# Saturday, July 28, 2012

Exit 105 on the Garden State Parkway takes you right to the Atlantic Ocean, which was made famous by the Jersey Shore, of course! However, one spot to stop and check out on your Jersey Shore vacation en route to the surf, beaches and boardwalks is a landmark erected in 1870. The intention was to bring commerce to an area that was the summer playground for the wealthy New Yorkers looking for an alternative to the Hamptons. The proximity to Manhattan Island made for an inviting and quick trip by ferry or rail. In fact, you can still hear the train between races if you listen closely enough, and you can still smell the surf if the wind is right.

Monmouth Park was a great idea then. It still is.

Since then however, the plant has experienced several capital improvements, with the latest being the erection of lifeguard stands to replace the judges towers that ring the track. In conjunction with that move, the racing committee has also changed the conditions of the 2012 Haskell, Monmouth Park's premier event of the summer, to be a freestyle. However, horses will not be allowed to wear nose-clips.

If the weather on Haskell day is anything like it was for most of Jersey and the surrounding area today, and the sky is once again, as we speak, looking grey, the event will be perfect for Mr. Baffert’s substitute star, Paynter. The Monmouth main track, famous for it’s love of front running speed, is an inviting locale for this all of a sudden budding big-shot in search of a graded stakes win. And so very young and early in his career, no less.

Having had success in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on a sloppy and sealed track with a 100 Beyer figure in only his third start, and having shown no distance limitations by making every pole in the Belmont a winning one…except the most important one that is, this son of the original and very awesome Awesome Again looks to have both the weather and the competition playing to his strengths.

While Jerry Hollendorfer’s Nonios presents a very strong form cycle, a dirt track is something that he has yet to experience. And at a morning-line of 7-2, I’m not sure surprises in the form of wet clumps of dirt being kicked in your face is the way you envision your relaxing trip to the Jersey Shore. Even on a workday.

Dullahan is an interesting sort. His job application presents quite a bit of experience in graded stakes races. Seven to be exact, with wins in both the Breeders Cup Futurity as well as the Bluegrass Stakes. Both at Keeneland. Both on the phony stuff that looks like dirt. But these are smart horses. You cannot fool them, and he has yet to win on the stuff your mother told you not to get on your best Sunday go-to-meeting clothes. Did you listen?

Nope! And look where it got you!

But back to Dullahan. While he has a limited but vocal fan club, as does Snookie by the way, I’ve never been convinced. Certainly not today. Not on this track. Not in this race. Maybe some other time. A good presentation today, and maybe we see him in the Travers? I’d take another look there.

Gemologist has much going for him. First, Todd Pletcher. Second, Todd Pletcher. Third, a win on a wet track. If they go back to running at or near the lead, as it appears this race will allow them to do, he should hound Bejarano and Paynter all the way around the track. Can he pass them when it counts? That question will be answered sometime around 6:18.50 PM eastern time. I say no.

Handsome Mike, son of Scat Daddy and running for Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez is in fairly deep here. After all, this ain’t no beauty contest, as the winner will be determined on the racetrack. Note to Handsome Mike: good looks don’t cut it at this level pal.

Finally, there is Stealcase. Running for Mark Casse with Mr. Bridgemohan in the irons, this horse is actually a single on my Slew’s Fast Horses listing for this race and should show some chops today. Experience in all the important departments: dirt, wet track, graded stakes – he was only a neck behind Paynter in the Derby Trial – and a tractable running style that should keep him about mid-pak through the entire swim meet, he seems like a reasonable exacta partner. Especially if his odds drift up thanks to Mr. Pletcher.

In a race that might very well feature more of a chance for a deep water rescue than equine drama, odds will dictate whether you bet on the participants order of finish, or whether you bet on which swimmer gets the most style points.

Wet or dry, I’m looking at Paynter / Stealcase if the exacta is reasonable. If not, the best bets of the day will be the world famous hotdogs at Max’s in Long Branch, just a furlong or two from the track, and a long and slow ride home on the Parkway.

And at the end of the day, if I’m all wet…I hope it is from the weather! Enjoy the racing and as always…good luck and good ‘capping!


posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 10:03:18 PM UTC  #