It is going to heat up on Saturday at Monmouth Park, as their stakes schedule shifts into high gear. With the riding crop restrictions in place, and a jockey colony in flux, it will be interesting to see how the situation develops. The Haskell Invitational is not until next month, but there will be plenty of action. The Salvator Mile S. is a Grade III contest on the Main Track, and it brings together a solid crop of runners. Past winners have included Itsmyluckyday, Bradester, Classy Class, Page McKenney, Sunny Ridge, and last year’s champ, Pirate’s Punch. That defender is back once again, in an attempt to go back-to-back for the first time since 2001—2002 in this race. It should be a rousing good time!
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Galerio (Jky: P. Morales/Trn: D. Bennett):
The Bennett Barn sends this “Non-G” class-rising attendee into a tough spot. Sure, the gelding won at Pimlico last time in an OC50 in the slop, but I wouldn’t say that 7-length win makes me sit-up and take notice. Coming over from Laurel Park after being under Claudio Gonzalez’s eye, this son of Jump Start is going to have to continue to improve. I like one that is on the class make, to be sure. However, I do not think the timing of this race might not be right.
#2 West Will Power (Jky: N. Juarez/Trn: K. Breen):
Here is a Gary and Mary West homebred that has some upside when it comes to running against some tough OC Co. at both Gulfstream Park and Keeneland. I much prefer the latter effort because that was an impressive effort. The Bernardini colt exhibited breakaway speed enroute to a 9+ length victory. If he can replicate that early effort, then Kelly Breen might well be on his way to visiting the winner’s circle. Looking over jockey Nik Juarez’s stats, he is riding well of late. Not a bad one to include …
#3 Bal Harbour (Jky: M. Sanchez/Trn: G. Sacco):
Greg Sacco has a runner drawn in here that is coming off-the-bench, and we have not seen the gelding out of First Samurai since last November at Laurel. He is an alum of this race, and finished 3rd, just 2-back of Pirate’s Punch #10. It is hard to believe that he could come from off-the-bench and score against others who have much higher levels of fitness.
#4 Green Light Go (Jky: D. Davis/Trn: J. Hollendorfer):
Over the past few years, Jerry Hollendorfer’s outfit has been a moving target. His name was soiled out in California, and that forced him to try other tracks. I am not sure he deserved such recrimination. Wishing him the best is in order. This hearty runner out of Hard Spun came from Jim Jerkens keep, and once Hollendorfer onboarded him, he sent him to Oaklawn for some tough competition in Arkansas. Over 3x the senior colt was running against some tough ones like Special Reserve, Rated R Superstar, and the powerful Silver State. Not too shabby, to say the least … Coming to Monmouth might be just the ticket, and the real plus is getting Dylan Davis to ride. Sleeper pick …
#5 Informative (Jky: J. Ferrer/Trn: U. St. Lewis):
This is one of the long shots to draw in. Uri St. Lewis is going to try and test the “Graded” waters. It is going to be deep. In 5 tries so far in 2021, this colt out of Bodemeister is leaping into company that is out of his depth. At this point, just hitting the board will be insanely difficult. If anyone can pull it off, it is Jose Ferrer. He is a jockey who rides well in these underdog spots. You never know … it’s horse racing.
#6 Croatian (Jky: H. Diaz/Trn: J. Hollendorfer):
The “other” Hollendorfer entrant has some strengths, but most ‘cappers will see that 4th place finish last time at Oaklawn Park as a dark mark. That was a super sprint on the dirt at 5½F at the OC 80k level. You must understand that OP contests like those are close G3 events in many cases. The caliber is high, and that means this gelding is almost instantly class worthy to make this jump. Hector Diaz had a nice run down at Tampa, and he might be able to translate some of that to the Monmouth. Long shot for sure …
#7 NY Traffic (Jky: P. Lopez/Trn: S. Joseph):
The headliner in this contest is the Saffie Joseph-trained star who made some hearts beat faster last summer. Against Authentic in the Haskell (G1), the colt just missed catching him at the wire. It made the pundits high on him because a late kick is hard to find on the dirt. Though he ultimately failed on the late season “Classic” Trail, he still could be a major player in the division. This is one of those types that could end up in the BC at Del Mar. You never know how it will turn out. It appears that Joseph is getting Paco Lopez to ride … he can definitely provide some stability.
#8 Basin (Jky: A. Jimenez/Trn: T. Pletcher):
A pretty powerful sprinter as a 3-yr-old, this former Steve Asmussen runner came over to Todd Pletcher a little over a year ago. In the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga, he was game, finishing 2nd to Yaupon. His 2021 debut was excellent, but after that, in the Churchill Downs (G1) on the Derby undercard, left many scratching their heads. Maybe running against the likes of Flagstaff, Lexitonian, and Whitmore was just too much? It could have been just an off-day … humans have them, so do Thoroughbreds. Pletcher is super 3rd off, so at 8/1, this son of Liam’s Map is my price play. Though Albin Jimenez does not have many attempts on the Jersey track, his price will be more than square at 8/1.
#9 War Stopper (Jky: R. Silvera/Trn: T. Pletcher):
Pletcher is not done when it comes to entries. He has this colt out of Declaration of War at the ready after he ran a distant 4th in the Ghostzapper (G3) to winner Eye of a Jedi. Maybe he can make a comeback at Monmouth. It will not be easy as Ruben Silvera takes the mount for the first time. His fitness should not be too much of an issue, but maybe he is just out of his depth in here.
#10 Pirate’s Punch (Jky: R. Albarado/Trn: G. Forster):
The hero of last September’s Salvator (G3) is back. Trainer Grant Forster certainly enjoyed the view from the winner’s circle. His short-priced router was 2/1 after all, so it was a bit of a foregone conclusion. Serving as the underdog in the BC Dirt Mile at 26/1 was like being Cinderella at the ball. Though he finished last, it was still just a great moment to be on the international stage. How good is this one out of Shanghai Bobby? Forster is hopeful he can build some momentum early in the summer. Nothing like a mid-season run, as jockey Robby Albarado turns the ignition.
Join us Saturday for all of our Monmouth selections! Should be a great set of races from “The Shore!”