Submitted by Noel Michaels on Monday, June 11, 2018 at 12:57 PM
MAKE MONMOUTH PART OF YOUR SUMMER WAGERING ROUTINE
Now that the 2018 Triple Crown is in the books, the next big 3-year-old race on everyone’s radar will be the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday, July 29. While it is highly unlikely that Justify will return to the races in time for the Haskell, the race nevertheless is sure to attract a first-class field of sophomores hoping to emerge during the second-half of the season.
While talking about the Haskell, this seems like a good opportunity to put some focus on the Monmouth Park race meet. Monmouth occasionally gets overlooked in the long shadow cast by summer racing at NYRA, but the track nevertheless offers a strong second East coast racing and wagering alternative at this time of year.
The Monmouth Park meet began on May 5, and is currently racing only on weekends until July 1. The meet will encompass a total of 52 racing days, plus 6 more all-turf September race dates held at the Meadowlands. In July, Monmouth will add Fridays to expand to three days a week, and then will add Thursdays for four days a week of racing from August 2 through 23.
In addition to the Haskell itself, Haskell Day will host five more stakes races including four other graded stakes, such as the G2, $150,000 Monmouth Stakes and a trio of G3 stakes each worth $100,000 – the Matchmaker, Molly Pitcher, and Monmouth Cup.
With Justify highly unlikely but trainer Bob Baffert owning a strangle hold of success on the Haskell over the course of the last two decades, it would not be surprising to see a horse like Baffert’s Solomini headed to the race, or perhaps even a return of his early-season standout McKinzie in the race.
If you are not familiar with handicapping Monmouth on a day-to-day basis, there is still plenty of time to brush up on what it takes to pick winners at the Jersey Shore. Here is a brief handicaing overview at Monmouth Park to cover just a few of the key basics for horseplayers at the summer New Jersey race meet.
WINNING RUNNING STYLES AND TRACK PROFILE
Perhaps more so than any other track, racing at Monmouth Park is defined by one predominant factor: Speed. As a matter of fact, if you want to know the top 3 factors, they would be speed, speed, and more speed. Thanks to a lightning-fast track surface, tight turns, and a short stretch, Monmouth Park very well might be the most speed conducive track in the country. Closers are fun to cheer for, but if you’re betting Monmouth and you want to make money, consistently, you must downgrade the closers and bet speed horses and close-to-the-pace horses who can be no more than two lengths behind at the quarter pole.
The Monmouth Park speed bias is apparent at all distances on the main track. It is greatest in short sprints and gets gradually milder as the distances increase. In short sprints at 5 1/2 to 6 furlongs on the Monmouth dirt, front-runners win over 34% of all races, with most of the remaining winners either pressing or stalking the pace no further than a couple lengths back.
The speed bias is a little less in two turn routes than it is in sprints, but front-runners are still good bets at a mile and at 1 mile & 70 yards. While the the pace-setter does not win as many of Monmouth’s routes as sprints, horses with speed than can at least press the pace tend to far outperform horses coming from father behind.
One of the reasons that speed is slightly less effective in routes has a lot to do with post positions, which add another dimension to the two turn races on the compact oval at the New Jersey shore.
MONMOUTH POST POSITIONS
The majority of Monmouth’s sprints are run at 6 furlongs, and while the rail (Post #1) is the best place to be at that distance, it is not a strong enough bias to prevent the front runner(s) from winning from nearly any gate draw (interestingly, at 5 1/2 furlongs, middle posts 4-7 do slightly better than inside draws). It should be noted, however, that speed and the rail in six furlong races is an especially deadly angle at Monmouth Park.
In routes, the post positions play a much bigger role in the outcomes of Monmouth’s races. In routes, it is not only important to have speed, but it is also important to break from a beneficial post position. But be careful when handicapping Monmouth routes not to make the mistake of assuming that the innermost posts are always the best places to be.
At most route distances, it holds true that the inside posts 1-3 are the best gates to break from. At a mile, however, it is somewhat of a surprise to note that middle posts 4-7 usually do a little better than the three inside gates. This is counterintuitive since one mile races have the shortest run to the first turn and you’d expect the inside bias to be at its strongest in these races. Finally, just as you’d expect, post draws Nos. 8 and outward are almost always detrimental in Monmouth routes.
MONMOUTH TURF RACING
On the Monmouth turf course, meanwhile, it is not surprising to note that inside posts are also the best posts, since it follows suit that if the main track has tight turns and a short stretch then the turf course must also have an even smaller and tighter layout. The inside posts are best on Monmouth’s turf course at all distances, and the rail post, in particular, seems like the best place to be.
Just like on the main track, speed is handy on the Monmouth grass, especially in turf sprints. Speed does well in routes, too, but wire-to-wire types win only about 15% of the races proving that it is tough to lead all the way on grass no matter where you are. Still, while wire-to-wire horses don’t always go all the way, tactical speed is still the key on the Monmouth course, where you at least want to bet pace-pressers who can stay within early striking distance of the leader(s).
MONMOUTH PARK JOCKEYS AND TRAINERS
In the Monmouth trainer standings, three barns are by far the most prominent, starting with multiple-year leading trainer Jorge Navarro who already has 20 wins from his first 49 starters for a startling 41% win percentage. Kelly Breen (12 for 33, 36%) and Jason Servis (10 for 18, 56%) are second and third in the standings while also racking-up alarmingly high winning percentages. The only other trainer approaching the top 3 in terms of effectiveness is Chad Brown, who has managed to compile a 41% Monmouth win percentage (7 wins from 17 starters) so far in 2018 with mostly his second-string of trainees. Todd Pletcher, who had been a fixture at Monmouth Park with his second-string for many years, has not yet been a factor at Monmouth this season.
Trainer Jorge Navarro has been the Monmouth meet’s leading trainer since 2013, captured his fifth consecutive title in 2017 and can be counted on for meet totals around 60 wins along with something in the neighborhood of a 35% win percentage rate and 65% in-the-money percentage.
Some trainers who run much fewer horses as the top trio but are having very successful meets this year include some names bettors should know if they hope to ramp-up their ROI at Monmouth with winners that generally pay much higher than the ones trained by Navarro-Servis-Breen-Brown. Trainers quietly putting together a strong meet in 2018 include Skip Einhorn (4-for-13, 31%) and J. Willard Thompson (5-for-14, 36%).
In the Jock’s Room, Jockeys riding regularly at Monmouth this season will include leading rider Paco Lopez (20 wins through June 10), in addition to all the usual New Jersey suspects including “Jersey” Joe Bravo, who is selective with his mounts at this stage of his career hut always riding at a high percentage at Monmouth, even with fewer mounts. Jose Ferrer is the jockey in closest pursuit of Lopez, clearly second in the standings with 17 wins. Note, however, that while Lopez is riding at a giant win percentage of nearly 30%, Ferrer has a much lower win percentage of 18%. Antonio Gallardo (12 wins), Carlos Hernandez (11 wins), and Albin Jimenez (10 wins) round out the jockey standings top 5 as of June 10.
Fast times are in store at the Jersey shore, and it’s all happening this summer at Monmouth Park. Bet on it every weekend until September, follow the trends and winning profile, and you should come out a winner. Best of luck!