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Presenting my picks for the Haskell picking game today after studying the forms a bit before work last night… because why the hay not.

Presenting my picks for the Haskell picking game today after studying the forms a bit before work last night… because why the hay not.

(Photo by Bill Denver)

(Photo by Bill Denver)

Can Gemologist Beat Paynter in Sunday’s Haskell?

Yes, this is our $1 million G1 field. Boring much? Maybe a bit, but there are two G1 winners here and some who are just knocking on that door bound for the Jersey shore this Sunday. Questions of fitness, pace, and surface awaits many of these competitors, who hope to be the first since Point Given in 2001 to win the Haskell-Travers double.

Track conditions look hopeful to be fast for Sunday once the severe thunderstorm system passes through the northeast by sometime Saturday.

$1 million Haskell Invitational (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Monmouth Park. Post Time: Sunday, July 29 at 6:17pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Nonios - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, Jerry Hollendorfer - Classic dirt potential lines this Pleasantly Perfect colt’s pedigree, but this will be the California shipper’s first time actually racing on the surface. Never off the board in 5 starts with 3 wins, Nonios went wide to close in for second in the Swaps (II) and was the upset winner of the Affirmed (III) on Hollywood’s synthetic surface. He gets a jockey change to Nakatani here and ships in cold turkey. Hollendorfer is optimistic otherwise I don’t think he’d ship, stating the colt has run on dirt in training and looks just as good if not better.

2) Dullahan - Kent Desormeaux, 120 lbs, Dale Romans - The Even the Score colt has big wins over synthetic and while he managed to get an excellent 3rd in the Kentucky Derby (I), his form on the surface presents a big question after his Belmont (I) clunker and no wins. He has fired a :59 4/5 bullet at Churchill before shipping in, so it’s really up to whether or not he likes Monmouth.

3) Paynter - Rafael Bejarano, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Awesome Again colt was sublime when almost wiring the Belmont (I), and honestly has always been that good with no finishes worse than a 4th in a G1 race his entire short career. His works speak loud, #1 out every time he hits the poles since late May. The fastest speed figs, promising works, and a jockey change to one familiar with Baffert… yikes!

4) Gemologist - Javier Castellano, 120 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Tiznow colt went undefeated— including an uplifting win in the Wood Memorial (I)— before getting literally bruised finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby (I). After a vacation, he’s back to looking good with a :58 2/5 bullet at Saratoga. It’s concerning whether or not he’ll have rust and how he’ll choose to run against Paynter, who should be right there next to him in the race.

5) Handsome Mike - Mario Gutierrez, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill - Featuring no wins since his maiden snap, the Scat Daddy colt has tried virtually everything in the west surface-wise. He breezed sharply out west in typical O’Neill fashion, but has been beaten time after time by better horses. A sharp class step-up would also be necessary for the horse with the same I’ll Have Another connections.

6) Stealcase - Shaun Brigmohan, 118 lbs, Mark Casse - A resounding stretch runner, the Lawyer Ron colt looks to stretch out a bit after finding his bearings, most recently with a runner-up effort in the Matt Winn (II) behind Neck ‘N Neck. A speedy closer who is good on dirt, Stealcase could benefit from a pace scenario that could redeem his outsider status as an improving dirt horse.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Paynter

2) Nonios

3) Gemologist

Paynter is without a doubt the horse to beat in this race, having the most factors going his way with little real opposition as well as riding the wave of Baffert winning power— who has also won this race a few times now! I have confidence in the unproven Nonios, who I think has been looking really nice and I’m willing to take a shot that he’s going to go after Paynter in the stretch. Gemologist, an all around nice horse on dirt, I have keyed to stay up there.

Value Pick: Nonios

Early Haskell Buzz for Who?

He may not have won the Derby or the Preakness (and some of you would say that he never would have and was soundly beaten by I’ll Have Another), but Bodemeister would have been the horse to beat in the Haskell Invitational (I), had he not been stricken with illness. Belmont winner Union Rags, a likely candidate to close into Bode’s fantastic fractions, is also out due to a suspensory injury.

Who does that leave in what will be a rather unexciting Haskell?

Hansen, who has a lot of work to do in redeeming himself as a top three-year-old fallen from grace, is now 60-70% likely to enter the Haskell, with priority originally given to the lighter West Virginia Derby (II). Trainer Mike Maker has commented that the colt has matured quite a bit from his rank prep days leading up to the Derby, where he finished an unimpressive 10th. He is certainly ready for a big race following his public workout in the Iowa Derby (III), which he won by an easy 10 lengths.

Zayat Stables is also listing Bodemeister’s talented stablemate as a possible for the race. Paynter nearly wired the Belmont Stakes (I) and has been an impeccable horse from the get-go. Dare I say, he is more mentally capable than Hansen, and can probably beat the Great White Hope should he elect to sit off the pace.

Throwing in a third option and a name I have brought up many times before as someone I like: Street Life. I can’t help but think Street Sense is a good enough sire to get a G1 with one of his progeny this year, and Street Life might just be up to the task. Starting from the rail in the Belmont, he got off to a bad start and was too far behind the field to do better than a modest fourth. He nearly snuffed out Mark Valeski in the Peter Pan (II) before that, and had he not been on the far outside, I think he would have won that race. Obviously, things have to go right for him, but the pace has the possibility of working in his favor.

There’s little to dissuade me from siding with Bodemeister as the potential winner and very possible best three-year-old of 2012. For how lightly raced he is, he has sure done a lot to impress us and often times, good three-year-olds can become great three-year-olds come summertime. We saw it happen with Stay Thirsty as well as Coil just to name two non-classic winners who won prestigious summer stakes races. Now that Bode will be skipping the Haskell, it’s just a question of how and when he’ll get that one prep before the Travers.

With the Suburban Handicap coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Flat Out—  the winner of last year’s Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup— since a horrendous try on turf earlier this year. Turns out this weekend he’ll be running in Monmouth’s one-mile Monmouth Cup (II). While he’s the best horse in the field, new trainer Bill Mott admit he is not up to 100% just yet off a layoff. I would say without looking too much into the PP’s that his biggest threat is Todd Pletcher trainee San Pablo, who ran well in New York this year almost beating out one of my favorites Marilyn’s Guy. Joel Rosario will be up on San Pablo while Rosie Napravnik has the call on Flat Out.

With the Suburban Handicap coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Flat Out—  the winner of last year’s Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup— since a horrendous try on turf earlier this year. Turns out this weekend he’ll be running in Monmouth’s one-mile Monmouth Cup (II). While he’s the best horse in the field, new trainer Bill Mott admit he is not up to 100% just yet off a layoff. I would say without looking too much into the PP’s that his biggest threat is Todd Pletcher trainee San Pablo, who ran well in New York this year almost beating out one of my favorites Marilyn’s Guy. Joel Rosario will be up on San Pablo while Rosie Napravnik has the call on Flat Out.

Racing Beat: June 10, Belmont Edition

Coming soon now that I just thought of it and acquired some background touches: vidya handicapping all fancy-like. Guinea pig for next weekend: the Stephen Foster Handicap (I).

D. Wayne Lukas and I have at least one thing in common now after Hamazing Destiny reared up and struck him atop the head. Ouch.

Best of luck today to Yummy With Butter, who will butt-ering heads (hehe get it?) with Get Stormy and Data Link in the Monmouth Stakes (II). I think he’s a worthwhile bet, getting a whopping 7-pound break from the two favorites. Just needs a good trip is all.

Some tips for my future self and all others who want to go to another major stakes day: bring umbrella, bring warm clothes, bring cooler full of food and water, bring fold-out chair to park by the fence (get to the parking gates early of course), and leave none of them in the car. Bonus tip: if you want cheap merch, wait a little while before you buy… sketchy vendors might walk around selling duffel bags full of what you wanted at a fraction of the retail amount >.> Also, if you have catheters, insert them.

Douchebag J. Crew model-look alikes everywhere. I’ve never seen so many fucking boat shoes in my life.

Elmont, New York passed all my ghetto credentials: it has liquor stores next to “churches/congregations,” a 99 cent store every other block, and neon lighting in the windows up the wazoo. (I am referencing the Hempstead Turnpike)

So proud of Union Rags AND Atigun! Street Life was up there, as well (and what a small horse he is in real life)!

Mario Gutierrez is the cutest jockey alive, stopping to wave to all of his youngest fans in the post parades.

Everyone around me appeared to be wagering heavily on either Paynter or Unstoppable U (hahaha what? And why was he 10-1?)… all’s fair in love, war, and ponies.

I am writing the NYRA to protest a few things… mainly how the “security” guards walking the tunnel between the fence and the outer rail had no walkie talkies when we asked to have a few drunks behind us dealt with. Danger potential, much?

I don’t know if it showed up on TV/video replay, but before Winter Memories stopped gaining on Tapitsfly in the Just a Game Stakes (I), it looked like she stepped into something deep and just slightly tripped. Tapitsfly deserved the win, but I can’t help but wonder about what I saw…

The sport of kings: where aging school buses shuttle you in on one of its biggest days!

Racing would make a lot more money on stakes days if they made official phone apps for betting. I saw so many people who wanted to go back up to the windows to bet more after seeing certain horses on the track, but couldn’t because they wouldn’t make it on time or were trapped by the crowds. I would have won more money then, personally!

Zayat is the unluckiest name in horse racing. Period.

I never want to have to see a breakdown like Giant Ryan's… or worse… again if I can help it. I also never want to have to be in front of drunken college assholes who think it's funny to mock the horse when he's down and helpless.

Tweet o’ the Week: Joe Talamo has a sense of humor

A muddy Midnight Lute and Garrett Gomez triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. (Photo by Sarah K. Andrew)

A muddy Midnight Lute and Garrett Gomez triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. (Photo by Sarah K. Andrew)

Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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