Early Monmouth Trends

Early Trends Can Make You a Winner at Monmouth's Elite Summer Meet
By Noel Michaels

The first four weeks of Monmouth Park's new and improved 'Elite Summer Meet' is in the books and the Jersey shore racing season is officially in full swing. Now that Monmouth has run 11 race days, which accounts for just over 20% of its 50 days of summer racing for $50 million in purses, we now have a solid set of data from the first part of the meet that handicappers can break down in order to take a closer look at some of the trends that have quietly -- and not so quietly -- been taking shape as we progresses into the heart of the meet between now and Haskell Day, Sunday, August 1.

Haskell Day, of course, will be the centerpiece of the Monmouth meet, and this year's day and race is really shaping up as something to look forward to with the Haskell expected to be the summertime goal for both Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky. The race may also attract Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, who add additional spice to the race despite the fast he would be prepping for the 1 1/4-mile Travers. Between now and that great day of racing to a month-and-a-half from now, however, there are still many great racing weekends to look forward to at Monmouth three days a week from Fridays through Sundays.

The Monmouth meet has already been a great one. The meet has already featured not just a track record -- but also a world record -- at the esteemed distance of one mile (on the turf) when Mandrullah stopped the clock in 1:31.23 in his huge win on Sunday, June 6. Since then another track record was also broken on the grass at 5 1/2 furlongs thanks to Starfish Bay's clocking of 1:00.76 on June 13.

Precious Passion, the flashy front-running multiple graded stakes-winning local turf sensations also returned to the races at this meet in the Monmouth Stakes. Precious Passion lost, but was likely only using the outing as a prep race and should be difficult to defeat next time.

For bettors, the big story at Monmouth this season has been the terrific field sizes. Field sizes in New Jersey have been getting bigger and bigger while New York field sizes have been getting smaller and smaller. This is no surprise with Monmouth's purses surpassing Belmont's, and with Monmouth offering triple the amount of purse money that they did last year.

Average Monmouth Field Sizes -- 2010
(May 22 -- June 13)

Dirt Sprints Dirt Routes Turf Sprints Turf Routes
9 starters/race 8.5 starters/race 9 starters/race 8.8 starters/race

Big field sizes mean excellent wagering opportunities will abound at the Jersey shore all summer. In addition to the customary full wagering menu, Monmouth will also be featuring a daily 50-cent Pick 5 wager on races 6-10 each day this season. The bet has a low 15% takeout, and has been known to have carryover days and offer payoffs in the thousands.

And so, as more and more attention gets heaped upon Monmouth Park this summer, it will be necessary for horseplayers to try to learn as much information as possible about racing at Monmouth, because a bigger and bigger amount of betting money is likely to gravitate in that direction as the days and weeks progress and people start to realize that Monmouth will be this year predominant summer meet -- at least until Saratoga opens in late July.

Perhaps more so than any other track, racing at Monmouth Park is defined by one predominant factor: Speed, speed, and more speed. Thanks to a lightning-fast track surface, tight turns, and a short stretch, Monmouth Park very well might be the most speed conducive track in the country. Closers are fun to cheer for, but if you're betting Monmouth and you want to make money, toss the closers and bet speed horses and close-to-the-pace horses that should have the lead or be no more than a length behind at the eighth pole.

However, while the prevailing bias at Monmouth no doubt is and always has been speed, the 2010 meet to date has not played overwhelmingly toward the front runners, and not a lot of speed biases have been observed as having a large impact in the races. This is not to say the Monmouth meet has not been affected by track biases this year -- it just means the track bias hasn't been the one that was expected. The prime bias that has had an impact on the Monmouth dirt races so far in 2010 has been an anti-rail bias, which has reared its ugly head to some degree on at least 8 of the 11 race days from May 22 to June 13.

(May 22 -- June 13)
June 6 -- Inside still not the best; had to be on or close to pace
June 5 -- Outside best, dead rail
June 4 -- Outside fast, inside slow
May 31 -- Outside bias, dead rail
May 30 -- Helped to be close to pace; rail showed iffy improvement
May 29 -- Outside bias, slow rail; outside speed won 6 of 9
May 23 -- Outside the best part of the track, slow rail
May 22 -- Outside the best part of the track, slow rail

As the above chart illustrates, the rail has been dead for most of the meet, and when the rail is dead, it usually takes speed down with it. This bias should result in tremendous money-making opportunities the rest of the meet -- especially at a speed-friendly track like Monmouth -- where the losing speed horses from the first month of the meet should start showing dramatic positive turnarounds once the track bias situation sorts itself out and the track invariably starts to return to its usual speed-favoring ways. Therefore, keep a close eye out on how speed and the rail is doing at Monmouth in the upcoming days, and get ready to pounce on front runners who lost after getting buried down on the inside during the first several weekends of the meet when they return for their next starts.

Many post position preferences have been very cut-and-dried during the first part of this year's Monmouth meet, and the post draw preferences perhaps haven't turned out the way many handicappers would have expected so far due to the many dead rail days so far at Monmouth 2010.

First off, while the inside posts have been preferential in dirt routes, the percentages have not been as strongly in favor of inside posts as you would expect. And in dirt sprints, the inside post position bias we'd expect to see at Monmouth has been virtually non-existent, with very little advantage for the inside draws and very little disadvantage for the outside draws. This should start to change as soon as the track changes -- if it changes.

On the Monmouth turf, inside posts have ruled so far in the track's limited number of turf sprints run so far at the meet. In only four races run to date, all four turf sprint winners came from posts 1-4. If the course will, in fact, favor the inside posts, it will be directly opposite from the turf sprints in New York (at both Belmont and Saratoga) which all favor outside posts.

The Monmouth turf course is a tight course with a relatively short stretch and a short run to the first turn in most two-turn races. Therefore, we'd expect the inside posts to do well and they have not disappointed in the overall numbers. However, this comes with a strong caveat and one that should be recognized by handicappers. There has been a huge difference in post position preference in Monmouth turf routes between the races run at one mile and at 1 1/16 miles. The run to the first turn is obviously longer in 1 1/16-mile races, and is has made a big impact this season, with inside posts doing well, as expected, in one mile turf races. However, it has been the outside posts that have ruled the 1 1/16-mile turf races so far, with horses having a much better chance to win from posts 5-9 than they have enjoyed from posts 1-4.

Handicappers must differentiate between one mile and 1 1/16-mile turf races at Monmouth based on this meet's numbers, as follows:

Monmouth Winning Post Positions - Turf Routes
(May 22 -- June 13)

Post 1 Mile 1 1/16 Miles
1 1-9 (11%) 0-13 (0%)
2 4-9 (44%) 2-13 (15%)
3 0-9 (0%) 1-13 (8%)
4 1-9 (11%) 1-13 (8%)
5 2-9 (22%) 4-13 (31%)
6 0-9 (0%) 1-12 (8%)
7 0-9 (0%) 2-11 (18%)
8 1-7 (14%) 0-10 (0%)
9 0-5 (0%) 2-8 (25%)
10 0-3 (0%) 0-4 (0%)
11 0-2 (0%)  

And so, to boil it all down based on what we've seen on the Monmouth lawn so far, here are some winning post position points on the Monmouth grass. Inside posts 1-5 have been victorious in 8 of 9 turf routes at one mile, with horses outside post 5 (posts 6-11) going a combined 1-for-40 so far. At 1 1/16 miles, however, the inside posts have won a much smaller percentage of the races -- taking just 4 of the 13 races run at that distance so far (31%). Posts 5-9, meanwhile, have won nine of the thirteen 1 1/16-mile grass races run so far (69%).

In Monmouth dirt races, the main post position bias has been in two-turn route races, which have primarily tended to favor the inside four posts 1-4, not surprisingly This is particularly true in races run at 1 mile and 1 mile & 70 yards, where the inside four posts have won 64% and 80% of the races so far. To date, the bias has not been as strong at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, with no post preference being shown at that particular distance so far

Monmouth Winning Post Positions - Dirt Routes
(May 22 -- June 13)

Post 1 Mile - 1 1/16 miles
1 5-33 (15%)
2 2-33 (6%)
3 3-33 (9%)
4 8-33 (24%)
5 3-33 (9%)
6 2-32 (6%)
7 3-28 (11%)
8 5-28 (18%)
9 0-14 (0%)
10 1-8 (13%)
11 1-4 (25%)
12 0-3 (0%)

Breaking down the numbers, you'll notice that inside posts 1-4 are a combined 18-for-132 for an average win rate of 13.6% for the inside part of the gate. Posts 5-8 are a combined 13-for-121 for a lower average win rate of 10.7% for the middle posts, and posts 9-12 are a combined 2-for-29 for an even lower average win rate of 6.9% for the outside posts.

In sprints, the story has not been the same with virtually no preference or advantage shown at all, to date, for the far inside (as discussed earlier, this has to do with the track's dead rail for much of the early part of the meet at Monmouth.

Monmouth Winning Post Positions - Dirt Sprints
(May 22 -- June 13)

Post Dirt Sprints
1 4-68 (6%)
2 8-68 (12%)
3 7-68 (10%)
4 13-68 (19%)
5 6-67 (9%)
6 8-66 (12%)
7 7-62 (11%)
8 6-52 (12%)
9 3-46 (7%)
10 2-33 (6%)
11 3-24 (13%)
12 2-18 (11%)

Breaking down the Monmouth sprint numbers, you'll notice that inside posts 1-4 are a combined 32-for-272 for an average win rate of 11.7% for the inside part of the gate. Posts 5-8 are a combined 29-for-247 for an identical average win rate of 11.7% for the middle posts, and posts 9-12 are a combined 10-for-121 for a lower, but not terrible, average win rate of 8.3% for the outside posts.

Trainer Trends
One of the big stories at the Monmouth meet in the trainer's ranks so far has been the nearly complete flop of the California invaders who were lured East by the big purses, but really haven't been able to grab their share of the money so far. SoCal trainers Peter Miller, Bob Hess, and Mike Mitchell lost their first 17 race combined and trainer Mike Machowsky has been a compete non-factor.

Leading in the trainer standings through June 13, not surprisingly, is Todd Pletcher with 8 wins from his first 38 starters for 21% winners. His return on investment (ROI) for all his many starters is only $1.42, but he has nevertheless done impressively. Pletcher's horses have been in the money in 58% of their starts -- no easy feat in 9- and 10-horse highly-competitive fields.

Right behind Pletcher are some other trainers who are off to fantastic starts to the meet including Bruce Alexander, Nick Zito, and Mike Maker. Please see the following chart for Monmouth's leading trainers:

Monmouth Park Leading Trainer Standings

Trainer Starts Wins Win% ITM% ROI$
Todd Pletcher 38 8 21% 58% $1.42
Bruce Alexander 18 5 28% 72% $4.16
Richard Dutrow 20 5 25% 50% $1.55
Jason Servis 16 4 25% 44% $3.46
Nick Zito 14 4 29% 57% $2.30
Scott Volk 16 3 19% 44% $1.60
Mike Maker 6 3 50% 67% $4.70
Terry Pompay 18 3 17% 27% $1.09
Patrick Biancone 9 3 33% 67% $4.42
Ben Perkins Jr. 15 3 20% 40% $1.48

Based on the above standings, certain trainers absolutely can't be ignored right now including Bruce Alexander, who has been in the money 72% with a win ROI of $4.16. Other top ROI leaders at the meet have been Jason Servis ($3.46 ROI), Nick Zito ($2.30 ROI), Mike Maker (3-for-6, $4.70 ROI), Patrick Biancone ($4.42 ROI), and also trainers like Graham Motion (2-for-5, $7.04 ROI), Juan Serey (2-for-5, $9.40 ROI), and Amy Tarrant (2-for-7, 6-for-7 ITM, $31.49 ROI!).

Ice cold trainers to begin the meet have included Kelly Breen (1-for-19), Joe Orseno (1-for-12), Patricia Farro (1-for-19), Mark Shuman (1-for-13), and several trainers currently 'on the duck' including, most notably, Dennis Manning (0-for-21).

On the Monmouth turf, the win column has been a total mish-mash so far with 26 different trainers winning the 30 grass races to date. The trainers leading with two turf wins currently are Juan Serey (2-for-2), John Forbes (2-for-2), Glenn Thompson (2-for-7), and Richard Dutrow (2-for-2).

Surprisingly, Todd Pletcher has not been racking up his wins here on the turf, they've primarily been on the dirt, with the exception of one grass winner. Pletcher's early Monmouth grass record this season is 1-for-9. Other cold grass trainers right now are Tony Wilson (0-for-5), Dennis Manning (0-for-11), Patricia Farro (0-for-5), Timothy Hills (0-for-6), Mike Mitchell (0-for-5 with four thirds), and worst off all, Kiaran McLaughlin, who is 0-for-7 with only 1-for-7 even in the money on turf so far.

Jockeys and Jockey / Trainer Combinations
The cold California contingent at the meet as adversely effected Garrett Gomez, who has won only 7 of 55 races so far for only 13% and sixth in the jockey standings. The riding leader, it should be no surprise, is 'Jersey' Joe Bravo, doing what he does best and winning at Monmouth at a 17-for-94 clip (18%). Bravo is followed by Paco Lopez (13-for-93, 14%), Carlos Marquez (12-for-76, 16%, Elvis Trujillo (10-for-69, 14%), and John Velazquez (8-for-36, 22%).

Speaking of John Velazquez, he is riding here, and winning here, because he is riding first call for his gravy train, Todd Pletcher. Therefore, it is no surprise Pletcher and Velazquez are up near the top of the standings for jockey / trainer combinations.

Here is a look at the rest of the jockey/trainer combo leaderboard.

Trainer / Jockey Starts Wins Win% ITM% ROI$
Nick Zito / Elvis Trujillo 7 3 43% 57% $3.94
Patrick Biancone / Joe Bravo 8 3 38% 75% $4.98
Bruce Alexander / Paco Lopez 9 3 33% 67% $2.73
Todd Pletcher / John Velazquez 13 3 23% 77% $1.74
Bruce Alexander / Carlos Marquez 2 2 100% 100% $25.10
John Forbes / Pablo Fragoo 2 2 100% 100% $12.20
Rick Dutrow / Edgar Prado 3 2 67% 100% $4.60
Scott Volk / Jose Lezcano 3 2 67% 67% $5.60
Amy Tarrant / F. Maysonett 5 2 40% 80% $44.08
Jason Servis / Jose Lezcano 5 2 40% 60% $9.28
Ed Broome / Carlos Marquez 6 2 33% 33% $2.73

The Monmouth Park 'Elite Summer Meet' is off to a great start, and hopefully you are in on it. With so many trends taking shape early in the meet, there is much money to be made by horseplayers with an information edge on the rest of the betting public. If you read this article for beginning-to-end, you hopefully should be one of the few with an edge against the many as we head into the meat-and-potatoes portion of the Monmouth Park meet. Best of luck!


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