Contenders Continue Preparations for $1 Million Haskell

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Oceanport, N.J. – The contenders for the $1 million Haskell Invitational were out on the track either at Monmouth or Saratoga on Friday morning and some were scheduled for afternoon lessons as they were fine-tuned for Sunday’s Grade 1 race at Monmouth Park.

            In post position order, the following is a recap of the activity: 


·        Nonios, who arrived in perfect order on a flight from Southern California with fellow participant Paynteron Thursday evening, stretched his legs during an easy gallop before the break under trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s regular East Coast exercise rider Abel Flores. He was scheduled to school in the paddock prior to the third race on Friday afternoon. “Everything went perfectly this morning,” said Christina Jelm, the racing manager for owner G.B. Smith, Jr. “He just went out and looked around and jogged to the paddock. He also stood in the gate and jogged home. What we did today was to set up tomorrow, when he will gallop a mile and a half.”


·        Dullahan went out after the break for a gallop of two miles under an exercise rider for trainer Dale Romans and he was set for paddock schooling before the second race on the afternoon card. Dullahan was named for a headless harbinger of death in Irish folklore and since he made his first start as a 2-year-old last June, his name has been pronounced, and mispronounced, in a variety of ways. “The correct way to say it is ‘DUH-la-hahn,” said Jerry Crawford, the managing partner for owner Donegal Racing, who said he will arrive in New Jersey with a contingent of supporters on Saturday night. “I mispronounced it as “DOOL-a-han” for a year. Then, before he ran in the (Kentucky) Derby, I started getting phone calls and emails from Ireland. They said, ‘Hey, pal, if you want to be Irish, you’ve got to learn how to say it right.’ We’re all very excited about this race.”


·        Paynter went out before the break for what Jimmy Barnes, the assistant to five-time Haskell-winning trainer Bob Baffert, termed an “easy gallop” under exercise rider Juan Pisaro.  Barnes added that the 3-2 morning line favorite would school in the paddock before the first race on Friday. Paynter, the runner-up in the Belmont Stakes, is being housed in Kelly John Breen’s barn and Barnes will saddle him on Sunday.


·        Gemologist remained at Saratoga under the watchful eye of trainer Todd Pletcher, who said he would not ship the Wood Memorial Stakes winner until the morning of the Haskell.


·        Handsome Mike, who arrived on Tuesday from Southern California and is also staying in Breen’s barn, galloped around the Monmouth oval on Friday morning. Jesus Gomez, one of Breen’s regular exercise riders, said, “He went good. He is feeling really good and is a happy horse. He won’t school today.” Trainer Doug O’Neill will travel to Monmouth to saddle the colt for owner J. Paul Reddam. 


·        Stealcase remained with trainer Mark Casse’s contingent of horses at Saratoga and even though there was significant rain in upstate New York on Thursday night, he went out on to the track Friday under Melanie Giddings, who is engaged to Casse’s son and top assistant Norman. “He went a mile and five eighths,” said Casse, when reached by phone while in transit from his Woodbine division to Saratoga. “I love our post, Stealcase is doing great and we’re ready. We’ll ship down from Saratoga on Sunday morning.” 

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