The 2017 Haskell: A Reminder of Where It All Started

Posted by Brian Skirka on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 6:09 PM
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For those of you who have ever read a Monmouth Park Blog over the years, you know that my endeavor into the world of horse racing began in earnest with a single horse: Hotstufanthensome.

 It was Haskell Day 2004 when we “met” for the first time.  That allowance win for the “cooly-named” Hotstufanthensome not only lead me to follow him for the next five years, it can absolutely be called the catalyst for a 12-year career of working at Monmouth Park. 

Roughly a year after that first winning bet on ‘Hotstuf’ I returned to Monmouth Park on my 20th birthday to watch him win the Elkwood Stakes.  He was ridden that day by a jockey I had never heard of – a rider that would be aboard Hotstufanthensome more than any other throughout his career.  He rode Hotstuf to a 14 ½ length win in the Cliff Hanger at the Meadowlands.  He rode him to a 19-1 upset in the Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream.  He was aboard for two just misses in the Oceanport on Haskell Day.

That rider was Rajiv Maragh.

Fast forward 13 years and Maragh will be riding at Monmouth Park on Haskell Day yet again.  Except this time, there are two differences.  We have ALL heard of Rajiv Maragh and the Breeders’ Cup winning jockey will be front and center in Monmouth Park’s biggest race – riding Jersey bred Irish War Cry in the Haskell.

For gamblers, horse racing is about making money.  It’s not about feelings or feel-good stories.  While I make an occasional wager, I also allow myself to “root” for people, horses and stories I want to root for. 

No matter what my handicapping comes up with on paper (it might be Irish War Cry for all I know because he’s a darn good horse), I will be rooting for Maragh and Irish War Cry.

The last couple of years I’ve watched the Haskell from the track apron.  This year will likely be no different.  In the moments before the race, I always like to turn back and look at the crowd.  When I look this year, my mind will be filled with memories of that day 13 years ago – when I sat in that same Grandstand on Haskell Day and watched Hotstufanthensome win.  Memories of the jockey that rode him more than any other. 

When I turn back around, that same jockey could be on his way to winning the Haskell.  Pretty cool.


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