Handicapping Monmouth Park's United Nations

Handicapping Monmouth Park's United Nations
Photo: Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire

The $500,000 United Nations (G1) is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The field of nine contains five grade one stakes winners, two past United Nations winners, and five millionaires (if you count Slumber’s earnings of $999,662). The United Nations goes off as race 11 with a post-time of 5:46 ET on Sunday, July 5. The race will be televised nationally on the Fox1 Sports Network.

The United Nations is the second leg of a graded stakes Daily Double that begins in race 10 with a very competitive Salvatore Mile (G3), which features Pants on Fire, Bradester, Valid, Red Vine, Coup de Grace, and Race Day.

Brian Zipse

Matt Shifman

1 – Twilight Eclipse [ML 9-2] - The gutsy gelding finally missed one of the big checks in the Manhattan last time when he uncharacteristically faded to a seventh-place finish. All in all, though, it was not a terrible performance. He should get an aggressive ride from Paco Lopez from the rail, and that could mean a good position behind Shining Copper early. If he can run as well as he did in a strong second-place finish in this race last year, he is a threat to win, but I do believe another minor share is the more likely outcome.

1 – Twilight Eclipse [Lopez, Albertrani] – With Main Sequence on the sidelines, Twilight Eclipse was finally able to find the winner’s circle in the Man O’ War (G1). He is usually close to the pacesetters and with Paco Lopez taking the place of regular rider Javier Castellano he may be closer to the lead than usual. I can’t use him in the win spot, but he is usually part of the trifecta.

2 – Sycamore Lane [ML 15-1] - Looks to be legitimately ready to graduate to graded stakes racing considering his recent form. Unfortunately, this spot probably represents too big of a jump up in class. I’m also not too crazy about his prospect of being at his absolute best at the extended distance of 1 3/8 miles.

2 – Sycamore Lane [Lezcano, Mott] – The UN is major step up in class for this son of Artie Schiller. He has two allowance wins in a row but he has never run in a stakes race.

3 – Big Blue Kitten [ML 7-2] - Always a major threat to pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down in the late going, the seven-year-old ridgling has won 11-of-24 lifetime on the grass. He hasn’t won a ton lately, but I really like his recent form. He should get a whole lot more speed to run at here than he did when closing for second in the Manhattan. He should be at his best in his third race of the year, and the 2013 winner of the U.N. seems to like the Monmouth Park turf course just fine. Contender

3 – Big Blue Kitten [Bravo, C. Brown] – This Ramsey runner is back to top form in 2015 after having won the Fort Marcy (G3) and finished second in the Man O’ War. Joe Bravo has returned to the saddle. Those two combined to win the 2013 running of the UN. Look for Big Blue Kitten to make his big closing move and finish in the trifecta. Contender

4 – Shining Copper [ML 30-1] - A nice enough turfer, but boy oh boy have they picked a tough spot to stretch him out to 11 furlongs. He looks to have the early speed to lead the field for the first six or seven furlongs, but after that I can only wish him good luck. The parachute should deploy before they turn for home.

4 – Shining Copper [A. Castellano, Maker] – This Ramsey runner deserves to be every bit of his ML odds of 30-1. He was claimed for $50,000 at Saratoga last summer and has two allowance wins since then. He should set the pace and fade.

5 – Slumber [ML 5-1] - Finally broke through with a huge win in last month’s Grade 1 Manhattan. The ride from Irad Ortiz, Jr. was perfect that day. The thought of the horse who lost ten straight before that, stringing together back-to-back huge wins is not something I’m willing to back -- especially at lower odds against a stronger field.

5 – Slumber [I. Ortiz, C. Brown] – Last race was the time to have bet on Slumber, when he won the Manhattan (G1) at 14.10-1.  He added blinkers for this first time and he got his first win since 2013. I don’t expect Slumber to repeat that career best performance at Monmouth, but he still could get a piece of the money. Contender

6 – Main Sequence [ML 5-2] - The champ is back in the States, and as usual, he is strictly the one to beat. Back with Lasix, and in his comfort zone of American style pace scenarios, he looms a huge threat to repeat in this historic New Jersey turf race. For those not willing to play him at low odds, you do have all the travel, and the mediocre result in Dubai, as reasons why his winning streak in the U.S. might finally come to an end. That’s fine, but as we have learned many times, taking him lightly is a dangerous proposition. Contender

6 – Main Sequence [Maragh, Motion] – The 2014 Male Turf Champion and finalist for Horse of the Year returns to Monmouth park where he began his perfect campaign with a win in the UN. His 2015 win in the Mac Diarmida (G3) was followed by a disappointing performance in Dubai. I fully expect Main Sequence to win and stay unbeaten on American soil. It would be nice to get the 5-2 ML odds. Top Choice

7 – Imagining [ML 6-1] - The seven-year-old veteran has been knocking heads with these types for a few years with mixed results. On his best, he certainly has a shot, but on the other hand, his last race was not so good, and he has finished off the board in three of his last four starts. On the third hand, his two months off coupled with his excellent last workout have me thinking that Shug has him ready to roll in this spot. Coming in off a disappointing run last time, I expect him to go off higher than his 6-1 morning line odds. Johnny V has won on him before. Contender

7 – Imagining [Velazquez, McGaughey] – You can never fully discount the unpredictable Phipps runner. Last year he lost to Main Sequence three times, but he had a nice win in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream in March. I have never bet on Imagining and I won’t start today.

8 – Ashleyluvssugar [ML 5-1] - As good as this four-year-old gelding has gotten of late, liking him in this spot really comes down to whether or not you believe his competition in California is even in the same ballpark as what he will see on Sunday. Names like Finnegans Wake, Talco, and Going Somewhere in his recent winning streak make me think that his competition is at least in the ballpark. It’s never easy to come cross country and beat the best, but I think this tactical Peter Eurton charge has shown enough in 2015 to take a shot. Gary Stevens follows him to the Jersey Shore, and as a bettor, I am also willing to take a shot on the shipper. Contender

8 – Ashleyluvssugar [Stevens, Eurton] – This west coast star leaves California for the first time with a three race winning streak that includes a pair of grade two victories at Santa Anita. It has always been hard to ship east and win on the grass, but this year the Santa Anita turf course more resembled the east coast tracks because the grass was allowed to grow long and thick. Could be the favorites toughest competition. Contender

9 – Divine Oath [ML 15-1] - A consistent young turfer with five wins in 2014, he has not broken through yet with a victory this year. Nor has he scored a truly big win for trainer Todd Pletcher. I have little doubt that a Grade 1 win will eventually come for the Lets Go runner, but my confidence of him in this spot is just not there.

9 – Divine Oath [Trujillo, Pletcher] – This Todd Pletcher runner has been based at Monmouth Park. In 2015 he has been beaten by five of the others in this UN field. He is winless this year with his last victory in December in the McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream.


Brian $5 Exacta Box - Main Sequence, Big Blue Kitten, Imaging & Ashleyluvssugar ($5 exacta box 3, 6, 7, 8 = $60)

Matt – I see the United Nations as a four horse race with Big Blue Kitten, Slumber, and Ashleylussugar as the most likely challengers to Main Sequence. I have picked Main Sequence to win all of his American starts and I see no reason to do anything differently here.

For betting purposes I will look to the Salvatore Mile/United Nations Daily Double and make three $20 bets – Pants on Fire, Red Vine, and Race Day with Main Sequence ($20 DD: 2, 6, 8 with 6 = $60).

Meet Matt Shifman

In the 70’s I was another one of those kids that went to the track with their fathers, and I immediately became enthralled with the excitement and challenges of handicapping.  And then the charisma and dominance of Secretariat gave me a hero to follow. To this day, I still get emotional when I hear Chic Anderson’s call of the 1973 Belmont, “Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine”.

There have been many great horses run at the shore. In 1976 I watched Majestic Light win the Monmouth Invitational, now the Haskell, in track record time, defeating Honest Pleasure, the big favorite who was in from New York.  This was one of my first big wins at the track.
In the 80’s, as a disciple of Andy Beyer, I made my own speed figures because they were not available to the public. Needless to say I visited Monmouth frequently to test out the “figs”.
The 90’s allowed me to learn about the backstretch as a part owner of a few claimers that were stabled at Philadelphia Park.  Not a typical owner, I mucked stalls, cooled out the horses, and watched morning works.  Also, I met my wife and discovered that her grandfather bred, owned, and raced thoroughbreds on the West Virginia, Maryland circuit.  Today our office is decorated with winner’s circle pictures and a vast collection of Kentucky Derby glasses.
Today’s electronic age makes it so easy to gather information about racing.  I hope you use this blog to learn about Racing at the Jersey Shore.


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