By Brian Monzo
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This weekend is opening weekend down the Jersey Shore at beautiful Monmouth Park.

My favorite two meets of the year are obviously Saratoga and out in California at Del Mar. But ranking just below those is the meet at for the summer/early fall at Monmouth Park. The highlight of the meet is the $1 million Haskell for top 3-year-olds.

The Opening Day card features 12 races, including the 75K Decathlon, a 6 Furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.

Looking through the card, there are four races I particularly like certain plays.

Traditionally, I am a sucker for the turf races. I love the speed, and fortunately for me the second race of the day is 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 20K claimers

Race 2: 1/16 miles on the turf for 20K Claimers

Cool Under Fire tried the turf once and faltered badly. His three on the dirt were pretty good, as he hit the board three times. He has run well late and with the added distance and jockey Elvis Trujillo on board, I think he could be dangerous in this spot. Roars More gets a minor drop in class, and hit the board 5 times at Monmouth.  Should be off the pace, and a value exotics play. He’s Hollywood faces winners for the first time since breaking his maiden and figures to be the chalk.  Paco Lopez is no stranger to winning at the Shore, and should be a big player here.

Race 4: 6 Furlongs on the dirt for 25k Claimers (Fillies)

Firsttotheline has tremendous connections with Todd Pletcher and rider Joe Bravo. She was dominant in breaking her maiden at Calder and should fire here. Divine Protection comes back to the dirt (where she ran well) after not firing on the turf. Makes first run for Plesa after the claim and with Trujillo on the mount, I expect a good run. Horsin’ Around tries Monmouth for the first time and has hit the board at this distance twice in four tries.

Race 8: 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt for Optional Clamers for 50K

Micromanage is coming off two bad runs for Pletcher in the G1 Champagne and the G2 Remsen. Looks to capitalize here with Bravo on board.  Bellamy Beach hasn’t run since February, but figures to be the speed of the race. Has hit the board all three times at this distance. Exchange Partners has fired in three of four tries. Will try Monmouth for the first time since running in Parx. Is perfect at this distance, and should be heard from late.

Race 11: 6 Furlongs on the dirt. The DECATHLON 75K 

Saginaw scratched and will run Sunday at Belmont. Would have been excited to see him run in person. 18 for 37 in his career. Travelin Man will go off as the chalk for Pletcher with Bravo. Coming off a brilliant win in the Sir Shackleton and two back placed in the Teddy Drone at Monmouth. Should be placed close to the lead, especially with the second post position. Soaring Stocks has three wins at this distance and has won locally. Career .400 hitter is looking for first win since March of last year. Raging Daoust is four for four at Monmouth Park, but faces some stiff competition here. This horse loves to sprint, and if he runs his best, could find his way into the money.

The day is calling for scattered thunderstorms, so hopefully the weather holds up.

Will see you at the track!

Follow Brian Monzo on Twitter @BMonzoWFAN.

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