Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park is one of the Jersey Shore racetrack’s signature events, annually bringing together some of the best turf horses in North America. The 1 3/8-mile race attracted a diverse eight-horse field this year, all of them stakes winners, and seven of those eight have won graded or group stakes (group stakes are the equivalent of graded stakes in foreign countries).
Here’s a gambling strategy to consider, using a $20 budget for the race:
Bigger Picture (#1) is a veteran 8-year-old gelding who has earned over $1.6 million and is in the best form of his career. He has won two out of his most recent three races, both of them graded stakes. He has also raced at the distance of 1 ½ miles (a furlong longer than the United Nations) for seven straight starts, and in his career he is three-for-nine with one second and one third at 1 3/8 miles. Last year, he finished third in the United Nations, making up ground late on a winner (Funtastic) who controlled the pace throughout and “stole” the race. This year, Bigger Picture gets the services of jockey “Jersey” Joe Bravo, who as you may guess from his nickname is based at Monmouth and has won 13 riding titles at the track. He’s a good bet to finish first in Saturday’s United Nations – now, what horses can we use with Bigger Picture to turn a profit on the race?
Zulu Alpha (#6) is, like Bigger Picture, trained by Kentucky-based Mike Maker. The 6-year-old gelding blossomed last summer and has won three graded stakes since October, two of them after Maker assumed training duties. He is not as experienced at this 1 3/8-mile distance as is Bigger Picture (one-for-two lifetime) but he did win two of the aforementioned graded stakes at the longer 1 ½ mile-distance. His form has slacked off a bit in his last two races but he is a classy horse and is reunited with jockey Channing Hill, who won three out of four races with Zulu Alpha last year, including a graded stakes. Hill is a good pace rider and this gelding prefers to race close to the lead. I expect him to either set the pace or sit just off of it, and hang around for a long time on Saturday.
Focus Group (#4) might challenge Bigger Picture for post-time favoritism as he’s the leading United Nations contender from two starters trained by Chad Brown, the dominant turf trainer in North America. At his best, Focus Group fits in with Grade 1-caliber turf horses and has won three of his last five starts dating back to last July, including two stakes races. He also finished third in the prestigious Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes last fall to two horses shipping into Woodbine from Europe. This horse is a deep closer who will be dependent on a solid early pace – which he may not get – but he’s worth using in exacta and trifecta tickets (see below).
Two higher-odds horses to consider are Channel Cat (#2), who won back-to-back turf stakes last fall, has run decently in two graded stakes this year, and should be positioned close to the lead, and Monarchs Glen (#8). The latter is a two-time stakes winner in England who has failed to impress in his two starts since moving to the U.S. but who has a good grass pedigree and races for the elite connections of owner Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bill Mott.
Here’s how I am betting the race with a $20 dollar budget:
$5 exacta, 1 with 4 and 6 ($10)
At the betting window, say: “Monmouth Park, Race 11, I’d like to bet a $5 exacta, 1 over 4 and 6.”
$2 exacta, 4 and 6 with 1 ($4)
At the betting window, say: “Monmouth Park, Race 11, I’d like to bet a $2 exacta, 4 and 6 with 1.”
$1 trifecta, 1 with 4 and 6, with 2, 4, 6 and 8 ($6)
At the betting window, say: “Monmouth Park, Race 11, I’d like to bet a $1 trifecta, 1 with 4 and 6, with 2,4,6 and 9.”
You can always use ABR’s Gambling Calculator to help figure out and adjust costs for any bet. Good luck!