by Dustin Fabian
July 18, 2019
Where we you when King for a Day shocked Maximum Security in the (Monmouth version of the) Pegasus on June 16? Ok, ok…maybe that wasn’t as big of an upset as the ’80 US Men’s Hockey Team over the Soviets or Upset over Man o’ War, or even Da’ Tara over Big Brown, it was still a shocking result that most handicappers didn’t see coming.
And before anyone says they ‘had’ that upset pegged, remember that Maximum Security was 1/20 odds that day – the lowest a racehorse can be. People may have ‘had’ it…but they definitely didn’t bet the race that way.
I was going to jump into a recap of that race, but my colleague, Jon White, is far superior in that area. Here’s what he had to say immediately following the Pegasus.
So I’ll turn my attention to the handicapping side of things. Monmouth is offering a $400,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 9 – 12) that caught my eye, and the docket also includes a $100,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 5 (Races 10 – 14), as well as their popular 20-cent Jersey Shore 6 (Races 8 – 13).
Oh, and if you’re looking for big name horses on the card, outside of Maximum Security, Monmouth has you covered. Midnight Bisou (and Mike Smith) are entered in the Molly Pitcher Stakes (Race 8), Coal Front (with John Velazquez) are set to run in the Monmouth Cup (Race 10) and Competitionofideas (Joe Bravo aboard) will run in the Matchmaker (Race 11).
Here’s how I’m playing that $400,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4:
Race 9 – Wolf Hill Stakes
Kicking off the sequence with a solid turf sprint stakes race and I’m going to use four horses to get me through this leg – FIG JELLY, TRICK TO DOO, JUSTAHOLIC and MAI TY ONE ON. None of those look like a slam dunk, but none of them can be dismissed either. FIG JELLY may be the most talented of these (and the Jason Servis/Luis Saez combo helps) but he’s just 1-for-9 on turf and 0-for-5 at the distance, so he’s a hard horse to have faith in. JUSTAHOLIC is a sneaky horse to use. He clearly took to the turf in an allowance race on June 8 and he drew perfectly to work out a stalking trip. He won’t be the 13/1 he was in his seasonal debut, but he should be an OK price.
Race 10 – Monmouth Cup (Gr III)
To me, this is one of the most wide-open races on the card and one I’ll be spreading out my ticket in. COAL FRONT is a logical favorite making his second start after Dubai. In hindsight, maybe the Met Mile against Mitole, Promises Fulfilled, McKinzie and Thunder Snow wasn’t a great comeback race. If he can stalk the pace, he’s going to be hard to beat. But that’s a huge ‘if.’ MONONGAHELA won the G3 Iselin here last month in a new running style, but he may want to sit back a little further this time. Pletcher’s ‘other’ horse BAL HARBOUR, has been a victim of bad circumstances but he continues run decent races. He gets a jockey change to Mike Smith and that should make a big difference. I’m also going to include LEMONADE THURSDAY on my ticket.
Race 11 – Matchmaker Stakes (Gr III)
On paper, I see no reason the winner here won’t be VALEDICTORIAN or COMPETITIONOFIDEAS. The former is in the best form of her life and loves Monmouth (4-for-5 lifetime), while the latter is a Grade 1 winner trained by all-world conditioner Chad Brown. COMPETITIONOFIDEAS hasn’t finished worse than second on the turf in her last five tries and was beaten a half-length and a neck by the highly-regarded Homerique in her last two. I would give her the slight nod, but I respect VALEDICTORIAN way too much to leave her off the ticket.
Race 12 – Haskell Invitational (Gr I)
As it comes to the Haskell, Bob Baffert is the de facto king of this race. He’s won a record eight times, all since 2001, and his list of winners includes American Pharoah, Point Given, War Emblem, Lookin at Lucky and Bayern. He hasn’t won since 2016, but he’s only started one horse in that span and that was when American Freedom was denied in the slop by mud-loving Exaggerator in 2016. This year’s entrant, MUCHO GUSTO, looks like the real deal. The former ‘need the lead’ type has learned to relax this year, as evidenced by his rallying victory in the G3 Affirmed Stakes last out. If he can stalk, sit and pounce, he may be the horse to have here. MAXIMUM SECURITY is the speed of the speed and drew better this time. Last time he was inside of KING FOR A DAY, which allowed his rival to latch to his outside and track him all the way around the oval. The shoe is on the other foot this time, with MAXIMUM SECURITY outside the other speed. Couple that with the disqualified Derby winner having a prep under his belt and I expect a much improved performance this time around the oval.
I feel that the last time was the right time to bet KING FOR A DAY. He was nearly 6/1 when he upset MAXIMUM SECURITY in the Pegasus, but he had every advantage that afternoon. Now he’s stuck on the inside in a speed-laden field and, with horses like JOEVIA, BETHLEHEM ROAD and MAXIMUM SECURITY outside of him, he’s going to have to work out a trip. He feels like a bounce candidate to me and I’m going to remove him from my Pick 4 at very low odds.
For an in-depth analysis of the Haskell, Jeremy Plonk handicapped it as his Xpressbet Race of the Week. He makes a strong case for EVERFAST and why he's the right horse to bet at the right price.
All-Stakes Pick 4 Ticket
Race 9 - 4, 5, 7, 8
Race 10 - 2, 3, 4, 7
Race 11 - 3, 6
Race 12 - 5, 7
Ticket Cost - $64 for $1