Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Monmouth Park (Haskell day)
There may not be a classic winner in the field, but this year’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth has been universally hailed as one of the deepest in recent times. A wide-open field of seven will contest the race, including Irish War Cry, who will seek to become the first Jersey-bred to win this historic race. It’s all part of a 14-race card on the Jersey Shore today, with the first race scheduled for 12:00 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. We thank Brian for providing his analysis for us today, and encourage you to give him a follow on twitter.
Take it away, Brian!
SUGGESTED .50 PICK 5 (R1-2-3-4): 7/3,5,7,8/4/4,5,10/1,6,7,8- $24 ticket
#7 Mr. Euro owns the best figures in the field and hasn’t run all that badly in his last two races. Gets leading rider Nik Juarez and catches the right kind of field to get his maiden win. Outside paths also did very well on the Monmouth dirt yesterday, so his outside post adds to the appeal. #6 Reggit’s Buddy has some decent figures and ran a good race two back at Penn National. He sports a good final gate work in preparation for this and is stepping down in class from maiden special weights. For the third spot, I had to decide between #3 Bobbyalexsgoldmark, the unknown first time starter, and #2 Talented Zealous, and ultimately went with the latter. Despite a terrible 120 Tomlinson rating for the turf, the connections entered him on turf at Belmont anyway and he ran last throughout. It’s certainly a race to draw a line through. He’s experiencing many changes since his first race 14 days ago. He gets both a trainer and jockey switch, a surface switch from turf to dirt, and gets Lasix for the first time.
SUGGESTED PICK 4 (R2-3-4-5): 3,5,7,8/4/4,5,10/1,6,7,8- $24 ticket
Really you could go either way with the top two. #5 Rapo has had two previous wins at this distance at the $16k claiming level and gets a step down in class to the $12.5k level. Gonzalez has never finished worse than second on this mount. #3 Zen’s Land is coming into this race on a two-win streak. This horse has consistently put up late pace figures in the mid-90s in his last four races. Laurel turf races have had a good reputation lately, and it doesn’t hurt that Gallardo was aboard for that win two-back. The recent figures don’t look all that great for #8 Leonardo Da Vinci, but he sports good back turf form, and perhaps the biggest kicker of all is that he was claimed by Monmouth leading trainer Jorge Navarro in his last race and has had three fast workouts since that claim. Navarro’s horses have a habit of running out of their skin once they are in his barn, so I wouldn’t leave this horse off my tickets. Taking a stand against #7 Powerful Instinct as, even though he sports some competitive speed figures, that last race was very suspect being that the racetrack favored closers and he hardly ran a step against NY-bred claimers.
Race 3- GIII Monmouth Cup
Normally I would find strong one-turn horses vulnerable in two-turn races (see Practical Joke later), but #4 Sharp Azteca towers over this field regardless. This is the perfect spot for Navarro to experiment his best horse around two turns while he mulls over his Breeders’ Cup options between the one-turn Sprint or the two-turn Dirt Mile. He is a much-improved horse since his only race around two turns in the Prelude at Louisiana Downs where he ran second to Texas Chrome, who went on to two-consecutive grade three scores. Sharp Azteca is the quickest horse in this field and should have no problem going gate-to-wire, UNLESS Gallardo decides to take advantage of his two-turn vulnerability and pressure him on the lead with #1 Classy Class. This one successfully navigated two turns to victory in the G3 Salvator Mile here in June while previously running in mostly one-turn efforts. I’m predicting that Sharp Azteca keeps him at bay, but if Classy Class pressures him, this race could get interesting. No other jockey could have piloted #2 Just Call Kenny to a second-place finish in the Salvator Mile besides Nik Juarez, who consistently gets the most out of even mediocre horses and makes them look better. If any other jockey was aboard, I’d be selecting another horse for third. But Nik should work his magic to a third-place finish here.
#5 Summer Scamp is taking a big step down in class to $16k claimers and has competitive speed figures to back him up here. He should be stalking in a perfect spot behind pacesetters #6 Hat in the Ring and #2 Versed. #4 Thoristic had a very good effort in his last race at Delaware against $20k claimers. It may not be good enough to beat the top selection, but it is competitive with the rest of the field. #2 Versed seems like a need-the-lead type, and won’t get that here with the presence of #6 Hat in the Ring, so I will go with #1 Kitten’s Dilemma to round out the third spot. This horse has finished well at this class level and sports two second-place finishes in his last three starts. #10 All I Karabout is the wildcard here. He is on-par with Summer Scamp in the field when it comes to Beyer figures, but has not raced since May 2016 and is taking a suspicious significant drop in class for his first start since. If you’re a speed figure player, you might want to pay closer attention, but despite his back form I’ll take a stand against with the long layoff and sharp drop in class.
We’ve come to my personal weak spot: 2-year old maidens and pedigrees. But the show must go on! When in doubt in these kinds of races, I tend to go with horses that have experience and finished well over first time starters. That lands me on #7 Beach Girl who ran second in her debut and gets a top pilot in Javier Castellano who tends to thrive when he ships outside of New York for big race days. Solid four-furlong workout on June 19th and Ed Plesa’s 24% win rate when adding blinkers both add to the appeal. If it weren’t for that one’s experience, I might have gone with #8 Sweet Like Char for the top spot. Some pedigree stats in here standout. The dam was a stakes winner, has a 50% success rate with 2-year old starters, and all of her five starters have been winners, plus Animal Kingdom has a 17% first time starter win rate. Paco Lopez and Kelly Breen have combined to win half of their races and also have a 75% in-the-money rate from 18 starters. The workouts have been absolutely solid leading up to the debut. Don’t discount this one from the top spot on your tickets- you can’t go wrong with either. But despite the ominous presence of those two, I’ll be rooting hard for #6 Charming Emmy for our friend Emmy Lin and the wonderful folks at Kenwood Racing and Wasabi Ventures Stables. This is the only other horse in the field where the dam has a win rate with 2-year old starters, plus the dam produced a stakes winner. Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. sports a nice ROI of $3 from a 24% win rate with 2-year olds. I’m always leery of Nik Juarez and Jason Servis whenever they are entered in a race, particularly since the latter has a 30% win rate with 2 year olds, so also pay attention to whichever part of their entry starts- whether that be Fourscoreandseven or Uncle Junior.
SUGGESTED .50 PICK 4 (R6-7-8-9): 2,4,6,8/2/1,5/4,5,6,8- $16 ticket
Jersey-bred allowances are where the fun happens! Outside paths were strong on the Monmouth dirt on Saturday, and with big race days normally playing favorably to speed, I’ll go with #8 Hanna Due. I’m very surprised to see Javier Castellano riding in a Jersey bred allowance, but there must be something he or his agent likes or I don’t think he’d be riding. Plus, her debut race was a very good front-running effort, and you can toss that last race as it was in the slop. I think this horse will pressure #6 Dealer’s Girl and duel that one into submission, leaving a midpack horse like #4 Fakery to pick up the pieces underneath. This horse only has one win in 24 starts, but has been in the money 12 times for second and third. #3 Countless Geraldine’s best Beyer figures have come around two turns, but note that Shannon Uske and Lloyd Kromann have not been out of the money once in six starts together over the last month. This filly has finished in the money in each of her last seven starts, no reason why she can’t get another placing today.
Race 7- GII Monmouth Stakes
Graded stakes action continues with the Monmouth Stakes replacing the traditional Oceanport Stakes on the Haskell Day card this year. #2 Money Multiplier is the class of the field, and doesn’t have to worry about chasing his former stablemate Flintshire anymore. Chad Brown should have him ready for his first start off the layoff. #4 Irish Strait is the local horse for course with 3 wins out of 7 starts on the Monmouth turf. He also goes out for the same connections as Irish War Cry who will be the hometown favorite in the Haskell later on. Irish Strait will be on the lead with company from #6 Smooth Daddy, but should be able to put that one away before Money Multiplier comes running. #3 Kharafa has Monmouth turf prowess Jersey Joe Bravo aboard. This horse is a distance specialist with 3 wins out of 4 starts at the 1 1/8 distance and also has shown an affinity for the Monmouth turf in the past. Kharafa is a horse I always play when there is even a little bit of give in the ground, so we’ll see how the Monmouth turf has drained from the early weekend rains.
Race 8- John J. Reilly Handicap
I’m sensing a potential pace meltdown up front here to set it up for #5 Fast Friar who won very impressively in his last start with an inside out trip sitting just off the pace. Those trips dominated dirt races at Monmouth on Saturday if you came wide off the turn. The bullet work on July 25th shows he’s ready to fire. #1 Chublicious may have disliked the sloppy/sealed track in his last race as his lowest Beyer also came in the slop eight races back. He owns by far the best Beyers in the field and if he can revert to last year’s form he could challenge Fast Friar for the win. He’s worked very well since that last race and looks primed for a good effort. #4 Saucy Don hasn’t finished out of the money in Jersey bred races in quite some time. This 7-year old warrior still has some competitive fire in him. 15 of 20 in the money finishes at Monmouth give him the nod over #6 Mello Groove for the third spot- who I’m a fan of, but Saucy Don consistently runs better figures.
SUGGESTED .50 PICK 4 (R9-10-11-12): 4,5,6/2,6/1,2,3/1,3- $18 ticket
I normally don’t like betting horses that have been off for a while, so I’m going with #6 Wind Tartare over #4 Ultimate Cause. I think the former will welcome the move from Belmont to Monmouth and in her last race was running better at the end than her stablemate in this race, #8 Silver Dollar Diva, who I won’t be playing in here because she will be out of her element with some faster horses on the front end. Ultimate Cause has had some good finishes in allowance company last year, but the question is can she handle the layoff? She fits on class. #5 She’s Dynomite may be the pacesetter here off of that last race considering her bullet work on July 21st. She also sports a dynamite distance Tomlinson figure of 436. Main question is class, though. I’ll give her a shot to hang on for third. Having Navarro train her sure doesn’t hurt either.
SUGGESTED .50 PICK 5 (R10-11-12-13-14): 2,6/1,2,3/1,3/3,5/4,8- $24 ticket
Race 10- GIII Molly Pitcher
#6 Money’soncharlotte has run her best races at Monmouth and won the Lady’s Secret Stakes in her last start in a very good time of 1:40 4/5 for a mile and 70 yards. Paco Lopez ends up here over Behrnik’s Bank. #2 Carrumba skipped the Shuvee at Saratoga for this spot and owns some of the best speed figures in the field. Nik Juarez should ensure an honest effort for this mare. Had to choose between #5 Mo’ Green and #3 Eskenformoney, but the jockey switch is key here. Eskenformoney ran a terrible race in my opinion last out in the Lady’s Secret, and Bravo hopped off to ride Mo Green, who chased Carrumba two starts back. Both have good ITM finishes at Monmouth, but I’ll stick with Mo’ Green here.
Race 11- GIII Matchmaker
A good amount of speed is signed up for this race which leads us to the three favorites, though not necessarily in order. I’m going for the slight upset with #1 Wekeela who relishes this distance and has placed second in two G1 stakes races including right behind star mare Tepin. #3 War Flag was flying late at the end of her last race, her first start in North America, against males. She has yet to finish worse than second in six career races, and is another that relishes this 1 1/8 distance. Call me crazy, but I think #2 Miss Temple City is vulnerable in this spot, as I think her dud in the Queen Anne may have taken some confidence out of her, plus this is not her preferred distance. She doesn’t yet have a win at this distance in four tries, although her effort in the 2016 Diana would get her a win here. Graham Motion’s objective here is trying to set up Miss Temple City for a spot in the 1 1/8 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. However, at a ridiculously short price, I’m trying to beat her.
Race 12- G1 Haskell Invitational
Let’s start off by saying I am a huge fan of Irish War Cry, and I’ll be fervently rooting him home down the stretch. I would love nothing more than for this fairytale story of a Jersey bred winning Jersey’s biggest race for his Jersey-rooted owner who happens to be the daughter of the man who founded this racetrack I have been blessed to regularly attend my whole life, come true.
I don’t like the rail draw, as I would have preferred to have him stalk Timeline from the outside. Now, with Battle of Midway drawn directly to his outside, Rajiv Maragh has to send Irish War Cry to avoid getting boxed in on the rail behind Timeline and next to Battle of Midway, which leaves him vulnerable to pace pressure from the up-and-coming #3 Timeline. Timeline is undefeated in four starts, at four different distances, at four different racetracks. A road warrior in the making! His late pace ratings on Brisnet are all above 100, which is outstanding. His Brisnet speed figures are even better than Irish War Cry’s. In the Pegasus, he visually showed me he has what it takes to win this race. That being said, if #1 Irish War Cry decides to show up with his A-game, which isn’t always guaranteed, he could prove tough to beat on the front end. These are the two best horses in the race and they could make for a very interesting showdown when they turn for home. Obviously his connections want to win this race above any other, and he has been pointed as such, and I’m sure Graham has him as cranked as possible for the Haskell. #4 Practical Joke is one helluva horse around one turn, but can’t seem to get the job done in two-turn races. He always comes with an honest effort in high-class races, and I would be surprised if he finished worse than third, but I just can’t see him winning this race. I’m leery of leaving #7 Girvin out of my selections considering what Irap has done since the Ohio Derby and what Joe Sharp has said about Girvin’s training leading up to this race, but I wasn’t visually impressed with the Ohio Derby despite the figures that have come out of that race. But when it comes to your trifecta tickets, leave out a horse who has never been worse than second except for the Kentucky Derby at your own peril.
Classic speed duel set to develop here between two horses in #2 Zealous Scholar and #7 My Country that love to go out and set 21 and 44 fractions together. And there is no way I’m going to let my man Nik Juarez go off at 8-1 if the ML is correct. #5 Let’s Parlay has 3 wins and 3 seconds from 9 starts at Monmouth, has a race under her belt off the layoff, gets blinkers, had a nice 4 furlong work on July 26th in preparation for this, has some good back Beyers, will benefit from an expected pace meltdown, and oh- did I mention that Nik Juarez is aboard? He will place her in the right spot to be in contention. #4 April Gaze had zero excuse not to win her last two races from off the pace considering the early fractions. She will get a similar scenario today, but at low odds I can’t trust her for the top spot, but still remains a solid play underneath. #3 Chilly Start has yet to finish out of the money this year. She should get a good trip stalking the leaders and hang on for a piece.
Class is king, and #4 Francesco Flier is taking a big drop down in class but it seems well-meant. This one sports some good Beyer figures in the past, albeit all at Gulfstream, nonetheless this gelding should give a solid account of himself in this spot. #8 Revive and Resurge has some pretty decent speed figures in here. Was no match for the winner in the last race over the slop but gets back on the lawn where he broke his maiden. I think the $16k level will suit him well enough to contend for second at a price. #5 Animal Trick is an obvious candidate to run in the money off of his many placings at this class level. He just can’t seem to punch his ticket in the win spot, however.
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