Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Saturday, July 21, 2018
We’re eight days out from the signature race at Monmouth Park: the Haskell Invitational. In the meantime, there’s an 11-race card there today, with the Blue Sparkler Stakes serving as the headliner. The first race is scheduled for 12:50 PM EDT.
We’re happy to have Brian Leckie (@bleck1022) providing free picks & analysis of all the action today! Brian’s a regular Monmouth handicapper, and has written about Monmouth in the past, both here and on 5minutestopost. We thank Brian for providing his analysis for us today.
Take it away, Brian! Good luck to everyone playing along!
#5 Terpeye takes a step down in class from MSW company to maiden claimers for Kelly Breen. She may have lost by 16 lengths last time, but that race may turn out to be one of the toughest maiden races this meet. The second and third place finishers haven’t yet run since, but the winner, Nonna’s Madeline, ran second yesterday in the G3 Schuylerville at Saratoga. Terpeye also ran third in her debut race in a MSW. She gets the nod based on her previous company.
Michael Dini has two horses entered in here, the #1 and the #6. You’ll notice that both horses worked on June 10, June 19, and June 26. #6 Merrow finished with the faster time in those last two works. Jose Ferrer also jumps off the #2 to ride. Maybe Jose will be aggressive and try to gun her for the lead?
#2 Raisetonew Heights owns the best last-race Brisnet figure in the field, which came at this class level. The second-place finisher also graduated in her next start. But this horse has tired late in both races, and she also loses Jose Ferrer. Gallardo isn’t a bad alternative, but gate speed usually does well in these races, and losing a gate-speed specialist in Ferrer doesn’t help her case. She should still be respected underneath though.
#3 Lola’s Kisses goes out for the seemingly invincible Servis/Paco combination. They teamed up to win with a FTS on July 4th. But I have concerns with this horse, especially at 8/5. At most, I want to see three gate works for a FTS. But with Lola’s Kisses, I see six total works, with five of them being gate works. She must still have some issues breaking from the gate if that’s the case, and it’s always advantageous at Monmouth to have a clean break for the lead. I’ll stand against.
#4 Phonemyposseagain ran second in the Tyro Stakes last year for 2yos, a 5 ½ furlong turf sprint. Chuck Spina has tried to get her on turf twice since then, and both were rained off. One of those efforts produced a second-place finish on dirt in an OC20k. Gallardo, a great grass rider and especially in turf sprints IMO, retains the mount. As the clear speed in the field, Phonemyposseagain is a dangerous candidate to wire them.
#5 Abundant Faith has 6 ITM finishes from 14 starts over the Monmouth green. He ran a good effort last time in his second race off the layoff with good positioning throughout. I expect a similar trip with a forward move third off the layoff.
#1 Money Illusion went widest of all into the stretch last time and had a good closing kick at the end, just ran out of room. He also got a blistering pace to close into as the first quarter was sub-20. I believe that created an illusion that made his effort look better than it actually was. There isn’t as much speed signed on in here, and the clear speed horse (the top choice) usually runs a 22 first quarter. But he might still be good enough to run in the money with an inside trip.
Now here we have a Paco/Servis (47% winning combo) horse who looks quite formidable without any serious knocks. #3 Crystal Clear just towers over this group of maiden claimers. Everything about this horse is positive. Ran second in her debut after a brutal trip hitting the gate and fanning five wide, then stepped up to MSW company, and now drops back down to the debut level. She had a fantastic gate work on July 13th, running a bullet 48 3/5 for 4 furlongs from the gate at Belmont. Crystal Clear should go off at 1/5, and I personally wouldn’t take a stand against her in horizontals. The race is a complete crapshoot for the verticals underneath, but I’m not so sure that they are even worth playing with such a formidable heavy favorite.
#6 Rithm Box has many positives. With only 5 starts under his belt, she’s by far the most lightly raced horse in the field. She just took a 25k beaten claimer on June 24 and steps down to 16kN3L claimers today, with a solid workout to boot on July 16. That being said there are also a couple of negatives. I’m suspicious of the switch from Rendon to Manoel Cruz, a 1-33 jockey, and she gives a lot of weight to the rest of the field (though she’s won before at 124 lbs). You can decide if 2-1 is worth it.
#2 Livin a Dream goes out for the Ferrer/Navarro combo. She is an unknown factor in turf sprints, but her speed figures in her two turf routes were pretty decent. Last time the connections changed tactics in a dirt sprint and sent toward the lead, and it nearly paid off. The switch to a grass sprint is interesting, and Ferrer is the perfect type of jockey to continue trying out front-running tactics. Navarro is a miracle worker, after all.
At a price, I think #1 Make Big Money could be a sneaky trifecta play. Yes, the connections have very low percentages. But look at the speed figures this horse ran in her two tries in turf sprints. They are on par, if not better, than #7 More Trix, who is at 9/2 on the ML. You’re getting 8-1 here, and trainer Machado has already gotten two horses into the tri this meet. Worth a shot underneath.
#7 Canoochee comes in here off of two second-place finishes, including a good figure sprinting two back at this level, and reunites with the debut rider. Lots of positives for her third career start.
#1 Powergirl makes her debut for the Pat McBurney barn. She’s been working very regularly since the beginning of June, including firing a good one on July 8th– a 48 3/5 gate work going 4 furlongs. Powergirl is by 2007 Haskell winner Any Given Saturday, and the dam was also a stakes winner. I like this horse at her 6-1 ML odds.
#3 She’s a Monster may be the best of the rest (though anything can happen with the other first time starters). She improved numbers-wise from her first to her second start. The last race was pretty strange- she broke well but her jockey took her back only to come running at the end making up a few lengths on the leader. That should set her up well for another finish underneath.
This race looks to be pretty top-heavy. #1 Magic Hatter gets some class relief after taking an allowance race three back and following that with two comparably disappointing efforts. She sports 6 ITM finishes from 7 starts on the Monmouth turf, and also beat #5 Heading Home in that allowance win.
Heading Home has been facing some good competition. The winner of the allowance race two back followed that up with another win next out, and Owesaycanyousee, the third place finisher, took an optional claimer at Delaware last weekend at 22-1. In the last race, Heading Home nearly stole it on the front end, though to be fair the turf course was extremely speed favoring that day, and winner Valedictorian looked best on paper. She also gets welcome class relief, but the loss to the top choice lands her second here.
It’s wide-open for third, but I’ll give the nod to #4 Baby Isabella, who is coming in here on a two-race win streak, including a win over 20k beaten claimers.
This is a pretty competitive field of 5k beaten claimers. #3 R Jolley Dreamer enters this race third off the layoff for the Navarro barn. With one exception, other entrants in the field have had many starts (and chances) this year while this horse is still getting rolling. It feels like a good spot to get a win. The solid workout on July 13th backs up his case, as well as the switch to Paco Lopez.
#4 Baseballnbourbon steps down from 7,500 claimers to the 5k level after running second at this level two back at Delaware, finishing 1 ½ lengths behind the leader. That race produced a final time of 1:04 4/5 for 5 ½ furlongs over what is usually a deep, demanding surface. He’s more attractive at a 6-1 ML price than other similarly-priced contenders in the field.
#2 Salsamatic lost by a neck at this level in his last start to Great Lou, whose last two wins are a miracle training job by Mario Serey. Salsamatic also has been running closer to faster final times than others in here.
NOTE: Keep an eye on the weather forecast after the 7th race. Heavy rain and wind is forecast after 4:00, so monitor the status of the 8th and 10th races as to whether they will remain on turf or not. My selections in those races will be for turf only.
#6 Pocket Book may have just broken her maiden after 5 previous tries, but she stopped the timer in 1:08 2/5 for 6 furlongs!!! And she wired the field on a track playing to closers (according to the DRF). Her workouts have been sizzling at Keeneland preparing for this race. She spots weight to the other top contenders in the field. I’m thinking the light bulb has been switched on. Wesley Ward has also yet to finish out of the exacta this meet. Lots of positives to consider.
#7 Amapola ships in from Fair Hill for Arnaud Delacour after weakening late in a 5 ½ furlong allowance race at Laurel, running second by a neck. A cutback to 5 furlongs should help her. Paco will look to gun her for the lead, but she will need to avoid getting into a suicidal speed duel with Pocket Book. Both are equally quick.
Should a speed duel develop up front, #1 Billscrystalball could be the biggest beneficiary. This hard-knocking 8yo mare steps down a condition from n2x to n1x while returning to a ground-saving inside post. The speed figures fit as well.
#4 Be a Hero is 3-3 lifetime at Monmouth. The condition of this race is for horses which have started for a claiming price of 8k or less dating back to last year. Be a Hero was running for 6,250 at Gulfstream in March, but has since rattled off two wins at the 12.5k and 16k levels in the Mid-Atlantic. Isaac Castillo also hasn’t finished out of the money yet teaming up with Navarro over the last two months. A solid bullet work on July 16th adds to the appeal. But this is still a pretty competitive race, and the top choice isn’t a lock by any means.
#5 Double the Cheers enters first off the claim for Kelly Breen. He’s been running against mostly open claimers and generally has been facing better competition than Be a Hero. He consistently runs good efforts and fits well in this spot. Albin Jiminez should be able to secure a good stalking position behind the speed and could get first run on the leaders should Be a Hero be pressured on the front end.
#7 Morally Inflexible has produced three trifecta finishes at this level going back to the start of the meet. Rarely does this horse produce two poor efforts back to back. He should rebound off the five-length loss last time, as that was also his worst speed figure in five starts. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t run well today.
Race 10- Blue Sparkler Stakes
#7 Auldwood Lane is yet another starter for Paco and Servis today. And they’ve got a legitimate shot in today’s feature. Two back she ran second to Miz Mayhem in the Cedar Key Stakes, who has since rattled off two more stakes wins in turf sprints. Auldwood Lane followed that up with an allowance victory over today’s course and distance. She has also yet to finish out of the money in five lifetime starts. I really like her chances.
#8 Elizabeth Darcy is the second Wesley Ward starter on the card. She ran a winning race three back at Keeneland only to get run down by a very impressive Sirenusa, who has since taken two stakes and placed in another. Elizabeth Darcy backed up that effort with an allowance win against older at Churchill before faltering in an OC40k N2X. She returns to 3yos today in a relatively soft stakes race save for Auldwood Lane. These two should put on a show as the clear top choices.
As for the third choice, I’ll go with #2 Not in Jeopardy. She was only ¾ of a length off of a final time of 1:02 for 5 ½ furlongs last time, which is pretty solid. That race also came against allowance competition at Laurel, where the turf racing is deceptively competitive. In a race where turf sprint specialists are not abundant, at least she has competed in one and ran well against winners.
#6 A Sixties Tune takes a much sharper drop in class than anyone else in the field while also making his third start off the layoff. His speed figures are also on par with the other top contenders in the field. Better yet, you’re getting 6-1 ML. Cruz was able to feel him out last time. I think this 9yo could surprise.
#1 Phone My Posse takes a slight class drop after being competitive in his last two starts against 10k and 12.5k claimers, respectively. He also hasn’t taken a big jump on the speed figure scale over the last few starts, so an ITM finish can be expected again. He’s been very consistent at the claiming level, so at least you’re getting a reliable horse.
The third spot is a tossup between #4 Strawberry Red and #5 High Five Cotton, but I’ll go with the former as the latter took such a big speed figure jump last time that I think a bounce is forthcoming. Like Phone My Posse, Strawberry Red has also been a consistent ITM finisher around this claiming level, plus there’s the added bonus of getting leading rider Jose Ferrer in the saddle. If the track is sloppy by this point, upgrade this horse.
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