeating a n/w1x allowance field at Parx. She’ll need further improvement to win here, but I think she’s capable.

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Race 9: Starter Optional Claiming $16,000, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles

  1. 4- Saturday Special (3/1)
  2. 7- Dan’s Gold (9/2)
  3. 8- Keep the Canoli (8/1)

It’s always dangerous to pick against the hot horses, so I’ll take the safe route and pick the 4, Saturday Special. He’s done everything right in his dirt races this year at Monmouth, sporting a perfect 3-3 record. His figures have also been very strong, earning a 92 and a 94 in his last two. He’s also in the barn of top trainer Jorge Navarro, and he’s already won three races this year with the riding of Carlos Marquez. Now, I don’t expect value on him (he’s gone off at an average of 1/1 in those three wins), but he’s going to be very tough to beat.

The 7, Dan’s Gold, has a similar figure profile. However, he tends to come up short with his rallies, as he’s lost his last three races. Trainer Uriah St. Lewis has also not been having a greatest of years. The 8, Keep the Canoli, has won two races this year, but was soundly defeated by Saturday Special last out.

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Race 10: My Frenchman Stakes, 3yo and up, 5 ½ Furlongs (Grass)

  1. 9- Dreamsgonewild (4/1)
  2. 6- Ancil (8/1)
  3. 1- Oak Bluffs (9/2)

A competitive field of ten has assembled here for today’s feature. I’ll take the John McSorley winner, the 9, Dreamsgonewild. He won that race after being involved in a tough duel on the lead, while grimly holding on to win by a length. That shows that he can withstand a hot pace, which he will probably see once again. That figure of 102 that he earned in the John McSorley is also the best earned by anyone in recent times by a long way. I’m hoping for a repeat of that effort here.

The 6, Ancil, is exiting the Parx Dash, and gets a lot of class relief in here. He’s been earning figures in the 90s recently, which places him the upper echelon of the field. The 1, Oak Bluffs, has already won two races at Monmouth this season.

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Race 11: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs

  1. 7- Huachuca (7/2)
  2. 4- Fakery (2/1)
  3. 8- My Buddy Zip (6/1)

In her last start, I proclaimed that the 4, Fakery, could not lose. Not only was that an unoriginal prediction, as she went off at 3/5, but she was a disappointing third. Her figure declined sharply from that race, going down from a 79 two back, and an 89 three back, all the way to a 69. Now, I’m jumping off her bandwagon. It looks as if she’s a filly on the decline, and she’ll be another low price today. I’ll pass.

Rather, I’ll select the 7, Huachuca. She improved sharply in her last race, earning a field-best figure of 70 in her last race. She hasn’t been working great, but she’s still one of the fastest members of the field, and will provide much more value than Fakery will.

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Race 12: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs

  1. 1- Midnightinpositano (8/5)
  2. 5- La Chuchi (5/1)
  3. 8- Chubby Charlie (8/1)

It’s going to be very tough to beat the 1, Midnightinpositano. Her figures are far and away the best in the field, as she’s earned a 79 in her last two races. Trainer Jorge Navarro is, of course, a whiz with horses first off the claim. Don’t try to think too hard here. Midnightinpositano is a standout.

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John Piassek is a rising sophomore student at Loyola University Maryland, who has been going to Monmouth Park since before he could walk. Last year, he lived a dream by getting to call a live race at Monmouth.  Check out his “Monmouth Shore Things” blog for daily picks and recaps.