Shore Bets: Monmouth Park May 28
Photo by Bill Denver/Equiphoto.
We are pleased to welcome Shore Bets back for another season of Monmouth Park racing.
by John Piassek
It’s the first day of Memorial Day weekend at the Shore’s Greatest Stretch: Monmouth Park. The ten-race card is highlighted by the John J. Reilly Handicap, featuring a field of nine Jersey-bred sprinters.
Race 1: Maiden Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile
We’ll begin the Memorial Day Saturday program with a non-descript field of maiden claimers. The 5, Platinum Sensation, looks like a standout over the rest. In her two career races, she ran a brisnet figure of 57 in each of them. That’s much better than anyone in the race has run in recent times. She hasn’t run since finishing fifth at the $16,000 level at Tampa Bay Downs in February, but has worked out twice here at Monmouth, and trainer Tony Wilson has won a race at the maiden claiming level at this meet.
The 1, U. S. Point, finished fifth when debuting for $16,000 last time out, earning a figure of 51. She’s got the room to improve here, and her strong late pace figure of 79 in that race suggests that she can stretch out easily from sprinting to routing. The 3, Ruthless T, lost the irons in her 2016 debut, causing her to lose by more than 40 lengths. In the past, she’s run up to a 59 going a route, and trainer Willard Thompson is 19% with horses making their second start off the layoff.
- 5- Platinum Sensation
- 1- U.S. Point
- 3- Ruthless T
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $20,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)
This is the first division of a maiden claiming grass race that was split into two ten-horse races. My pick here will be the 5, Over the Limit. Usually, it’s hard to back an 0-for-14 maiden, but he has the edge of being trained by Jorge Navarro and ridden by Jonathan Gonzales. That trainer-jockey combination has been nearly unbeatable at this meet, turning in a dominant 6-4-1-0 record when they team up. In addition, Gonzales’s lone win on a non-Navarro horse came in a grass race.
Going beyond the connections, Over the Limit is coming in here in good form. He’s run a figure of at least a 70 in all of his grass races listed in the past performances, peaking at a 79 three races back and a 78 last out. Navarro claimed him out of that last race, back in late February, and has had him throwing bullets in the mornings. There’s no reason to think Over the Limit will turn in anything less than a peak performance, and his connections are just icing on the cake.
The 2, Money Illusion, ran a good fourth after dueling on the lead in his grass debut, running a figure of 79. His early speed figures are much better than the rest’s, so he’ll go to the lead from his inside post and hope to not get caught. The 9, Charlie Has Heart, rallied from the back last out to finish second at the $16,000 level, earning a figure of 75. That was a season high for him, and he’ll hope to rally from the back to get a piece of the exotics pie.
- 5- Over the Limit
- 2- Money Illusion
- 9- Charlie Has Heart
- 7- Par
- 2- Money Illusion
- 4- Tarpon
Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile 70 Yards
I’ll begin the early pick 4 with the 2, Firsthand Report. She ships in here off a good third-place effort against similar on Oaks day at Churchill Downs, where she had the least almost the whole way around, but got caught late. Here, there’s no early speed to her inside, and the field is not nearly as good as it was last out. It looks as if she can just cross over to the early lead and gallop home to an easy score.
The 1, Red River Heidi, has run figures of 86, 88, and 86 routing on the dirt this year. That’s right there with the best anyone else in the field has run, but will be at a disadvantage having to come from off the pace. The small field size may play to her: she can stay closer to the pace, giving her kick a little extra punch. The 3, Bold Quality, came in tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies two races ago, and was third against allowance foes in a 6 ½ furlong race in her 2016 debut. She did run a figure of 88 as a two-year-old, but will almost certainly be overbet, and I would steer clear as such.
- 2- Firsthand Report
- 1- Red River Heidi
- 3- Bold Quality
Race 4: Maiden Claiming $20,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)
Despite his less-than-impressive 0-for-10 record, I’ll pick the 8, Shoo Daddy, on top. His figures have been among the best in the field, running a 75 against $25,000 horses two races ago, and earning a respectable 67 last time out. He figures to be close to the early pace today, a style that earned him two second-place finishes at Tampa Bay in February, and I figure that it’ll lead him to victory today.
The 1, Dothraki Warrior, has run at least a 70 in each of his last six races, but he’s come in second in four out of his last five races, without a victory. That’s not a good sign. The 5, Spanish Armada, is trained by Eddie Plesa, and ridden by Paco Lopez, a duo that has teamed up for three winners from four starters this far. He also has the best late pace in the field, and has run at least a 70 in each of his last two races.
- 8- Shoo Daddy
- 1- Dothraki Warrior
- 5- Spanish Armada
- 5- Spanish Armada
- 2- Squashville Road
- 6- Three Cheers
Race 5: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 5 ½ Furlongs
The 5, One for Don, looks like a standout. He won last week here at Monmouth, defeating similar horses by a neck while earning a figure of 78. He’s run up to an 82 within his last three starts, and up to an 89 earlier in the year. He’s no longer in the barn of Jamie Ness, but he’s shown good form even without being in Ness’s barn; in fact, that 89 earlier in the year was not in Ness’s care. His form is good enough that even if he declines a few points, he should still win it.
The 6, Rasta Friend, has improved in his each of his last three races, peaking at a 75 last time out. He turned in a strong three-furlong workout a few days ago, going the distance in 37.4 seconds. The 4, Trouble With Girls, finished last in his first race in two months last time out, but was stuck in traffic the entire way around, and still earned a respectable 73. He’ll hope for smoother sailing here.
- 5- One For Don
- 6- Rasta Friend
- 4- Trouble With Girls
Race 6: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w3x), 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)
We have a small but strong allowance field of six greeting us here. My top pick will be the 2, Cement Clement. He’s coming off a third-place finish in the Turf Classic Stakes at Tampa Bay, where he led almost the entire way around and earned a figure of 97. He’s consistently run figures in the mid-90s before, and has shown an affinity for the Monmouth grass before, losing last year’s Elkhorn Stakes by only ½ length. No one else in the field has sniffed a 97 in recent times, and few of them can even run within five points of that figure. As long as Cement Clement can come close to that race again, he’s in good shape.
The 1, Chamois, was second against similar last out at Gulfstream, and marks trainer Christophe Clement’s first runner of the Monmouth meet. That race was his first start in six months, and with it under his belt, he may continue to improve from his mid-90s figures. The 5, Nucifera, was graded-stakes placed in France as a two-year-old. Since coming to the United States, he’s run four grass races, and has only hit the board in one of them. Last out, he was seventh against similar at Laurel Park, but did run a figure of 90, an all-time high number. He’ll seek to replicate that here, and may get a piece of the exotics as such.
- 2- Cement Clement
- 1- Chamois
- 5- Nucifera
- 4- Secretive
- 6- Souperfast
- 3- Simon Bar Sinister
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, 1 Mile 70 Yards
I’ll look toward the inside in here, and go with the 1, Buon Gusto. He’s coming off a second against maidens at Laurel, where he led almost the entire way around before getting caught. He earned a near career-high figure of 80 there, which is the best anyone in the field has earned while routing. His inside post position gives him the opportunity to slide in over to the inside and draw off to the win, just like he almost pulled off last time.
The 4, Fetisov, makes his dirt debut here, after finishing fifth on the Gulfstream grass in his career debut. He’s working strongly coming in here, and Paco Lopez picks up the mount. The 3, Conviction, finished third last out, running a figure of 78. He’s one of two Pletcher entries in here (Fetisov is the other), and has improved sharply in each of his two career races. Further improvement would likely lead to victory.
- 1- Buon Gusto
- 4- Fetisov
- 3- Conviction
Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w2x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
It’s another race featuring a horse with a lot of speed and an inside post position. The horse who fits that bill is the 1, Be Nice Or Leave. She won her last two at Tampa Bay gate-to-wire, earning figures of 88 and 81 in those two races. She also ran an 88 three races ago, a figure that would probably win this one. In addition, jockey Victor Lebron has been riding a hot hand in grass races, going three-for-five with his mounts on the lawn. Her early pace advantage will give her an edge that may be too big for anyone else in the race to overcome.
The 6, Sea Coast, has run at least a 90 in all three of her American races, but they’re all very well spread out; she hasn’t run since January. The 4, Al Khazaaliya, lost by a head last out at the n/w2x level. That race was going 1 ½ miles, however, and she’ll take a big cutback in distance here. She ran a career high of 94 in that marathon, and ran a 92 four races ago when going 7 ½ furlongs.
- 1- Be Nice Or Leave
- 6- Sea Coast
- 4- Al Khazaaliya
- 4- Al Khazaaliya
- 3- Resilient One
- 5- Bay Dawn
Race 9: John J. Reilly Handicap, 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
It’s by far the best betting race on the card, and it’s also today’s feature race. Even though his form has not been as sharp as it was over the winter, the 6, Green Gratto, still merits a lot of respect. He’s coming in here with the best last-out figure, of 95. He earned that in the Diablo Stakes at Belmont Park, where he got hung out wide, pressed the pace, and tired to finish third. Before that, he was a dismal eighth when overmatched in the Carter Handicap, but did win the Gravesend Stakes and the Fall Highweight Handicap over the winter at Aqueduct. He has a ton of early speed, which plays well over Monmouth’s speed favoring track, and is coming in here with speedy form. I expect good things.
The 3, Saucy Don, has not raced since September, but has been working strongly coming in here. He won this race last year, and has six wins from nineteen races over the Monmouth dirt. The 1, Javerre, ran a 90 and a 93 in his last two, and is 4-for-9 over the Monmouth track.
- 6- Green Gratto
- 3- Saucy Don
- 1- Javerre
Race 10: Maiden Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
Not much imagination is required here; the 4, Pico, looks like much the best. He ran a career-high figure of 62 while losing last out here at Monmouth, a number no one else in the race has touched recently. Paco Lopez retains the mount on him, and he’s making his second race off the layoff, meaning that he’ll probably be fresher for this one that he was last time. If can maintain that speed going in here, he’s going to be very tough.
The 3, Cajun Colonel, ran up to a 67 over the winter at Tampa Bay Downs, but was dismal in his last two. He’s run up to a 67 in the past, so he will be seeking to recover that form here. The 5, Powered by Sun, was a respectable third first off the layoff last out at Penn National, and may be an interesting exotics candidate at a 10/1 morning line.
- 4- Pico
- 3- Cajun Colonel
- 5- Powered by Sun