Big Brown, Big Brown, Big Brown. That’s probably all folks are expecting to hear when discussing how to play Saturday’s Monmouth card. The super-colt is entered in what appears to me to be a tailor-made turf prep race for his ultimate goal of the Breeder’s Cup Classic later this fall. His own stable, IEAH, is sponsoring the race for goodness sakes. Is it humanly (equinely) possible he could lose? I think so. As a self-described chalk-eater, this may surprise some, but I think you’ve got to take a stand against him if he comes up an overwhelming favorite.
First, a couple of thoughts. Big Brown looked great debuting on the turf as a 2-year-old before being shelved with the first of what would become reoccuring hoof problems. Today, however, he’ll be facing older horses for the first time, dealing with a surface switch, and also dealing with potential weather problems. Showers are in the forecast for Saturday and have to be included in the handicapping recipe. As I write this from beautiful south-central Pennsylvania, the sun has broken through a light cloud cover and has begun suggesting perhaps the day won’t be as wet as originally thought. The official forecast is calling for “a few showers early with cloud cover lingering.” In other words, it won’t be anything quite like Hurricane Ike’s invasion of the gulf coast (which has to be considered the biggest and most powerful amphibious invasion launched by an “Ike” since the Normandy Beach landings of June 6, 1944). The turf could be rated “good” by the time all is said and done though.
Look, Big Brown is obviously the star of the day – and it’s not like I’m going to advise playing against him on multi-race wagers. Don’t get knocked out by a horse that has won EVERY race he’s finished. That would be foolish. But, if you’re looking to catch a score in a trifecta or exacta play – perhaps at least consider using one of the challengers?
Speaking of the challengers, the top two you can choose from are Shakis (#3, 4/1) and Proudinsky (#6, 9/2). I tend to prefer Proudinsky here for several reasons. Most notably, I’m just not a Shakis guy and haven’t forgiven him yet for his defeat in the Dixie back on May 17. Plus, he’s 8-years-old and despite coming off a very solid victory in the Bernard Baruch last out, I wonder how successfully he can string together multiple victories these days? Playing into Shakis hands (hooves) is that the race does appear to have a decent amount of speed and he is a closing type that prefers having that in front of him.
Proudinsky may be a bit overlooked at the windows today. His last two races don’t appear to be the kind you support with a win wager going up against company like Big Brown and Shakis. What I like about him is that he was steadied early on last out in the Bernard Baruch, and still fought on to earn a 101 Beyer figure (Shakis earned a 105 in the victory, for comparisons sake). I also like his European breeding if the turf comes up anything short of firm. His last two efforts on less-than-firm turf have resulted in victory. If for some reason Big Brown were to go down in defeat today, I think this is your guy.
Looking over the rest of the field for horses to fill out a trifecta wager with, I like Kiss the Kid (#5, 8/1), Silver Tree (#11, 5/1), and Drum Major (#7, 6/1) enough to consider using them based on post parade impressions. As for now, I like them in the order just mentioned. My trifecta play will look like this:
Of course, it goes without saying that my main play of the day will be a Pick 4. Here’s where I think folks can do the logical thing and single Big Brown. I didn’t, but it makes sense to do so. I felt honor bound to include Proudinsky just in case he pulls it off, but by tossing him I could theoretically cut the cost of this monster in half. I really like Cuba in the NJ Breeder’s Handicap. I hedged that bet a bit with Meadow Blue to go along with Cuba. I reached for some depth in the bookend races of the wager, not wanting to be knocked out right off the bat, and wanting to have a decent shot if I survive the first three legs.
Pick 4 (total cost = $48):
- Race 7: 3,4,7
- Race 8: 1,5
- Race 9: 4,6
- Race 10: 6,9,10,11
As always, be sure to check for late changes and/or scratches. Best of luck to everyone.