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 focus of the racing world will be on Saratoga Saturday, where American Pharoah will aim to become the second horse to win both the Triple Crown and the Travers. However, there’s still a solid card at Monmouth Park, the first day of FNTSY Sports Weekend. Twelve races are part of the program, highlighted by the grade 3 Violet Stakes.

Note that the first race today is scheduled for 12:45 PM EDT—five minutes earlier than normal.

Race 1: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 2yo, 5 ½ Furlongs

  1. 1- Tocatchathief (8/1)
  2. 6- Hot Feet (3/1)
  3. 2- Parmel Landing (7/2)

It’s a tricky race to begin the card, as maiden claiming races for two-year-olds are bound to be. The only two horses in the field with experience, Parmel Landing and Rocky the Kid, were both unimpressive in their races, leaving five first-time-starters. What to do?

I wound up selecting the 1, Tocatchathief, in here. While it’s true that trainer Robert Donato is not great with first-time-starters, none of the other trainers in here is, either. He has post 1, enabling him to save position and gain an edge toward early speed. His workouts have been relatively impressive, including a three-furlong workout in a respectable :37.2 most recently. This is in strong contrast to everyone else in the field, who has been doing their best impression of slugs in the mornings.

The 6, Hot Feet, is trained by Rudy Rodriguez, who does the best with first-timers out of any trainer in the field. The 2, Parmel Landing, will get a fast track for the first time, and trainer Joe Orseno hits at a 22% clip dropping horses into maiden claiming races.


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Race 2: Claiming $6,000, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 7- A Nice Rendition (3/1)
  2. 2- Proven Warrior (5/2)
  3. 1- OK Lefty/1A- Isolation Road (7/2)

Sometimes, when a horse makes a surface switch, they really wake up. That’s what’s happened to the 7, A Nice Rendition. Doomed to a career of floundering in grass races, he’s 2-2 ever since switching to the Monmouth dirt back in July. His last race, especially, was promising: his Brisnet figure improved by seven points, and his late pace number greatly improved. He also showed no problems making the stretch to six furlongs, from 5 ½ furlongs. That figure of 84 he earned in that race is the second-best in the field, and he’s the only one coming in here on a consistently improving pattern. He’s my pick.

The 2, Proven Warrior, has the most early speed and a rail post. If he manages to get clear, he’ll be dangerous. The 1A, Isolation Road, has hit the board in five out of nine this year, and has some of the consistently strongest figures in the race. The same is true for his entry-mate, OK Lefty.


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

  1. 5- Rakete (7/2)
  2. 1- Valley Stream (6/1)
  3. 8- Canal Street (8/5)

Color me skeptical of the 8, Canal Street. Last time out, I picked him to win, stating that his dull last race at Delaware was designed as a prep for that spot two weeks ago. However, he was scratched out of that race, with the reason being listed as “veterinarian”. He hasn’t had a workout since that scratch, so how am I supposed to believe he’s in top physical condition? He only earned a 76 in that Delaware race—far off form—and couldn’t hold on after a relatively slow pace. I will pass.

Rather, I’ll pick the extremely steady 5, Rakete. He’s earned a 77 in each of his last four races, placing him among the upper echelon of the field. When dropped into this level last out, he was more competitive than he had been, staying close to the lead throughout while running a respectable fourth. I’ll take him to keep up his consistency streak.

The 1, Valley Stream, is also worth a mention. He has good early and late speed figures. While his figures are a cut below Rakete’s, he can definitely sneak into the top three at a price.

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Race 4: Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 2- Roundupthelute (7/2)
  2. 1- Where’s That Cat (5/1)
  3. 8- Chilton (7/2)

The 2, Roundupthelute, looks to be the best. His last two figures are an 87 and a 90, the two best in the field by far. The only other horse in the field to pull one of those off recently is the 1, Where’s That Cat, who had a favorable pace setup last time out. He does get a severe jockey downgrade, from Paco Lopez (who is riding at Parx today) to Christian Santiago-Reyes, but his figure advantage should off-set any of those issues.

Where’s That Cat will have post 1 here, and the most early speed in the field. There is a chance he’ll have it easy on the lead once again; if so, watch out. The 8, Chilton, is first off the claim for Jamie Ness; improvement off his already solid races could put him in the winner’s circle.

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Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 5 ½ Furlongs (Grass)

  1. 5- Souper Spender (3/1)
  2. 2- Very Colorful (5/1)
  3. 4- Golden Story (5/2)

I’ll take the 5, Souper Spender. His last race, at this level at Delaware, was a strong one, rallying from the back of the pack to miss by a mere neck. He achieved a figure of 86 in there, and has earned figures of 88 and 81 in the past. He’s one of only two in the field to pull that off. He’ll have more distance to play with here, going an extra half-furlong further than last time. He appears the best in here.

The 2, Very Colorful, held off the late charge of the solid grass sprinter Benny is a Jet last time out, earning a figure of 84. Some slight improvement may put him in the winner’s circle. The 4, Golden Story, is the other horse in the race to have three straight races of 80 or above. He cuts back to a sprint, where he tended to shine brighter. Look for improvement as such.


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Race 6: Claiming $7,500 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 7- Category (2/1)
  2. 1- Get Creative (5/2)
  3. 5- Five Cents (8/1)

Although he doesn’t win many races, I have a feeling that today will finally be the day for the 7, Category. His figures are among the best in the bunch, earning an 80 in two of his last three races. He’s cutting back from a route to a sprint, a positive move. Trainer Claudio Gonzalez is strong in these kind of situations, hitting at 20% going route-to-sprint. Now, considering he’s 0-10 in 2015, I cannot say that I will back him with total confidence. But he’s the most likely winner.

The 1, Get Creative, has a massive amount of early speed, post position 1, and strong speed figures. Don’t discount him. The 5, Five Cents, is cutting back to a sprint, and has enough late speed for me to think that a sprint may be what he needs.


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Race 7: Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)

  1. 6- Best Actor (2/1)
  2. 12- Wild BIllum (8/1)
  3. 10- Kitten in May (7/2)

My pick here will be the 6, Best Actor. His figures are the best in the field by a lot, having earned an 82, 91, and 84 in his last three efforts. He’s been close up in all of his races this year, never losing by more than two lengths. Now, he’ll face a field in which he’s clearly the fastest—an advantage that he’s never had before—and that should help propel him to victory.

The 12, Wild Billum, won at the $16,000 level back in May, and has the best late speed figures in the field. However, he is at the mercy of traffic towards the back of the pack, so be cautious. The 10, Kitten in May, has strong figures—running as high as a 94 two starts back—however, he has not been able to crack the victory nut in recent times. He hasn’t won a race since American Pharoah was a weanling, losing seventeen straight races in the interim.

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Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 7- Bully Proof (5/1)
  2. 5- Blings Express (3/1)
  3. 1- Que Facil/1A- El Posole (9/2)

I’ll begin the Jersey Shore 6 with the 7, Bully Proof. He hasn’t had a long career—just two races—but those races have been good. He broke his maiden last out here at Monmouth. Making his first start off an eight-month layoff, he held the lead the whole way and battled on the rail to win it by a head, earning a figure of 91: the best last-out number in the race. He has plenty of room to improve, being both a three-year-old and a horse making his second start off a layoff.

Also worth considering is the 5, Blings Express. He won at this level back in May, was second two more times, and always runs a figure at or near the 90 mark. That’s usually good enough to win it.

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Race 9: Claiming $16,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)

  1. 6- My Enigma (3/1)
  2. 5- Hudson Miracle (7/2)
  3. 1- Corinthian Summer (7/2)

The probable favorite in here is the 5, Hudson Miracle, and for some good reasons. He has some of the best figures in the race, earning as high as an 81 two starts back. He’s trained by the astute Marcus Vitali, and ridden by the dependable Matthew Rispoli. His late speed figures look dominant.

However, I cannot back him in here, because he has what’s called “second-itis”. In four races this season, he has amassed three seconds, with no wins. Last time out, he went off at 4/5, yet couldn’t do any better than second. Even though he does deserve a measure of respect, I cannot back him with confidence.

Rather, I’ll take the 6, My Enigma. He’s won two races in a row, earning figures similar to Hudson Miracle’s. He’s got a lot more early speed, so he’ll have a better jump on Hudson Miracle when the going gets tough. He’ll also make his third start off the layoff here, always a potent angle.

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Race 10: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs

  1. 7- Behr in the Woods (8/1)
  2. 9- Bat Cave (4/1)
  3. 4- Jersey Joe C (6/1)

It’s a very wide-open field of Jersey-breds in here, where you could make a case for multiple runners. I wound up selecting the 7, Behr in the Woods. He did not run especially well last out, finishing sixth at this same level. However, he was in tight moving up the backstretch, and had to check hard, compromising his momentum. With a cleaner trip, he should do better in here. His figures in the past help “Behr” him out. At an 8/1 morning line, he looks appealing.

The 9, Bat Cave, has the second-highest last-out figure in the field, and his pressing style is an asset in a field like this. However, he has yet to win a race from six tries on the meet. The 4, Jersey Joe C, demolished a n/w2L claiming field in his first start off a long layoff. He’s turned in some bullet works since that outing, so expect some improvement.


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Race 11: G3 Violet Stakes, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/8 Miles (Grass)

  1. 3- Photo Call (2/1)
  2. 4- Cushion (5/2)
  3. 6- Granny Mc’s Kitten (3/1)

If you need to boost your bankroll before the Travers, look no further than Monmouth’s feature race. A field of six grass fillies and mares will go postward for the Violet Stakes. I’ll go with the 3, Photo Call, to win it all. In her last outing, she narrowly missed winning the Perfect Sting Stakes at Belmont, earning a field-best figure of 95 in that race. She has the most early speed in the race, so she can control it up front if she wants. The 2/1 morning line is not super-appealing, but she’s the most likely winner nonetheless.

The 4, Cushion, was a respectable fourth in the Matchmaker over this track. The 6, Granny Mc’s Kitten, is trained by Chad Brown—always a dangerous angle at Monmouth—and is coming off a strong allowance win at Saratoga last out.


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Race 12: Claiming $7,500 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs

  1. 6- Just Ace (6/1)
  2. 3- Hereosaurus Rex (6/1)
  3. 1- Rocket Man Richie (9/5)

I’ll take a nightcap flyer and go with the 6, Just Ace. His figures are a decided cut below those of the main contenders, having done no better than a 71 in his last three. However, in a race with a lot of one-dimensional speed, he’ll be rating off the leaders, and may be able to take advantage of a meltdown. He’s got a great shot to upset.

The 3, Hereosaurus Rex, is one of those early speedsters, and has wilted in his last five. His figures are still strong, however, so he’s worth backing underneath. The 1, Rocket Man Richie, has the best figures and a preponderance of early speed, but lost at this level at 3/5 last out. I’m not taking odds that low on him. How can you?

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John Piassek is a 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.