The Jury: Bets and fades for June 18

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TwinSpires Staff

June 17th, 2022

Haskell Preview Day at Monmouth Park tops the domestic sport this weekend, while the curtain comes down on the five-day Royal Ascot meet. The Jury, consisting of James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson, offer their prognostications on these events and more.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #7 Safe Conduct will bring speed to Saturday's Monmouth (G3), comfortably leading wire-to-wire over a nice allowance field at Belmont Park last out, and the 12-horse field lacks confirmed frontrunners. I will play him right back in this spot. Winner of the Queen's Plate last August, Safe Conduct did not make a serious impact in his next four stakes attempts, but he appears to have turned things around for Phil Serpe. Jose Lezcano sticks with the four-year-old, and Safe Conduct is listed at 15-1 on the morning line.

Kellie Reilly: Although I have a few ideas for Royal Ascot on Saturday, the action across the pond is too tough to qualify for a best bet. The Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth is also competitive, but #6 Princess Grace (7-2) has a lot of appeal in her seasonal reappearance. The comeback winner of the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) off a similar layoff last season, the Michael Stidham mare rallied for third to Regal Glory in her 2021 finale in the Matriarch (G1). She had no chance from a poor position that day, but will get a better trip with Florent Geroux, who's 2-for-2 with her.

Vance Hanson: #8 Curly Ruth (7-2) appears one of the classier fillies and mares entered in the $75,000 Romacaca S. over 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Hawthorne. Although she's disappointed in all three prior stakes attempts, note she does have four allowance wins to her credit, including an upset score over multiple graded stakes winner Fluffy Socks at Keeneland two back. She faded to seventh in the Modesty (G3) at Churchill Downs last time, but a lot of horses weren't handling that surface early in the meet and it was generally unfavorable to horses racing on or near the pace. This looks like an ideal spot to beef up her stakes resume.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: In Saturday's 10th race at Churchill Downs, a stakes-quality allowance for three-year-old fillies, #9 Tarabi will make her first start since a non-threatening third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Her lone win came at Ellis last August, and the stalker has lost ground in the stretch of her last two outings. Facing a couple quality rivals, Tarabi looks vulnerable as the 8-5 morning line choice.

KR: #3 Blue Stripe (5-2) could be vulnerable on the slight cutback in Saturday's Santa Maria (G2) at Santa Anita. The Argentine import needed every yard of 1 1/8 miles to get up in the Santa Margarita (G2), and she'll have to catch a few sharper rivals going 1 1/16 miles here. Her half-sister, 2019 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Blue Prize, was similarly more effective over further.

VH: The aforementioned #8 Fluffy Socks (3-1) is the morning line favorite in a competitive renewal of the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth Park, but it was that loss to the unheralded Curly Ruth, plus a recent tendency to settle for minor awards, that gives us cause for pause at a relatively short price. She's facing a good field that includes four-time graded winner Princess Grace and 2021 Eatontown winner Vigilantes Way, both highly capable sorts. Although scorching in divisional graded stakes across the country this year, the Brown barn has also been rather cold with its ship-ins to Monmouth so far this meet.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Interesting to see #4 Shirl's Speight switch from turf to dirt in Saturday's $150,000 Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth Park. Winner of the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) and Tampa Bay (G3) earlier this season, the five-year-old's three-race turf win streak came to an end with a fourth in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1), which produced the top two finishers in last Saturday's Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park, but one can easily excuse that performance. Shirl's Speight faces a tough task against Hot Rod Charlie, but he appears to be training forwardly over the Woodbine dirt training track and Roger Attfield must believe Shirl's Speight will have more to offer switching surfaces.

KS: Justify's first winner, #9 Tahoma (5-2), makes his stakes debut in the Fasig-Tipton Futurity Saturday at Santa Anita. The 2018 Triple Crown champ is already emerging as a freshman sire to follow. He nearly had a major chance at Royal Ascot with Aidan O'Brien's smashing first-out winner Statuette, but she ended up skipping Friday's Albany (G3). Thus Tahoma will try to become Justify's first stakes winner as well. The Doug O'Neill juvenile keeps Juan Hernandez aboard as he aims to beat the morning line favorite, stablemate #3 Absolutely Zero (8-5).

VH: The final Group offering of the Royal Ascot meet is the Platinum Jubilee (G1), a six-furlong dash that should prove quite the spectacle with 27 horses charging down the Heath. Perhaps this will be the right time to re-visit #16 Minzaal (12-1), who was arguably still a touch short when we endorsed him in the British Champions Sprint (G1) last fall, in which he finished two lengths third. A year-long layoff from the fall of his juvenile year to last October has forced him to play catch-up, but presumably hasn't hindered the potential he still possesses. This is a mighty task, but he should come on some from his season-opening third in the Duke of York (G2).