A Classy Champion, 1989 Belmont Stakes Winner Easy Goer
The 2023 Monmouth Park summer race meet is up-and-running, and the focus will be on daily quality racing and wagering from opening day on May 13 through Sept. 10. Live racing will be on weekends and on Memorial Day in May, and starting in June will continue on a mostly Friday through Sunday schedule.
The stakes centerpiece of the 51-raceday Monmouth meet will be the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes for 3-year-olds to be held on Saturday, July 22. The Haskell will headline a day of five graded stakes races, also including the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, and the Grade 3 Winstar Matchmaker Stakes. Overall, 48 stakes races (10 graded) will be contested at Monmouth Park this season worth $7.7 million in purses. Ten additional all-turf race dates will be conducted at the Meadowlands in September and October when Monmouth closes.
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 handicapping overview at Monmouth Park to cover just a few of the key basics for horseplayers at the New Jersey summer 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. Thanks to a lightning-fast track surface, tight turns, and a relatively short stretch, Monmouth Park very well might be the most speed-conducive track in the country. If you’re betting Monmouth and you want to make money consistently, you must upgrade speed horses or horses that can at least race close to the pace, meaning no more than two lengths behind at the second call on the dirt.
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 six furlongs, front-runners win over 34% of all races, with most of the remaining winners either pressing or stalking the pace no further back than a couple lengths.
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 one mile and 70 yards. While the pacesetter does not win as many of Monmouth’s dirt routes as in dirt sprints, horses with tactical speed that can at least press the pace tend to far outperform horses coming from farther behind.
Monmouth Post Positions
The majority of Monmouth’s sprints are run at six furlongs, and while the rail 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. At 5 1/2 furlongs, middle posts 4-7 do slightly better than inside draws. It should be noted that the combination of speed and the rail in six-furlong races is an especially deadly angle at Monmouth Park.
In dirt routes, the post positions play a much bigger role in the outcomes of Monmouth’s races. It is not only important to have speed, but it is also important to break from a beneficial post position. At most route distances, the inside posts 1-3 are the best posts. At a mile, however, it is the middle posts 4-7 usually do a little better than the three inside gates. 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, 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 is handy in routes, too, but wire-to-wire types win only about 15% of the races. It is tactical speed that is the key on the Monmouth turf. Just like on the dirt, you want to bet speedy horses or pace-pressers who can stay in early striking distance within a few lengths of the lead.
Monmouth Park Trainers and Jockeys
The 2022 Monmouth Park trainer standings featured a tight battle between the three-time Monmouth leading trainer Kelly Breen and Claudio Gonzalez, and in the end, it was Gonzalez who won the training title 32 wins to 29 wins for Breen as both trainers posted win percentages of 19%. Breen and Gonzalez are again expected to battle it out for the 2023 Monmouth training title.
Top barns such as Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher are always represented throughout the Monmouth Park season, particularly in turf races. Expect high win percentages from those horses (Brown won 30% of his starts and Pletcher won 29% in 2022). Shug McGaughey will have a string stabled at Monmouth for the first time and should win at a good percentage. There is also an influx of New York-based horses every July and August once Saratoga opens as horses that stay downstate at Belmont Park look for easier spots at Monmouth, and you can bet those runners will be well spotted throughout the second half of Monmouth’s meet.
Other prominent trainers that will compete for top 10 placings in the standings at the meet will include Jerry Hollendorfer, Tony Wilson, Gerald Bennett, Greg Sacco, Chuck Spina, Juan Carlos Avila, Pat McBurney, Kent Sweezey, Jose Delgado, Mike Dini, Jose Camejo, Kathleen O’Connell, and also Ben Perkins Jr. and John Servis, who are returning to Monmouth this season. Out of that group, Hollendorfer (23%), Delgado (22%), and Bennett (22%) won at the highest percentages in 2022. Other high percentage barns in 2022 included Michelle Hemingway (9 wins, 21%), Jonathan Thomas (8 wins, 36%), Jamie Ness (8 wins, 26%), and Jose Lozano Sanchez (8 wins, 35%).
Expect the Monmouth Park jockey standings to be dominated by Paco Lopez, who will be seeking his 10th career Monmouth Park riding title. Only Joe Bravo won more local jockey titles with 13. Lopez more than doubled the win total of the second-place jockey in the 2022 Monmouth standings with 91 wins. Angel Rodriguez had 45 wins, and several others were right behind topped by Jairo Rendon and Samy Camacho who tied for third with 41 wins apiece. Camacho should be in a good position to move up in the standings this season after running away with the jockey title at the recently concluded Tampa Bay Downs meet where he won 114 races.
Fast times are in store at the Jersey shore, and it’s all happening this summer at Monmouth Park. Follow the trends and track profiles, and you should come out a winner. Best of luck!