Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's A "Shore" Thing

In handicapping a horserace, there’s never a “sure” thing. Horseplayers are an optimistic group though, and each and every race is a puzzle we need to solve.

Monmouth Park, on the Jersey Shore, will host the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes this Saturday. This is one of two Grade 1’s at Monmouth, the other being the Haskell. The United Nations goes as the featured 11th race, at a mile and 3/8’s, on the turf. It is a “Win & You’re In” which means the winner gets an automatic berth into this year’s BC Turf.

Here’s my take at the short, but salty field for ThoroFan’s Handicapping Corner.

From inside out:
1. Turbo Compressor /Pletcher/Bravo, breaks from the inside, and one thing is “sure”, he is the speed of the race. The Florida-bred by Halo’s Image is 2 for 3 since trying turf. He has gotten better since the surface switch, and appears he will run all day. Has never been this far, but with Jersey Joe signed on, I see no other way for him to go , but to the front with his “come and catch me “ style.

2. Brilliant Speed, the Live Oak homebred is the class of this field. The son of Dynaformer and trained by Tom Albertrani, is a GR 1 winner on Keeneland’s polytrack, but has shown his ability to excel on the lawn. Though his speed isn’t “brilliant” he certainly has enough tactical speed to get a good position for his run down the lane. He has the newly West Coast-transplant Joel Rosario in the tack, and he has every chance to secure his first Grade 1 win on turf, with a win here.

3. Slim Shady, the West Coast invader has blossomed under the care of the young Simon Callaghan. He brings his rider, David Flores, in to ride. He will enjoy the distance, and has enough speed for his stalking style. But he did have to SHIP, and with the extremely hot weather, one wonders if he will bring his “A” game.

4. Al Khali is a horse I have followed since Norberto Arroyo rode him. ( And I think he’s been MIA for at least 3 years) He looked talented from the get go, and for the most part, always gives a decent account of himself. He has yet to win a “Big One”, but continues to pick up checks in those Grade1’s. His best efforts have been going a mile and a half. He definitely fits here to get a piece and maybe round out the exotics.

5. Freud’s Honor is a nice, consistent New Jersey bred, but looks seriously overmatched in here.

6. Eldaafer was the winner of the 2010 BC Marathon. We know the horse loves to run a distance of ground. He has run just 3 times this year, and did improve some in the Brooklyn last out finishing 2nd by 10 lengths to Redeemed, on dirt. His “glory days” may be behind him, however.

7. Air Support rounds out the field. Solis is aboard and it’s always hard to ignore a Shug McGaughey runner. He is coming off two troubled trips, including some crowding at the start in his last. He will appreciate the extra distance. Shug always spots them where they belong.

It will not be a surprise that the up-and-coming Turbo Compressor leads the field from “flag-fall” to “that’s all” like he did in the Colonial Cup. Should Slim Shady engage him early and try to put some pressure on him, the pace could get “hot”, and then they will both have to beware of Brilliant Speed, Air Supply and Al Khali, who will all be closing in the stretch.

Be conscious of any course changes if there’s any rain- there’s always a chance of a passing thunderstorm this time of year. Take note of paddock behavior – is anyone either “dull” or “washed-out?” Watch the warm-ups – do the horses look comfortable, are they striding out, do they look enthusiastic?

Never a sure thing, but handicapping is a great game. Good luck with all your wagers. Here’s hoping you have some fun, enjoy the races and cash some winning tickets!!!

For some interesting history on the United Nation Stakes, check out Historian Alan Carter's piece at ThoroFan.

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