Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Saturday, May 12, 2018
The racing is back on the Jersey Shore! Last week, Monmouth Park kicked off their 2018 racing season, and things are in full swing this Saturday with a 12-race card. The first race will go at 12:50 PM EDT.
We’re happy to have Brian Leckie (@bleck1022) providing free picks & analysis of all the action today! Brian’s one of the Monmouth Park “racing ambassadors”, and is a regular Monmouth handicapper. He’s written about Monmouth in the past, both here and on 5minutestopost. We thank Brian for providing his analysis for us today, and encourage you to give him a follow on twitter.
Take it away, Brian!
We may be in for a wet one today on the Jersey Shore. The forecast calls for rain in the morning, followed by a break between 11:00 and 5:00, followed by thunderstorms. I’m not sure if the early rain will be enough to force the turf races to the main track, and it’s also unclear if the track will have time to dry out as the race card progresses before late-day thunderstorms arrive. Keep a close eye on the track conditions throughout the day. As a note, I usually do not handicap off-the-turf races as they can be highly unpredictable and chaotic, so all turf races will be handicapped for turf only. Here we go!
Race 1 (turf)
In this turf MSW to kick things off, I’m gravitating toward #4 Smashing Serena for Graham Motion. This horse has been working regularly at Fair Hill for the return and also has the highest BRIS speed figure heading into this race, with steady improvement shown in each start. It helps that the second-place finisher in that last start graduated in a Keeneland MSW at even money. In addition, Tampa form usually holds up well at Monmouth, with the main danger #2 Paulita having also had her last start in Oldsmar, FL. She’s another one that has been working regularly for her return. Historically Chad Brown does very well in turf routes at Monmouth with a 28% win rate. However, I’m picking him second as I think the value in this race lies with the former pick. #8 Last Play has gotten some unlucky trips down at Fair Grounds being drawn inside in larger fields. Maybe the outside draw will work more in her favor today, though she is up against it from a pace perspective, therefore a minor placing seems more likely. Her speed figures are competitive enough to put her in the mix.
#5 We B Jammin should be on the lead in this race, and took an 8k claimer two back going wire to wire. This horse has seemed to fare much better since being transferred to the Patricia Farro barn last fall. While he’s coming off an 11 length loss in an open 10k claimer at Parx, a step down to an open 6k claimer should be right up his alley. #1A Kingslayer has been facing much tougher competition and gets significant class relief dropping down to 6k claimers. In addition, this horse has performed VERY well on off tracks, with three wins and second from five starts. If the track comes up wet as I expect it to, I would give this horse a long look. #7 Niche hails from the ever-dangerous Navarro barn. He should be up close to the pace set by We B Jammin, though this horse has a tendency to fall apart in late stretch, so there isn’t much value at 7/5 ML, especially considering the positives with the other two runners mentioned.
#3 Slightly Tipsy is trained by Kelly Breen who historically tends to do very well spotting horses early in the meet. Slightly Tipsy had a good try in her second start at Laurel at the MCL 40k level. A return to that performance could put her in the winner’s circle at this MCL 25k level. Breen also knows how to spot his horses, and she looks well-meant. #5 Rithm Box takes a drop in class from MSW to MCL for this spot, but hasn’t run since last June. She has only three recorded works coming into this race with large gaps between them, which leads me to think she may need this one. But she gets the second pick off the class drop alone. #4 L.A. Way had a terrible trip in her debut at Keeneland, having to go 8 wide turning for home. She was still running well at the end. A better trip today could put her in the mix. A bonus in her favor is that the first-place finisher in that race came back to win her next start.
#4 Salinger Ran a big race last time at the MCL 30k level at Parx, and gets a 5k drop here. A repeat of that race will win this one. It also helps that his pedigree mud numbers are by far better than anyone else here. I expect speed-rider Jose Ferrer to take this one wire to wire. #6 Tale of the Blade goes out for a barn that’s quite sneaky with maiden claimers and horses making their first start off a layoff. The speed figures fit turning back to a sprint distance and a nice gate work on April 30th adds to the appeal. #7 My Bernie just missed three weeks ago in his debut at Tampa. He takes a step up in class here, but may be good enough to snag a share if he improves in his second start.
Race 5 (turf)
In a race devoid of early speed, #8 Crimson Hayes is a logical wire candidate. This is the first starter of the meet for Keith Nations. With a tactical advantage, competitive speed figures, class, and four straight exacta finishes, this one looks like a safe exacta key in either slot. But his main challenger, #9 Sinatra, looms to his outside. This Navarro trainee has been nearly unbeatable at the claiming level, and ran very well fresh last year in his first start at this meet. He’s a prime win candidate, but with Crimson Hayes to capitalize on a lone lead, I’m trying to beat Sinatra today- as tough a task as that may be. #3 Steamboat Bill was successful at this level two back at Tampa. Kathleen Demasi has had some good prices in turf routes and success with Pewter Stable in the past. With Steamboat Bill making his third start off the layoff, I like him to sneak in underneath at a decent price.
Jersey bred maiden claimers are an absolute crapshoot. With most of these horses coming off of long layoffs, except for an inferior #4 Match the Pot and first time starter #1 Groovy Tale, this race comes down to which trainer has their horse ready to fire fresh. I’ll take my chances with #5 Saturdayniteaffair. This horse was pretty uncompetitive in NJ bred MSW company last year, but takes a sharp drop in class to face NJ bred MCLs today. He had a good bullet gate work on Wednesday which signals he might give a good account of himself at 8-1 ML. Jose Ferrer should put him on the pace, it’s just a matter of how far he lasts. Then there’s #6 Pappillon from the Pat McBurney barn, who has 7 wins from 41 starts over the last two years in MCL races. The speed figures are some of the best in the field, and a bullet work on May 7th is positive. This horse is also a first time gelding. Pappillon should relish a return to state bred company. #2 War Tales, unlike the rest of the field, has never been out of the trifecta- and those finishes came in NJ bred MSWs last year! He’s another one that’s coming off of a long layoff. While he is the best horse in the field on paper, trainer John Mazza typically tries to get his horses race-fit. I can’t take a horse at a 9/5 ML price knowing that he’s more likely to improve second off the layoff. But play these kinds of races at your own peril!
I’ll be honest, I can’t figure this race out at all. Navarro sends out #2 Chovanes for the first time, but instead of using a proven rider, he uses an unknown bug rider. As for #8 Wilshire Star, the horse was very competitive in mile races at the CLM 14k level before having Luis Miranda take over training and subsequently entering the horse in a sprint stakes race and a CLM 35k race on turf, losing by a combined 52 lengths. Now he’s entered for 5k. Really tough read. And no other horse in this race really stands out. I’m going to pass on this one.
Race 8 (turf)
#6 National Honor had two good figures in turf NY bred MSWs last year before regressing on dirt. Graham Motion has targeted this race for a return and gets Jersey Joe Bravo in the saddle. Motion has a habit of doing well in both turf routes and with starters early in the Monmouth meet. I think this horse is well spotted. #5 Mandel is another starter from trainer Kathleen Demasi and owner Pewter Stable entered on the card. This one took a step up in class last time and now gets some relief. 9/2 is a fair price to take should the ML odds hold up. #9 Chichmeister has been on the shelf since running here on Haskell weekend last year. George Weaver has had this horse working regularly since February trying to get the horse fit enough for a race. If he runs anywhere near the figure he earned last summer he should be competitive.
#4 Forever Liesl has faced some pretty sharp competition in her company lines, including placings in open stakes races at Laurel last year. She takes a well-meant step down in class today. This field looks pretty soft for the taking, with the exception of #3 Jump Ruler drawn to her inside. Breen/Paco is always a dangerous combination and this horse looks to send to the front, so it might not be too easy for Forever Liesl- though she has the strong class edge. These two tower over the rest of the field, so it could be a free-for-all for third. But I’ll go with #7 What About Tonight, a Navarro entry who runs consistent speed figures in the low-to-mid 80 range going two turns. This horse always seems to run her race, though she’s decidedly a cut below the top two. I think she will go off lower than her 8-1 ML price, but certainly a must-use underneath.
When Navarro is 3/2 on the ML and likely to be bet heavily, that’s pretty much a sign to single. #3 He’s Got Talent looks like a pretty safe selection in this spot. His 3-1-1 record from six starts on a wet track add further confidence. He also is the only horse in the field with speed figures consistently in the 90s aside from #8 Blue Y Gold, who is also taking a step down in class like the top pick, except he hasn’t been out since October. Blue Y Gold did run a sharp race off the layoff last year heading into the meet in an off-the-turf stakes race over wet going. He will likely get similar conditions this afternoon. The main threat. #2 El Grande Rojo is the other horse with obvious class edge over the rest of the field outside the top two. He has some obvious knocks against him for the top spot, though. He has never won in four starts on an off-track, he seems to prefer 7 furlongs as opposed to 6, and trainer Charles Harvatt historically doesn’t do well early in the Monmouth meet. I’ll limit this one to a spot underneath.
Race 11- Serena’s Song S.
This is a pretty evenly-matched feature. Nobody truly stands out, so I’ll be making my selections based on pace. #4 Christmas Sky has by far the best gate speed in the field. Nobody else has anywhere near that kind of speed, but the main question is will she be able to carry it around two turns? I’m not entirely sure, but on speed alone she is the lukewarm choice. #8 Berned has been facing the best competition and gets some class relief in this spot relative to her career up to this point. But she is best as a closer and will be at a pace disadvantage. She gets the second choice based on class alone, though. #9 Miss Inclusive gets the third nod off of her standout effort three races back in the mud. She will also lay closer to the pace, putting herself in position to take over should Christmas Sky falter late. In order to have a chance, she will have to avoid getting a wide trip from the 9 post. However, if the track is closer to fast, then I would prefer #2 In the Navy Now instead. This horse has only been out of the trifecta three times in 20 starts. That’s pretty impressive considering the number of stakes races this horse has been entered in, though granted they all came at Mid-Atlantic tracks. Pimentel comes here from MD to ride.
Race 12 (turf)
#1 Curuzu looks well-meant in this spot from the Shug McGaughey barn. I always look closer at first-time turf horses when the dam was a stakes winner and has thrown at least 1 turf winner. This horse also gets blinkers added today. I think this horse is live at 6-1 ML. #6 Dig Deeper looks good on paper, but there were some angles to be gained in her first turf start that should bode well for her today. In that race, she was rank being on the rail heading into the first turn but settled once she moved toward the outside, where she’s drawn today. It also seemed to me that she wanted to go a longer distance, which she also gets today. Of the those with prior turf experience in this race, I think she’s primed to run best. #3 Galileo’s Melody broke inward at the start and had to be shuffled back in her debut race at Tampa. It looked like she needed the race. I’ll give her a chance to redeem underneath.
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