Shackleford 5-2 Favorite VS. 7 in Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell Invitational Sunday; Ruler On Ice, Pants On Fire, Coil Main Foes At Monmouth

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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OCEANPORT, N.J. – The race to the 3-year-old championship gets off to a rousing start here on Sunday as Classic winners Shackleford and Ruler On Ice head a field of eight in the $1 million Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell Invitational (G1), traditional centerpiece of Monmouth Park’s summer meeting. 

                Shackleford, winner of the Preakness Stakes for trainer Dale Romans, drew Post 5 and was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for this 44th running of the mile and an eighth Haskell. 

                Ruler On Ice, the Monmouth-based runner who upset the Belmont Stakes, goes from Post 6 in the Haskell and is 4-1 co-third choice on the morning line. Stablemate Pants On Fire, also trained by Kelly Breen, goes from Post 3 and is also rated at 4-1 by Monmouth oddsmaker Brad Thomas. 

                In addition to the winner’s share of the purse, the Haskell victor also receives a free entry into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5. 

                With Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom out for the season, Shackleford and Ruler On Ice (a son of 2005 Haskell winner Roman Ruler) are the pro-tem co-leaders of the 3-year-old division. However, any of the other Haskell entrants could move into contention quickly with a victory here Sunday. 

                Trainer Bob Baffert, who has already won a record four runnings of the Haskell, including last year with 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky, will send out a lightly raced runner in Coil. The son of 2001 Haskell winner Point Given drew Post 1 and is the 3-1 second favorite on the line. 

The complete field for this running of the Haskell, as drawn Thursday, consists of: Coil, Post 1, Martin Garcia, 3-1; Joe Vann, Post 2, Joe Bravo, 15-1; Pants On Fire, Post 3, Elvis Trujillo, 4-1; Concealed Identity, Post 4, Chris DeCarlo, 12-1; Shackleford, Post 5, Jesus Castanon, 5-2; Ruler On Ice, Post 6, Jose Valdivia Jr., 4-1; J J’s Lucky Train, Post 7, Paco Lopez, 20-1, and Astrology, Post 8, Julien Leparoux, 9-2. 

Shackleford, whose style of racing on or near the lead seems ideal for Monmouth, is in the right spot for the Haskell, trainer Dale Romans said. 

“That’s a perfect spot, right in the middle,” Romans said. “He’s been training great, and we’ll see what happens.” 

The son of Forestry (who was third in the 1999 Haskell) led almost the whole way before tiring late to be fourth in the Kentucky Derby. In the Preakness, he battled for the lead throughout and had enough left to hold off Animal Kingdom by a half-length. In the Belmont Stakes, Shackleford set the pace for more than a mile before tiring to be fifth behind Ruler On Ice. 

“We’re not going to take him back (in the Haskell),” Romans said. “If he’s on the lead, that’s fine; if he has to sit off the lead, that’s okay, too. 

“He’s had a pretty grueling year, but he’s still holding his weight and still looks great. His last two works (at Churchill Downs) have been spectacular.” 

Bob Baffert, who won last year’s Haskell from the rail with Lookin At Lucky, Martin Garcia aboard, was not totally thrilled with getting Post 1 again this year. 

“He’s been down on the inside all year,” Baffert said, “I was hoping for something different.” 

Coil has made only five starts in his life – all on synthetic tracks -- and was second by a head in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last out.  

“We’ll find out a lot more about this horse in this race,” Baffert said. “He’s been getting better and better as he gets older, though. He worked over the dirt track at Santa Anita, and Garcia said he thought he went even better than over the synthetic.  

“He’s been working really well at Del Mar,” the trainer said, “and we think he’ll run a big race.” 

Kelly Breen will saddle both Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire for George and Lori Hall, who live near the track in Rumson, N.J.  

Ruler On Ice, a $100,000 yearling purchase, upped his career earnings to $766,500 with his Belmont win, and is finally living up to the potential Breen has always seen in him. 

“I’m still on Cloud 9 from that race,” Breen said. “I always thought he was a topnotch horse, but he’s a test for any trainer. We added blinkers for the Belmont, and maybe that put him over the top.” 

Pants On Fire, a homebred son of Jump Start, won the Pegasus Stakes here on June 18, his prep for the Haskell. He gets a new rider Sunday in Elvis Trujillo because his regular jockey, Rosie Napravnik is injured. 

“Post 3 is a good spot for him,” Trujillo said, “because we can save ground. I won’t have to rush him out of there. We can just follow the speed.” 

Steve Asmussen, who won the Haskell in 2009 with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, said Astrology will have to step up a bit on Sunday. 

“We need him to run the best race he’s ever run,” Asmussen said about his A.P. Indy colt, who was third in the Preakness, nearly two lengths behind Shackleford. 

“I think the mile and an eighth of the Haskell is the ideal distance for him.” 

Concealed Identity, who will ship up from Bowie, Md., on Sunday morning, is trained by Eddie Gaudet. His wife Linda, who co-owns the gelding in partnership with Morris Bailey, said she thought Post 4 was ideal. 

“That’s pretty perfect,” she said. 

Concealed Identity, by Smarty Jones, finished 10th in the Preakness, but rebounded to run a sharp second behind Pants On Fire in the Pegasus Stakes. 

“We hope the race over this track helps him,” Gaudet said. “We were very pleased with the way he ran at Monmouth.  

“But he has to step up his game this time,” she said. “We want him to sit off the speed and finish strong, like he did in the Pegasus.” 

Chris DeCarlo, who rode Concealed Identity in the Pegasus, will be trying to win his second Haskell. His first came in 1986 when he was a17-year-old newcomer and guided Wise Times to an upset score. 

Todd Pletcher, who won back-to-back editions of the Haskell in 2006-2007 with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday, will send out Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann, who will ship down from Saratoga for the race. 

“He’s training well and coming up to the race in good shape,” Pletcher said.  

Joe Bravo, who rides Joe Vann for the first time, will be looking for his second Haskell win. His first came in 2004 aboard Lion Heart. 

Monmouth-based J J's Lucky Train will be the longshot in the field, but trainer Bill Anderson is hoping “horses for courses” prevails Sunday. The son of Silver Train has won two of his three career starts here. 

“He likes the Monmouth racetrack a lot,” Anderson said. “He’s a gutsy horse. He runs over anything.” 









Bob Baffert 

Martin Garcia 



Joe Vann 

Todd Pletcher 

Joe Bravo 



Pants On Fire 

Kelly Breen 

Elvis Trujillo 



Concealed Identity 

Ed Gaudet 

Chris DeCarlo 




Dale Romans 

Jesus Castanon 



Ruler On Ice 

Kelly Breen 

Jose Valdivia Jr. 



J J’s Lucky Train 

Bill Anderson 

Paco Lopez 




Steve Asmussen 

Julien Leparoux