Monday, August 10, 2015

Hi Everyone!

Hi everyone,

I know that you've probably been wondering: what happened to the blog? Outside of my analysis on Saturdays for and, it's been awkwardly dormant.

Well, the reason why I wasn't around last weekend was because I was up at Saratoga. I didn't feel as if I could provide adequate coverage of Monmouth, while focusing so much on the racing up in New York. So at least I have an excuse there.

However, I've decided not to continue posting day-to-day coverage of Monmouth. It's only because I've been extremely busy with other things (namely work), and I don't feel as if I can continue to provide top-notch handicapping, while being so busy with other things.

I will continue to post coverage on the weekends for theracingbiz and danonymousracing, however. I would like to thank them for giving me the chance to have my work displayed nation-wide, and hopefully readers have had a few winners with them.

Thank you also to everyone who read this blog. I hope you enjoyed the insight that I (hopefully) provided for most of the year.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2, 2015: Picks and Analysis

It’s the biggest day of the year, featuring the biggest horse of the year: Haskell day! 14 races, including six stakes races, are on tap, before what is projected to be the largest crowd in Monmouth Park history. The Haskell, is highlighted, of course, by Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, seeking his eighth consecutive victory. Let’s get started on the card.

Weather Forecast: 89*F, Sunny

Race 1: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on this race, especially when one considers that the two likely favorites: the 1, Tell Tale Friend, and the 4, Blings Express, are prone to dueling with each other. Among those two, I’d prefer Tell Tale Friend. In his last race at Monmouth, he battled through a blazing :21.4 quarter and :44.3 half mile, but grimly hung in there to the end and missed by ½ length. Now, he’s dropping down to the n/w1x level, and possesses some of the strongest brisnet figures in the field. If I’d want anyone in the field to hang in after a duel, it would be him.
If both Tell Tale Friend and Blings Express fall apart on the lead, the 3, Longfor the City, could pick up the pieces late. He did that against New York-breds at Belmont last out, rallying from the back to get up by a neck. His late speed numbers are strong, and he cannot be ignored.
1- Tell Tale Friend (3/1)
3- Longfor the City (3/1)
4- Blings Express (7/2)

Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile (Grass)
The first of three—count ‘em, three!—pick 4s on the card begins here. I’ll go with the 3, Ansible, to begin this sequence. Last time out, she made a strong rally from the back of the pack, only missing by a neck. She makes her third start off the layoff here, an angle that trainer Christophe Clement hits at an astounding 27% with. Her figures are all amongst the most competitive in the field, to boot.
At a 6/1 morning line, the 9, Pointe Class, looks to offer some great value. She ran well over the winter at Gulfstream in these types of races, and is also making her third start off the layoff. The trainer-jockey combination of Todd Pletcher and Abel Castellano hit at a mind-boggling 40% when they team up, and Pletcher is 31% with his Monmouth invaders on the year. She’s been working well for this spot, and may be the best value play of the day. Both her and Ansible should be used in any pick 4 play.
3- Ansible (5/2)
9- Pointe Class (6/1)
7- Watusi (12/1)

Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles
Castellano and Pletcher will team up once again for my third race play, the 7, Carajillo. He dominated the field breaking his maiden last out, winning by two easy lengths, earning a figure of 95. That towers over anything most of this field has done in recent memory. He’s coming into this race with good, improving form, and looks to be ready to fire a big one.
However, the 8, Percussion cannot be ignored. He’s making the stretch back out to a route, even though he dominated a sprinting field last out. The kicker, however, is trainer Jorge Navarro: he’s hitting at 41% with horses making their second start off the layoff. If he’s anywhere near his 6/1 morning line, he’s worth a play. The 2, Box Office, was second at this level last out, and has strong figures and Paco Lopez’s riding. Watch for him, too.
7- Carajillo (9/5)
8- Percussion (6/1)
2- Box Office (5/1)

Race 4: Lady’s Secret Stakes, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile 70 Yards
The 4, Got Lucky, is as close to a “shore” thing as you’ll find on this card—and that counts American Pharoah. Against very similar horses in the Molly Pitcher Stakes last out, she dominated them, winning by five and half lengths. That includes Stiffed, who beat her in the Monmouth Beach Stakes two starts back, and is the only one to run figures even remotely comparable. Stiffed’s running style, however, means she’ll be coming from far back. Got Lucky figures to get the jump on her going down the backstretch, and that’ll be all she wrote.
4- Got Lucky (7/5)
1- Stiffed (7/2)
2- Power of Snunner (6/1)

Race 5: Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
It’s not an easy race to handicap, and that’s made evident when your top pick hasn’t won a race since American Pharoah was a yearling. However, the 7, Best Actor, is coming off back-to-back second place finishes against similar here at Monmouth. His figures have been improving sharply as well, going up to a 91 in his last outing. Trainer Jason Servis has also been having a terrific meet, which includes a 26% strike rate with horses third off the layoff. He also gets a major jockey upgrade, from Gabriel Saez to Paco Lopez.
The 1, Majestic Jess, has won two races this year at Monmouth, earned with gate-to-wire trips. If he can get a clear early lead—which is no guarantee—he’s going to be tough. The 12, Azure Dragon, rallied from the back of the pack to win his first start off a two-month layoff. He can easily improve off that effort.
7- Best Actor (3/1)
1- Majestic Jess (4/1)
12- Azure Dragon (6/1)

Race 6: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 1 Mile 70 Yards
A wide-open field like this means that it’s a time to explore a price. With a 12/1 morning line, the 9, Candy Mine, is worth a look. Yes, he is stretching out to a route from a sprint. However, his late speed in those races suggests that he’s not necessarily exclusively a sprinter. His figures are also solid, averaging a 79 in his last three races. Now, he’s no cinch, and I’m not “shore” if I’d bet him if he wasn’t his generous morning line price. However, no one else in the race looks that great either, so it’s worth trying Candy Mine out.
The 1, Cheddar Chub, closed from far behind to score second at this level in a route last time out. Looking at his last two, he’s proven himself in these kind of spots. The 3, Tribal Honour, has been second twice at this class, and has the dependable combination of Claudio Gonzalez training and Trevor McCarthy riding.
9- Candy Mine (12/1)
1- Cheddar Chub/1A- My Uncle Sam (4/1)
3- Tribal Honour (9/2)

Race 7: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
The 3, Cordero, looks very tough to beat. While his last race at Belmont was not impressive on the surface—he lost by nine lengths at this level—he earned a figure of 89 for that outing, among the best recent figures in the field. Not only that, his average late pace is a 97, which is the fastest in the field by a bunch. He’s had some impressive tune-ups for this race, and will probably find the company here in Jersey easier. Should he get a clear trip, his style indicates that he will be blowing by his rivals heading into the stretch, and (hopefully) drawing off to an easy score.
The 7, To Your Health, broke his maiden last out in his grass debut. Trainer Wayne Catalano is strong with horses in their second start off the layoff, and he retains the riding of Paco Lopez. The 9, Irish Strait, has been third and fourth in this class in his last two. Trainer Graham Motion has been an ice-cold 0-18 with his Monmouth starters this year, however, this horse may have found a spot where he’ll be closer.
3- Cordero (5/1)
7- To Your Health (8/1)
9- Irish Strait (8/1)

Race 8: Teddy Drone Stakes, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
At long last, the stakes races start to pick up. This race will begin the Jersey Shore 6, offered on races 8-13.
I begin the sequence with the 2, Fabulous Kid. He was less than impressive routing in the Salvator Mile last out, finishing a disappointing fifth. However, he still earned a figure of 96 for that effort. Going back further, he’s earned as high as a 101 while sprinting. He also has one of the best last pace figures in the race, while being close enough to the lead that he’ll get a jump over the rest. This is a race with a lot of speed-dependent horses, and should this race melt down, Fabulous Kid can just swoop by them all and win it. At a 6/1 morning line, he should be good odds.
The 7, Stallwalkin’ Dude, won the Diablo Stakes earlier in the year at Belmont, and exits a third in the Belmont Sprint behind stars Private Zone and Clearly Now. If nothing else, he’s getting plenty of class relief in this spot. The 9, Loverbil, is a Jersey-bred stalwart who has already won three races on the season. His late speed is also great, and he may very well pull off the upset.
2- Fabulous Kid (6/1)
7- Stallwalkin’ Dude (3/1)
9- Loverbil (10/1)

Race 9: Matchmaker Stakes, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
The 5, I’m Already Sexy, will be my play in here. She’s already won a graded stakes at Monmouth this year, in the Eatontown Stakes. Before that, she narrowly missed in the Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill. Her figures have been top notch, earning as high as a 97 in her last race. The way the race sets up, too, also works in her favor. If she can rate off a clear, fast-folding leader, she’ll roll by, and has enough late speed that she’ll hold off the rest.
The 6, Testa Rossi, was second in the James Penny last out at Parx. Trainer Chad Brown also hits at a sharp 5-11 with his Monmouth invaders. Watch for her, too. The 8, Baffle Me, disappointed in that James Penny, but had shown good form before that. She hopes to rebound from way off the pace.
5- I’m Already Sexy (2/1)
6- Testa Rossi (5/2)
8- Baffle Me (8/1)

Race 10: Monmouth Cup, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles
A deep, competitive field lines up for this renewal of the Monmouth Cup. The prospective favorite is the 7, Protonico, and for good reason. He’s coming off back-to-back stakes wins in Kentucky, earning a 107 figure in each one. He narrowly defeated Stephen Foster winner Noble Bird in the Alysheba last out, and finished well clear of Met Mile winner Honor Code in that same race. While he is obviously the best horse in this race, I can’t endorse him strongly, only because he’s coming off a three-month layoff, and he’s likely to be a strong, possibly odds-on favorite. Of course, he has to be used in multi-race wagers, but why waste your money trying to bet him to win? Furthermore, there’s the fact that he’s in this $200,000 race, and not the much richer Whitney on Saturday at Saratoga. That suggests he’s not being fully cranked for this race, and is looking at this one at a prep for races down the road. Don’t overthink Protonico, but don’t take him at short odds, either.
The 8, Valid, was third in the Salvator Mile last out, and has a frustrating tendency to finish second and third every time. However, his figures are above 100 just about every time. He’s very hard to ignore. The 5, Freestyler, has won four in a row, all of them in very gutsy fashion against allowance horses. He steps up into stakes company here, and he may be out-classed. However, you know he’ll put up a fight, for “shore”.
7- Protonico (2/1)
8- Valid (4/1)
5- Freestyler (8/1)

Race 11: Oceanport Stakes, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
The 7, Kharafa, looks very tough to beat in here. He was much, much, much the best against similar competition in the Elkhorn Stakes last out, winning by a neck after having a brutal trip. Now, he moves into a race with only six other horses, so he should have a much cleaner trip. That will enable him to flaunt his superiority over this field: his figures are all in the high 90s. No one else in the field can consistently pull that off. The fact that he’s not the morning line favorite makes me salivate; if he’s even close to his 5/2 early odds, that will be a huge bargain.
The 3, Old Time Hockey, ran strong races at Tampa Bay Downs over the winter, and makes his second start off the layoff. Watch him in the exotics. The 5, Heart to Heart, has the most early speed in the field, and will be dangerous if he’s allowed to get an easy lead.
7- Kharafa (5/2)
3- Old Time Hockey (8/1)
5- Heart to Heart (2/1)

Race 12: Haskell Invitational, 3yo, 1 1/8 Miles
There’s no need to overthink this race. On straight handicapping, there is absolutely no reason to think that the 4, American Pharoah, is not the most likely winner here. During his seven-race winning streak, he’s done nothing wrong. His Belmont was an absolute tour-de-force. He won it in the fastest time for that race in fourteen years, while absolutely dominating a classy field of three year olds. Nobody in this field is on the caliber of Frosted or Materiality, and American Pharoah just blew them away last out.
As such, the way to try to make money in this race is by looking to see who will round out the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta. Looking past American Pharoah, the 1, Upstart, looks much the best. He ran big races over the winter at Gulfstream Park, consistently running figures above 100. Following the Kentucky Derby debacle, he returned to the worktab in late June, and was been firing strong bullets for this race. His best won’t be enough to beat American Pharoah, but he is the clear-cut second best in the race. The 6, Keen Ice, ran well in the Belmont Stakes last out, but may have a difficult time on Monmouth’s speed-favoring track. Nonetheless, he can still clunk up for third or fourth place.
4- American Pharoah (1/5)
1- Upstart (6/1)
6- Keen Ice (12/1)

Race 13: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
Among all the routers in here, the 8, Big N Toasty, has by far the most early speed. She pulled off back-to-back gate-to-wire scores at Gulfstream over the winter, and with not many other challengers, it looks as if it will happen again. Trainer Jason Servis is a strong 26% with shippers, and she gets a jockey upgrade to Paco Lopez.
The 7, Silverville, has come up short in three straight races at this class. Don’t discount her completely, but be aware she’s more likely for an exotic position than a winner’s circle photo.
8- Big N Toasty (7/2)
7- Silverville (3/1)
1- Quarla/1A- Midnight Bounty (8/1)

Race 14: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
The Haskell day finale is a two-horse race. The 2, Gingee, and the 5, Sunshine Sandy, are both coming off dominating maiden wins versus Jersey-bred competition. I give the slight advantage to Sunshine Sandy, even though her maiden win figure was three points lower than Gingee’s. She was claimed out of her last race by the dominant Jorge Navarro, who hits at 39% first off the claim. With that barn move, I expect a lot of improvement out of Sunshine Sandy.
5- Sunshine Sandy (3/1)
2- Gingee (4/1)
6- Let’s Parlay (5/2)

Remember, the first race Sunday is earlier than normal: 11:30 AM EDT. Good luck!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to Improve Haskell Weekend

For weeks, Monmouth Park has been touting the "Pharoah Phan Phest" in conjuction with American Pharoah's appearance in the Haskell Invitational next Sunday. On the face, it's a terrific idea--after all, there's no better way to promote the arrival of the Triple Crown winner than with a major racing festival.

When one looks at Friday's card, with a whopping 86 horses, one wonders if this whole thing will wind up a tad underwhelming. And it shouldn't be.

For starters...

  • One idea I had at the start of the season was to have purse bonuses. One, implemented by NYRA in the past, was to increase the purse by 10% should eight or more betting interests leave the paddock. The other, used by Del Mar, gives any horse shipping in a bonus if they win. Especially in the face of Laurel siphoning off horses from Monmouth, why not put those bonuses in place for Haskell weekend? It would make the racing a lot more appealing.
  • While I'm at it, the Thursday before the Belmont, NYRA ran only eight races. Those eight races, however, had full fields and quality racing. It may not hurt Monmouth to only run nine races on Haskell Friday, then have ten/eleven races on Saturday. Not only would it give a quality-not-quantity approach to the weekend, it would help increase fields for Sunday, along with the rest of the season.
As for Friday's racing:
  • With the "Joes v. Jocks" mini-golf contest taking place after the races, and going until nightfall, it would be cool to move the races back to a twilight post (around 4:00 PM). As I've alluded to before, twilight racing would increase the Friday crowd. You'd get more people for the Pharoah button, magazine giveaway, and Lady's Secret Happy Hour. If the ninth race went off at around 7:30 PM, that would be a nice segue into the Joes v. Jocks contest.
    As to the people who signed up for the Joes v. Jocks contest, give them free admission, free programs, plus some betting vouchers. It would serve as a nice thank-you for signing up, and improve their day at the races.
With regards to Saturday:
  • If Saturday is going to be made into "Ladies Day", move some big filly and mare races to that day. The Molly Pitcher, once a Haskell day co-feature now relegated to an obscure Friday spot, would serve nicely as a cornerstone of this day. Even better, move the Monmouth Oaks to this day, and the Matchmaker. Those races, plus the Regret Stakes, would create a strong four-pack of stakes for filly and mare horses. It also makes for not just one, but two high-quality days of racing that weekend. 
  • While the number of events that Churchill and Pimlico have for their "Ladies Day" pre Derby and Preakness would be too numerous to list here, it wouldn't hurt to have a few of those events on Haskell Saturday as well.
As to how to promote the race:
  • Make sure people know that the website exists. And improve it, too. Give detailed bios of not just American Pharoah, but all of his challengers. Post videos of past Haskells, along with the charts. Update the information on each of those past races (for example, the 2000 Haskell is no longer the highest handle day in NJ racing history, as one could've guessed). Update the blog more often, with American Pharoah news, plus news about field developments. 
  • Get billboards down the shore to show American Pharoah's likeness. I've already seen one billboard for Monmouth Park (near the track, approaching Asbury Park). Re-purpose it to talk about American Pharoah and the Haskell. Buy a few more around the Shore to do the same thing.
  • Get some planes to fly along the beach talking about American Pharoah, along with the URL to the Haskell website. Admittedly, I have not been to the beach since American Pharoah was announced as going to the Haskell, so they may be doing this already. If they are, good for them!
  • Vice President Bill Knauf was on Channel 10/55 news Saturday night to discuss the Haskell. That's a good first step. Start a blitz around New York/New Jersey media to promote this race. The more people that know about it, the better.
These are just a few of the ways the Haskell can be better promoted. Of course, Monmouth Park has taken steps to make it a bigger event than normal. I, for example, am not "shore" if I would have had the idea to let the public in to watch American Pharoah work out. But there's many other things that can be done. It can make the Haskell a terrific weekend, not just this year, but every year. And that's for "shore".

NOTE: while I use American Pharoah's name a lot in these ideas, they can be applied to whoever the Haskell headliner is in any given year. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 26, 2015: Picks and Analysis

Today at Monmouth, there are not one, but TWO runnings of the Little Silver Stakes. These are exciting times, people!

Weather Forecast: 88*F, Partly Cloudy

Race 1: Claiming $7,500 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile
The two favorites in this race are taking plunges in claiming price. The 1, Clock Stopper, was running for $25,000 at this level at Belmont a few weeks ago, but now drops in for $7,500. The 5, Herecomesmisskitty, was a stakes competitor last year, and was in for $16,000 last out at Gulfstream. While none of them are especially strong, I give a slight edge to Clock Stopper. She's got a lot of early speed from the rail, so she could sneak to a clear early lead and not get caught late. Trainer Jason Servis also hits at a sharp 26% with shippers, and has been having a great season overall.
1- Clock Stopper (2/1)
5- Herecomesmisskitty (8/5)
6- Confrontational (6/1)

Race 2: Maiden Claiming $10,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile
I hate taking a short price on any horse, much less a horse in a race like this, However, the 7, Daddy's Crazy Girl, looks very tough. Her brisnet figures are all in the high 50s, and all of them were earned in route races. This is stark contrast to some of the others, who have run figures like those in sprints. Essentially, Daddy's Crazy Girl is the only one who has proven herself (relatively speaking) over a route of ground. That being said, I wouldn't take her 7/5 morning line, and she'll likely be way lower than that. Key her in the pick 5 if you want, but don't play her to win.
7- Daddy's Crazy Girl (7/5)
5- Sonyador (9/2)
2- Roman Sister (10/1)

Race 3: Claiming $30,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
I'll take the 7, Ginger Goose, in here. He's been coming close in his last two races at this level, running second and fourth, while earning figures of 83 and 84. Trainer Eddie Broome hits at a solid 21% with horses beaten as the favorite in their last start, and his late pace figures are better (albeit only slightly more so) than his rivals. It's a wide-open race, but I'll give Ginger Goose the slight edge.
The 4, Call Wil, was scratched out of a similar spot Saturday, and possesses a lot of early speed. The 5, E Biscuit, was third in his last start at this level, and hopes to break better in this outing.
7- Ginger Goose (5/2)
4- Call Wil (3/1)
5- E Biscuit (5/1)

Race 4: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
It's another short-priced horse that looks very difficult to beat. The 8, Roundupthelute, is by far the most consistent member of the field, frequently earning figures in the low 80s. He'll also be ridden by Trevor McCarthy and trained by David Jacobson, which are generally keys to a Monmouth victory. He doesn't have a lot of early speed, which makes him somewhat vulnerable, but he should be good enough that he'll roll by the rest of them.
If Roundupthelute doesn't fire, the 2, Bat Cave, is the most likely to upset. He improved sharply in his last effort, at this level. However, both trainer Holly Harris and jockey Jonathan Zayas are ice-cold at this meet. If you can get a decent price, however, he may be worth a shot. The 1, First Ronin, was disappointing in a route last out, but now cuts back to a sprint, where he had been much better. Watch for him, too.
8- Roundupthelute (1/1)
1- First Ronin (6/1)
2- Bat Cave (5/1)

Race 5: Claiming $40,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 5 1/2 Furlongs (Grass)
The 9, The Comish, looks like much the best in here. In his last race, at this level and distance, he rallied from the back of the pack to get up and win it by a neck. Now, he returns to this level, retaining Paco Lopez in the saddle. Trainer Eddie Plesa also has a positive ROI with horses who are claiming repeaters, making him all the more appealing.
The 5, Artempus, returns to the grass, where he had showed better form in the past. Jorge Navarro hits at 41% with horses second off the layoff, so he is dangerous as well. The 6, Very Colorful, has been sharply improving in his last three races, and worked three furlongs in a blazing :35.3 while preparing for this spot.
9- The Comish (4/1)
5- Artempus (9/2)
6- Very Colorful (5/1)

Race 6: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 5 1/2 Furlongs
Another wide-open field greets us in here. My pick will be the 2, Joni's Wildcat. He made his first start off a seven-week layoff in his last outing, and rallied up the rail to narrowly miss by a neck. Now, he comes into a very similar spot with a race under his belt, a jockey upgrade to Daniel Centeno, and one of the best last-out figures in the race: a 77. He looks the most likely.
The 5, What the Chub, has the most early speed by far, but tired last out when he got caught in a duel. He hopes to get clear in this spot. The 10, One Red Cat, has been one of the fastest in the field if one tosses his routes. At a 10/1 morning line, he looks very appealing.
2- Joni's Wildcat (7/2)
5- What the Chub (3/1)
10- One Red Cat (10/1)

Race 7: Starter Optional Claiming $30,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs
The 2, Chatt Hills, looks to be superior to the rest. She's won her last two races at Monmouth, the latter by three easy lengths. Her figures are also the best in the field by a good margin, earning an 85 and 83 in her last two. There's no reason why she can't duplicate those races again, and if she runs to form, she'll crush.
2- Chatt Hills (5/2)
6- Rowd E Allie (7/2)
4- Stormy Sky (9/2)

Race 8: Little Silver Stakes (Division 1), 3yo, Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
First of all, I just want to say that the lack of jockeys named on certain horses is ridiculous. A horse should always have a jockey named when they're entered, unless they're a main-track-only. That needed to be said.
Anyway, we know who the 2, Kawfee Fa Marfa's jockey is, and that's Paco Lopez. Not only that, her grass form is among the best in the field, earning figures of 88, 84, and 83 in her last three. She worked well before her last start at Delaware, which was unfortunately washed off the grass. Now, she gets her chance on the lawn, and she should shine.
The 3, Stormy Regatta, ran well in her first start off a two month layoff last out at Belmont. She seeks further improvement here. The 6, Royal Jewely, has been running sneakily good figures, and could upset at a bit of a price.
2- Kawfee Fa Marfa (7/2)
3- Stormy Regatta (3/1)
6- Royal Jewely (8/1)

Race 9: Starter Allowance $25,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile 70 Yards
I was un"shore" as to who to go with here: the 1, Bull Ensign, or the 3, Candy Portena. While Bull Ensign's last race was very impressive on paper, seeing as he made up 33 lengths, I am dubious as to its legitimacy. This is mainly because that was in an off-the-grass event, with horses who may not have been in their element. Candy Portena, on the other hand, has good figures, but earned his lone career win with a loose, easy lead. I will give the slight edge to Bull Ensign, as he made a good closing rally two starts back, against a more honest field. I still expect him to make a strong closing bid at the end, a bid that will hopefully be a winning one.
1- Bull Ensign (5/2)
3- Candy Portena (3/1)
4- Demand (6/1)

Race 10: Little Silver Stakes (Division 2), 3yo, Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
I'll go with the horse taking the biggest drop in class: the 6, Pine Needles. She was most recently ninth in the Belmont Oaks, behind the brilliant Lady Eli. She earned a figure of 93 in that race, better than anyone in the field has ever done. Now, she moves down into this listed stakes, where she has a big class edge, plus the riding of Joe Bravo. At a 5/2 morning line, she should be a realistic price, and hopefully that will guide her toward victory.
The 2, Isabella Sings, was dismal last out, but had solid form before that. We'll see if she is able to rebound in here. The 8, Kitten's Roar, gets Paco Lopez in the saddle, and trainer Chad Brown is 50% this year at Monmouth.
6- Pine Needles (5/2)
2- Isabella Sings (5/1)
8- Kitten's Roar (3/1)

Race 11: Maiden Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
My pick to wrap things up before Haskell week starts is the 3, Well Up. In her last race, she closed from thirteen lengths out of it to run a respectable third, beaten only a head for second. She earned a sharply improved figure of 61 in that spot, and further improvement is definitely a possibility.
The 9, Silver Bouquet, also made an impressive rally from the back of the pack last out, however, trainer Stephen diMuro is a chilly 0-20 at the meet. The 4, Kellyslittlesecret, makes her third start off the layoff, and worked well in preparation for this spot.
3- Well Up (4/1)
9- Silver Bouquet (3/1)
4- Kellyslittlesecret (5/1)

The first race Sunday is 12:50 PM EDT. One more day of racing until the Haskell!!!

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 25, 2015: Picks and Analysis

We are one week away from the Haskell. Twelve races will highlight today's card, including the running of the grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes. Now, I am a firm believer that this race should be moved back to Independence Day weekend. That way, it would be four weeks after the Woody Stephens at Belmont, and four weeks before the Amsterdam at Saratoga. But I digress.

Race 1: Claiming $6,000, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
The 2, Proven Warrior, looks like the obvious sort, and that's why I'm going against him. His brisnet figures look to be among the best in the bunch, running up to a 98 in his last three. However, I'll be taking a shot against him, because of that huge class drop. David Jacobson claimed him out of his last race for $20,000. He's now dropping him in for $6,000 one start later, after running a solid fourth for $20k. Now, that drop may not mean much, and he'll win going away, but I'm taking a shot against. Especially when you consider Proven Warrior will be a very low-priced favorite, it makes sense.
I'll take the 1, Palm Island, instead. His figures are the second-best in the field, earning a 77, 80, and 82 in his last three. Trainer Claudio Gonzalez has improved his winning percentage to 11%, as his barn continues to heat up. Should Proven Warrior not fire, Palm Island is the most likely winner.
1- Palm Island (3/1)
4- Where's That Cat (7/2)
2- Proven Warrior (1/1)

Race 2: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
I'll go with the 5, No More Strippers. His form is consistently the best in the field, earning figures of 80, 83, and 88 in his last three. Not many horses in this race can pull that off; One For Don ran a good race back in June, but that was also his lone start in the barn of Jorge Navarro. Brahman's last race looks very fluky. English Manor is once again on the outside, after being hung wide throughout in his last start. When all this is considered, it becomes obvious to pick the consistent runner. That horse is No More Strippers.
5- No More Stripers (7/2)
8- English Manor (3/1)
4- Hershyslitethepowr (10/1)

Race 3: Claiming $16,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs
My pick here is the 2, Money Game. In her last start, at the n/w1x allowance level, she roared up the rail late, narrowly missing by 1/2 length while earning a figure of 92. She's earned mid-80s figures before, so that race was hardly a fluke. Her late speed is also strong, so a repeat of that strong closing rally is likely.
The 6, Misszippityslewda, was inexplicably flat in her last race. However, that race was over an off track; she may improve on a fast surface. The 4, Flashy Zee, came from off the pace to win at the $10,000 level last out, running a sharply improved figure.
2- Money Game (2/1)
6- Misszippityslewda (3/1)
4- Flashy Zee (4/1)

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

I'll take the 4, Diana's Daisy in this spot. Her form over the winter at Gulfstream was sharp, earning figures up to a 77 at this level. She's making her second start off the layoff here, after running fifth over the synthetic at Presque Isle. She's been working well to prepare for this race, and trainer Michael Rogers hits at an impressive 26% with horses moving from synthetic to grass.
The 1, Humantala, won at this level two starts back, and has the recency edge that Diana's Daisy lacks. The 2, Set on Salsa, has been in the mix in all of her races here at Monmouth this year, and hopes for a breakthrough today.
4- Diana's Daisy (3/1)
1- Humantla (5/2)
2- Set on Salsa (4/1)

Race 5: Claiming $10,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
The 5, Invasion Point, is shipping in from Belmont here, and looks very tough to beat. His last two figures, of 85 and 86, are superior to the recent form of anyone else. He's making his first start off the claim for David Jacobson, who hits at a strong 28% with horses on that angle. His late speed is also among the best in the field, suggesting that he'll be blowing by the rest of the field while they're tiring late.
The 8, Keepin it Zeal, dominated a field of n/w2 claimers in his last race. Further improvement would mean likely victory. The 6, Category, was second at this level after getting involved in a duel. The pace projects to be fast again, so his best hope is to try and rate off the leaders.
5- Invasion Point (3/1)
8- Keepin it Zeal (9/2)
6- Category (8/1)

Race 6: Claiming $40,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
My pick will be the 8, Killer Crossover. In his last grass start, here at Monmouth back in May, he rallied strongly down the stretch, finishing second by three lengths. He shipped to Delaware next, only to run third in an off-the-grass event. Now, he's back on grass, and back at Monmouth, where he ran some of the best races in the field. I'll take him to rebound with the surface switch.
The 1, Breakeven Analysis, steps back down into claiming company, which he should find easier than allowances. The 3, Omarvelous, had run well on grass at Gulfstream earlier in the year, before moving to synthetic for his last few. Returning to grass should be what he needs.
8- Killer Crossover (5/1)
1- Breakeven Analysis (5/2)
3- Omarvelous (6/1)

Race 7: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, 1 Mile 70 Yards
Just about everyone in this race who has good form is stretching out, making it a difficult race to handicap. I'll go with the 4, Park Ranger, based off his solid first start. After being heavily bet, he broke slowly and was rushed up into contention. He then tired out, but still earned an 83 in his first race. Now, he's stretching out to a route, which, based on his pedigree, may suit him better. I project he'll improve a lot going into this spot.
The 6, Have a Good Laugh, also has good figures, but an ugly 0-10 career record. I'm against him until he proves that he can win. The 7, Smooth Talkin Tom, has been steadily improving in his last three starts, and has a chance to get into the exotic spots at a price.
4- Park Ranger (5/2)
6- Have a Good Laugh (6/1)
7- Smooth Talkin Tom (12/1)

Race 8: Claiming $16,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
Two horses stand out in here. The 2, Hudson Miracle, has earned around an 80 in all three of his recent starts, including two near-misses at this level. The 9, Call Wil, ran an 85 two starts back, and figures to be on or near the pace. I give the slight edge to Hudson Miracle in this spot, considering his late speed has been much stronger than the rest of the horses in the field. He also gets a slight jockey upgrade, from Joe Bravo to Orlando Bocachica. Furthermore, he gets a new trainer: Marcus Vitali, who has been having a strong season with grass runners, and is 18% when training a horse for the first time.
2- Hudson Miracle (5/2)
9- Call Wil (3/1)
8- Wally Did It (4/1)

Race 9: Allowance (n/w2x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NJ-bred, 1 Mile
The late pick 4 begins with a single. The 1, Amblin Easy, has earned above a 90 in all three of her most recent starts, something that no one else in the field has done even once. She's taking a big drop in class, down from a third in the Monmouth Beach Stakes in her last dirt outing. Against a rather weak field of Jersey-bred allowance horses, she should crush.
The 3, She's Hot Wired, is always in the mix, but her 2-22 career record is hard to swallow. She's a candidate for the exotic spots, for "shore", but not for the win. The 4, Wildly Good Lookin, blew away a field of Jersey-bred n/w1x allowance horses last out, showing a dramatic improvement in form. We'll see if she can keep it up.
1- Amblin Easy (4/5)
3- She's Hot Wired (6/1)
4- Wildly Good Lookin (9/2)

Race 10: Claiming $16,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 1/2 Furlongs (Grass)
I'll take the 2, Claiming Victory. She wasn't great in her last race, at the n/w2x allowance level. However, now she's taking a drop in class to the claiming level, and her figure of 76 is very competitive in this race. I think this'll be the level where she'll thrive.
2- Claiming Victory (5/2)
4- Taty's Gold (5/1)
5- Girl From Glan (7/2)

Race 11: Jersey Shore Stakes, 3yo, 6 Furlongs
It's hard to get past the 3, Blame Jim, in the Saturday feature. His figures make him an absolute standout; he's run a 98, 95, and 104. He narrowly wired a field of n/w2x allowance horses last out at Belmont, before being run down by the older Noble Cornerstone. He's facing no one of that caliber here, so with a clear lead, he should be home free.
The 2, Joe Franklin, dominated a n/w1x allowance field in his last start, and makes his first start in the Jacobson barn. The 6, Bluegrass Singer, was burned out in the lead in the Carry Back last out, and may find the pace more to his liking.
3- Blame Jim (7/5)
2- Joe Franklin (4/1)
6- Bluegrass Singer (9/2)

Race 12: Claiming $7,500 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
I'll conclude the afternoon with the 5, Hereosaurus Rex. He's been close in three races at this level this season, and all of his figures have been in the 70s. He figures to have a solid edge over the rest of the field, and I'll look toward him to get out.
The 9, Notional Romance, steps down from the n/w3 level, and has sharp late speed. The 2, Just Ace, narrowly broke his maiden against Jersey-breds last out.
5- Hereosaurus Rex (9/2)
9- Notional Romance (7/2)
2- Just Ace (5/1)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 24, 2015: Picks and Analysis

It may be opening day at Saratoga, but that doesn't mean that the party stops at Monmouth Park. Ten races are on tap for the Friday card: the last Friday card before Haskell week. Here's what I think will happen:

Race 1: Claiming $16,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
The name of this field's game is inconsistency. No one in this field has shown steadily great form, while none of them are consistently mediocre, either. To make things more complicated, the amount of late speed that all of these runners show varies greatly from race to race. As such, it's easy to designate this one as a crapshoot.
I'll take my best hack at it, and go with the 1, Chocolate Wildcat. He had shown good form on the dirt as a two-year-old last year, before disappointing on the grass over the winter at Gulfstream. Now, he moves back to dirt, where he has early speed from the inside. Trainer Jason Servis also hits at a solid 23% rate with horses off a long layoff. I can't call him a "shore" thing in here, but he's a likely winner.
The 6, Cloudy River, was third at this level last out, and makes his debut for trainer Michael Moore. The 5, Jimmy Connors, disappointed at this level in his last race, but his form was good prior to then, and he may have needed a race.
1- Chocolate Wildcat (5/2)
6- Cloudy River (7/2)
5- Jimmy Connors (8/5)

Race 2: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile 70 Yards
I'll take the 3, Allie Sweet. She last ran at Parx at this level, and got away to an awkward start. She recovered to battle for the early lead, but didn't quit that badly and wound up fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Her brisnet figure in that race was a 70, which she earns virtually every time out. If nothing else, she's consistent. With a clean break this time, she'll be more forwardly placed without pressure to get up near the lead, and that means that she should have enough left for a winning stretch drive.
The 5, Callmewhachuwant, stretches out to a route from a sprint; she ran up to an 80 sprinting, and will hope to stretch out that good form. The 4, Single Handed, has the most early speed, and hopes to regain her good winter form.
3- Allie Sweet (3/1)
5- Callmewhachuwant (6/1)
4- Single Handed (2/1)

Race 3: Maiden Claiming $20,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile (Grass)
In a field full of bad maiden claimers, the 7, Key d'Oro, looks the least bad. Her grass figures have all been in the high 60s, making her one of the few fillies in the race to pull that off. She also has the dangerous combination of trainer Marcus Vitali and jockey Orlando Bocachica. The former, especially, has been dangerous with grass horses. A slight improvement--or even holding steady at her current form--should be good enough.
The 3, Royal Stage, showed lots of early speed sprinting, and hopes to stretch that out to a route. The 4, Waki Girl, ran a field-best figure of 69 in her last race, and was caught late after making a premature move on the turn. With better timing, she may be able to pull it off.
7- Key d'Oro (5/2)
4- Waki Girl (3/1)
3- Royal Stage (3/1)

Race 4: Claiming $7,500 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 1 Mile 70 Yards
I won't lie and say I'm in love with him; you can't find a better horse than Better Man. Breaking from the 6 post, this horse is a standout. His last three figures are 84, 82, and 70, which are the best in the field by a lot. He's also got the best late speed figures in the race by a longshot. While the rest of the field will be tiring out, he'll be accelerating away from the rest of the pack.
The 1, Alpha Dude, was second in back-to-back routes before winning at a sprint, he showed good form while routing. The 7, Ausable River, led late last time out before being caught; he had drastic improvement in that spot.
6- Better Man (2/1)
1- Alpha Dude (5/2)
7- Ausable River (4/1)

Race 5: Claiming $25,000, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
The 6, Lighthouse Sound, has already shown a great affinity for the grass here at Monmouth, winning his first two starts of the year here. His figures were already the best in the field, earning a 93 in his last race. Now, he's making his first start for Jamie Ness, who claimed him out of that last start. Ness hits at a very high 36% with horses first off the claim. With horses who stand out like Lighthouse Sound, it's close to a "shore" thing.
The 5, Yari, was third and fourth at the n/w2x allowance optional claiming level, and now takes a drop down to straight claimers. His figures were strong at that level. The 7, Mythical Man, ran big last out before being caught by Lighthouse Sound late, and is a strong candidate to round out the exotics.
6- Lighthouse Sound (3/1)
5- Yari (5/2)
7- Mythical Man (5/1)

Race 6: Starter Optional Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
Two horses jump out in here: the 2, Loverbil, and the 3, Doddsprivatelabel. Loverbil has won two out of three races this year at Monmouth, and is coming off a come-from-behind score as the favorite in a Jersey-bred allowance. Doddsprivatelabel is coming in from Parx, and he's won his last two races. Their figures are similar: Loverbil has earned a 96, 93, and 97 in his last three, while Doddsprivatelabel has run a 93, 91, and 96. I give the slight advantage to Doddsprivatelabel, as I think his late speed is slightly better than that of Loverbil. However, win money should go to the horse who's the better value, as their chances of winning are, in my book, essentially equal.
3- Doddsprivatelabel (2/1)
2- Loverbil (3/2)
4- Cho Time (7/2)

Race 7: Claiming $40,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 Furlongs (Grass)
My pick to begin the late pick 4 is the 2, No Tunes. She's shipping in from Belmont, where she was a respectable fourth and third, respectively, while grass sprinting. Her figures, however, are the best in this field, earning an 80 in all three races. I'll take her to score against the rest of these.
The 1, Shimmering Cara, makes her third start off the layoff, and trainer Terri Pompay hits at 26% with those types of horses. The 3, Have a Taste, ran a respectable 76 in her lone career grass race, which was a victory. That figure should get her in the exotics, and some slight improvement makes her a win candidate.
2- No Tunes (4/1)
1- Shimmering Cara/1A- Wildcat Gaze (7/2)
3- Have a Taste (5/1)

Race 8: Maiden Claiming $25,000, 3yo and up, NJ-bred, 6 Furlongs
It's not easy picking an 0-12 maiden, but in a race like this, the 1, Play it Again, is the most likely winner despite that record. He made up some mild ground in his last start, against similar competition. He started off eight lengths off the lead, but made some mild progress to lose by only about six. He earned a figure of 69 in that race, one of the best numbers in the field. His late speed is also terrific, which gives him the edge he may need.
The 3, Scobeyville, hasn't hit the board in six races, but his figures indicate that he may have found a spot where he can win. The 2, Cayden Can, was fourth at this level in his debut, and seeks to improve here.
1- Play it Again (8/1)
3- Scobeyville (4/1)
2- Cayden Can (3/1)

Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w2x), 3yo and up, 5 Furlongs (Grass)
My play here will be the 6, Oak Bluffs. He's already won a grass sprint at Monmouth this season, with a strong closing rally off a fast pace. He'll be making his first start since that May 30 effort, and he's worked at Delaware to prepare for this spot. Trainer Jamie Ness hits at a sharp 27% with horses off that long of a layoff. It all adds up to a solid play.
The 1A, Fast Flying Rumor, won the Select Stakes last out with an easy gate-to-wire trip. No doubt he has ability, but he may have a harder time getting that kind of pace in here. The 5, Deterrent, gave way in his last race after setting the pace. He'll have to show more guts to win this race.
6- Oak Bluffs (2/1)
1- One Buck Roma/1A- Fast Flying Rumor (5/2)
5- Deterrent (5/2)

Race 10: Claiming $5,000, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles
I know that the 3, Start Jumping, is taking a major class drop here, all the way down to the $5,000 level. However, it's difficult to ignore the fact that he's the best horse in the race. He earned an 86 in his last race, the best in the field by thirteen points. He's shown ability at routes before, and in that last race, he was compromised by a slow start. After that break, he was rushed up to be near the pace, only to flatten out. Now, I'll concede he's the most likely winner, but he's "shore" to be overbet, and I'm guardedly optimistic about his chances to win at this point.
If Start Jumping doesn't fire, the 7, Panama Hat, looks good. He made a strong closing rally to get third in his last race, earning a figure of 72. The 8, Bo Badger, led late before being caught in his last race.
3- Start Jumping (1/1)
7- Panama Hat (8/1)
8- Bo Badger (6/1)

The first race on Friday is at 12:50 PM EDT. Good luck!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Monmouth Racing Recap: 7/19/15

A star-crossed running of the Miss Woodford was the scheduled headliner on this Sunday card at Monmouth. Here's what else happened:

Race 1 (Gorgeous Sunrise, Charles Carlesimo-Abel Castellano, 1:11.0)
More proof that, despite this blog's name, there's no such thing as a "shore" thing. Musket Mary, who looked like an absolute cinch, and was bet like it, couldn't run down Gorgeous Sunrise late. That one stalked the pace two-wide, then moved around the turn and wound up getting the jump on Musket Mary. Placement is key, jockeys.

Race 2 (Hunter Grey, Roberto Calvo-Inoel Beato, 1:05.0)
Nineteenth time's the charm for Hunter Grey. He rated off the leaders, then moved three-wide and rolled past complacent leader Bank Fraud. Hunter Grey may have been 0-18 going into this race, but I think Bank Fraud will be 0-180 before he wins a race.

Race 3 (Super Garces, Luis Carvajal-Wilmer Garcia, 1:12.2)
Once very likely winner Yourthekingjimmy scratched, the public zoned in on Full Pads. He was bet down to a really low 4/5, and coughed up a big lead late. Super Garces sat the great trip off that fast, clear leader.

Race 4 (Elmra, Mark Hennig-Paco Lopez, 1:04.3)
The public guessed that Elmra, the queen of inconsistency, would be on today, and bet her to 6/5. As it turned out, they were right. She managed to clear to the early lead from post 11, and then shook the rest of the field off to win it in a laugher. Now, even if I knew that she would rebound like that, there's no way that I could have taken 6/5 on her to win. So either way, I would've lost. Isn't that terrible?

Race 5 (I Ain't Waitin', Mike Trombetta-Paco Lopez, 1:36.3)
I picked two 4/1 shots on top today, and I bet exactly none of them to win. I'm such a genius.
I Ain't Waitin, as winners are bound to do, sat the trip, rating off the leaders and angling wide around the turn. However, he really had to grind past leaders Brad and the Gang and Talent Show to get the victory. The latter horse was particularly tenacious.

Race 6 (Saturday Special, Jorge Navarro-Carlos Marquez, 1:41.2)
If there was a Monmouth Park championship race--and as I will eventually get to, there should be--Saturday Special would have to be in it. He won his third race of the Monmouth season, rating off leader Gypsy Baron, then strolling on by to win. He's a pretty cool horse.

Race 7 (Cut to Order, Jamie Ness-Daniel Centeno, 1:33.2)
Lasso managed to get to the lead--unlike in his disappointing last effort--but Cut to Order and Cement Clement collared him coming into the stretch. Cement Clement pulled off a colossal hang job, but Cut to Order hung in there and prevailed by a half-length. Not every day that a Ness-Centeno horse pays $12.60.

Race 8 (Been Here Before, Kiaran McLaughlin-Abel Castellano, 1:37.3)
Tidal Surge, who won her debut at Delaware very easily last out, could not have run any worse here. She had absolutely nothing going around the turn, and lost by sixteen lengths. Hopefully, she's not injured.
Meanwhile, Been Here Before angled out around the turn, and grinded past leader Tiger Moth to score.

Race 9 (Cali Thirty Seven, Joe Orseno-Andre Worrie, 1:34.0)
Neither Orseno nor Worrie have been having especially great seasons, but they teamed up here with Cali Thirty Seven, who held off the challenge of Forest Funds the entire way around. Indeed, Forest Funds was no further than a neck from Cali Thirty Seven at any point during the race, yet never passed her.

Race 10 (Fusaichi Red, George Weaver-Orlando Bocachica, 1:10.1)
What was shaping up as a fun stakes race was marred at the quarter pole, when Calypso Run clipped heels and unseated Trevor McCarthy. The filly was fine, but McCarthy was sent to Monmouth Medical Center, complaining of a severe headache. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for McCarthy, who is currently fourth in the jockey standings.
Meanwhile, Fusaichi Red took advantage of an absurdly fast pace (which included a :43.4 half mile), and zoomed down the stretch to win it going away. However, I'm convinced this has less to do with Fusaichi Red's ability, and everything to do with that pace. We'll see where she goes from here.

Race 11 (Class and Cash, Eddie Plesa-Paco Lopez, 1:02.2)
Once Tax Deduction scratched, you might as well have picked a horse at random. Some people picked 3/5 shot Class and Cash, and he rewarded them nicely. That's a riding triple for Paco Lopez. He's in first place in the standings, with 27 more winners than the second-place jockey. That's unbelievable.

That wraps up the racing week here at Monmouth. Only one week to go until Haskell week...