Post time for the first race is noon EDT.
The heat wave affecting the Eastern U.S. has caused a spate of cancellations today. Saratoga is the most noteworthy track affected, but Parx, Laurel, Delaware, and a few others have also shut down. Fortunately, there is still a good lineup of stakes races to take a stab at, with the biggest card of the day at Monmouth Park, where it's Haskell Day, the biggest day of the year for horse racing in New Jersey. We expect it to be fast and firm everywhere, so let's get right to it.
Monmouth Park Race 5 (1:51 pm ET)
Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3 & up
A field of six goes in the Oceanport. The headliner and favorite here is 1-DIvisidero, a Kelly Rubley-trained son of Kitten's Joy, and he will be plenty tough: he's been running against much, much tougher, and has caught a soft field for a graded stakes race. He's got the most class, he's got the strongest finishing kick, and breaking from the rail, he should get a nice, clean trip. We see him sitting just behind the leaders, and taking control of the race at the top of the stretch. He could make this a laugher, so we'll bet him to win at 3/2. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 5, $50 to win on 1-Divisidero.
Monmouth Park Race 8 (3:27 pm ET)
Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up
Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out overwhelming favorite 3-Midnight Bisou, who's one of the top female dirt horses in training right now. She's won nine of fifteen lifetime (and hit the board the other six times), and on paper, looks to have this field over a barrel.
But we are going to take a shot against Midnight Bisou, not because we think there's anything wrong with her -- she looks nearly flawless -- but because of price: she's probably going to be 1/5 in the win pool, and that means giant prices on every other horse in the race.
If there's one possible way we see Midnight Bisou getting beat here, it's pace: she has won every race by coming from off the pace: she's never had the lead during the early stages of any of her races. That has led us to pick 4-Electric Forest, a Chad Brown trainee. She has done her best racing on or near the front, and as a lightly raced 4-year-old, she may still be improving. We are fairly certain that she will have the early lead, and at a big price, we'll take a shot that she can win this race in wire-to-wire fashion. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 8, $20 to win on 4-Electric Forest.
Monmouth Park Race 11 (5:06 pm ET)
Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up
Chad Brown has the favorite here, as he does in virtually every turf race in the Northeast these days, with 6-Competitionofideas, but while her credentials are solid, we are eschewing the chalk for a fresh face, 4-Touriga, a Brazilian-bred who is making her first North American start for trainer Graham Motion. We watched a few of Touriga's races in Brazil, and we are excited about her potential here: she has a very nice late turn of foot on the grass, and she may be a star in the making. She's trained very forwardly for this race, and Motion wins at a very good 20% clip with North American firsters, so she should be ready. We are jumping on her bandwagon early, and are hoping for a performance that reminds people of Superman coming out of a phone booth. We will bet Touriga to win at 3-1. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 11, $35 to win on 4-Touriga.
Monmouth Park Race 12 (5:47 pm ET)
Grade 1 Haskell Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds
All eyes here are on 7-Maximum Security, the Kentucky Derby winner who wasn't: he crossed the wire first at Churchill Downs, but became the first horse ever to be disqualified as the winner of the race. He comes into this one off a dull and somewhat inexplicable runner-up finish in the Pegasus at Monmouth on June 16.
We will be blunt here: we are all in on betting against Maximum Security. We simply hated his effort in the Pegasus: that race should have been little more than a public workout for him, but not only did he lose, but he did so by running in a labored fashion that suggests that he may not be in very good form. At a very short price -- he's 8/5 on the morning line, but will go off much, much shorter -- Maximum Security is a stone-cold play against.
We are picking a long shot, 4-Bethlehem Road. And we are playing against conventional wisdom to pick him.
There are seven entrants in this race, and even a novice handicapper can see that the field is loaded with speed: six of the seven like to go early, with the only exception the stretch-running 6-Everfast. That would seem to suggest a fast or even very fast early pace, and that the race would set up for a stalker or a closer.
But the jockeys and trainers can read the Daily Racing Form too, and sometimes things pan out exactly the opposite of the way they look on paper. We think the 2019 Haskell may be one of those times, when the jockeys on all the speed horses decide to hold them back early, and as a result the pace is much, much slower than the past performances would suggest it should be. This would favor speed in a way that most people think is impossible going into the race.
We think there's a chance that this may happen, and this would leave 4-Bethlehem Road, who is clearly the runner with the most early speed, on a very loose, very comfortable lead. From there, we think he may get brave and go all the way. He's done it before, and not counting his last race, when he did a speed-and-fade on a racing surface biased against speed in the Ohio Derby, he looks to us like he could be improving. He may be a dangerous horse -- and he will be a mammoth price. He's 20-1 on the morning line, and he may go off even higher. We will bet him to win. The bet: Monmouth Park, Race 12, $25 to win on 4-Bethlehem Road.
Del Mar Race 4 (6:30 pm ET)
Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, dirt, 3 & up
The headliner here is 1-Catalina Cruiser, the John Sadler trainee who emerged as a star by winning this race last year. He's 5-for-6 lifetime, with his only defeat in the 2018 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, in which he had a nighmarish trip and faded to 6th. He will be plenty tough here, but this is another race where the favorite is going to be in the neighborhood of 1/5, and we are going to take a shot against him. The pick here is 6-Dr. Dorr. This Bob Baffert-trained 6-year-old gelding has been good enough in the past to run with Catalina Cruiser -- he just hasn't been good enough recently. After a brief layoff, we think he is back in form, as evidenced by an absolutely sizzling 4-furlong workout this past Wednesday, the fastest of 47 drills at the distance at Del Mar that day. This is a stab, but we'll take a shot on Dr. Dorr to beat Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 4, $20 to win on 6-Dr. Dorr.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows, and stay cool.
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