A Hall of Fame cast promises
a spectacular show at Monmouth
Park on Sunday, when seven
3-year-olds contest the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (G1),
traditional centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer meeting.
Verrazano, an impressive winner of the Pegasus Stakes
(G3) here last out, drew the outside Post 7 and was installed the slight 9-5
favorite by Monmouth oddsmaker Brad Thomas. Oxbow, winner of the Preakness
Stakes and second in the Belmont Stakes, goes from Post 5 and is the 2-1 second
Trainer Bob Baffert will go for an unprecedented seventh
Haskell victory – and fourth in a row – with Power Broker, who drew Post 4 and
is third betting choice at 3-1.
The others entered in Sunday’s 46th running of
the mile and an eighth Haskell are Golden Soul, second in the Kentucky Derby,
Post 3, Robby Albarado, 8-1; Micromanage, winner of the Long Branch at Monmouth
in his last start, Post 6, Joe Bravo, 6-1; Vyjack, a multiple stakes winner earlier this year,
Post 1, Paco Lopez, 12-1; and, Pick of the Litter, who exits a third place
finish in the Lexington Stakes on April 20, Post 2, Jesus Castanon, 15-1.
year’s Haskell has a Hall of Fame glow, with two of the trainers and two of the
riders members of racing’s shrine in Saratoga
Wayne Lukas, who trains Oxbow, joined the Hall of Fame in 2007. Lukas will be
looking for his second Haskell victory. He saddled Serena’s Song to victory in
the 1995 running, and that champion filly is also in racing’s Hall of Fame.
will be ridden Sunday by Gary Stevens, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1997.
Stevens, who is making a comeback this year after retiring from racing in 2005,
rode Horse of the Year Point Given to a Haskell victory in 2001, and was also
the rider of Serena’s Song.
Baffert, who entered the Hall in 2009, has his 11th Haskell starter
in Power Broker. The trainer has won Monmouth’s greatest race six times – Point
Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), Lookin at Lucky (2010),
Coil (2011) and Paynter (2012).
trained by Lukas protégé and future Hall of Famer (when he hits the 20-year mark)
Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by John Velazquez, a 2012 Hall inductee, who won
his first Haskell in 2006 aboard Bluegrass Cat for Pletcher.
was made the Haskell favorite off his tremendous performance in the Pegasus
Stakes here on June 16, when he drew off to win by more than nine lengths for
his fifth lifetime win in six starts. The only blemish on the colt’s record was
his disappointing 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Sullivan, a partner in Let’s Go Stable, which owns Verrazano in partnership
with Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, was on hand at
Thursday’s draw and said the outside post was perfect for the More Than Ready
didn’t want to be down inside,” Sullivan said, “and we would have picked the outside
post if we had a choice, so we’re happy.”
a Rumson, N.J., resident, said the Kentucky Derby was a lot to ask of a lightly
threw a lot at him in a short time this year,” he said. “He went from an
unraced 2-year-old into the Derby,
which is an incredibly tough race.
right after the Derby,
we drew a circle around the Haskell as our goal, and we used the Pegasus Stakes
to get here. That race showed us he likes this track a lot. If he can duplicate
that race, we’ll be in good shape on Sunday.”
Stevens, who has ridden Oxbow in his last four starts, including the Preakness
victory, said post position was not a concern for the colt.
post never seems to matter with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a one-dimensional
horse who carries some good speed, and I just try to stay out of his way.
looking for a big effort from him Sunday,” the rider said. “I talked to Wayne and he’s happy
where the horse is right now.”
changed his mind several times before finally deciding to send Power Broker to
horse is in the air right now, so there’s no turning back,” Baffert said from
his base in Del Mar, Calif. “I was thinking about some other
spots for him, but he worked so well the other day, that I changed my mind and
sent him East.
Haskell is a very tough race, but I think he deserves a chance. We don’t know
how good he is, but this will be a good gauge.”
said that starting from the middle of the field will be fine, as long as Power
Broker gets away cleanly.
break is very important,” Baffert said. “If he can break well and get a comfy
spot, he’ll be up there with those speed horses.
(Napravnik) knows this horse really well, so I’ll let her ride her race.”
said he’ll be watching the Haskell on television, instead of taking in the
festive Haskell Day atmosphere and eating hotdogs from Max’s in Long Branch for luck.
a great atmosphere,” he said. “The fans love it, Monmouth is a beautiful
facility, and the Haskell is always an exciting race. I told my assistant Jimmy
(Barnes) that he’d better go to Max’s and eat two hotdogs for luck.”
Soul, who rallied from far back to be second at 34-1 in the Kentucky Derby, is
trained by Dallas Stewart, another D. Wayne Lukas assistant who has gone on to
a successful training career. Stewart said that given Monmouth’s reputation as
a speed-favoring track, he expects his colt to stay in touch during the early
would expect him to be no more than seven to 10 lengths back early in the race,”
Stewart said. “He can make his run from there.
horse looks right now like he’s on his game. I’m very happy with him coming
into the Haskell.”
Bravo, who won the Haskell aboard Lion Heart in 2004, said Micromanage showed
in the Long Branch
that he deserves a chance Sunday.
got pushed far out on the clubhouse turn,” Bravo said. “I don’t think I’ve ever
been that close to the valet parking lot before. I thought our race was over,
but at the three-eighths pole, he tells me, ‘Hey, jock, hang on and let’s go.’
he can duplicate that race, we’ll be in good shape Sunday.”
Pick of the Litter
D. Wayne Lukas