In the two most important races so far for three-year-old males since the book was closed on the 2011 Triple Crown, Coil and Stay Thirsty both turned in impressive performances to surge towards the top of the division. Yesterday it was Stay Thirsty who ran the best race of his life with an overpowering surge to run away with the $500,000 Jim Dandy by four lengths. Not to be outdone, Coil rallied strongly on the outside to run down a game Shackleford by a determined neck today to win the $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational. For both colts, it marked only their second stakes win of the season, but with about as mixed a bag of results as could be for the glamor division of American racing, they both placed themselves squarely in the race for an Eclipse Award at year's end. Moreover, each colt displayed their readiness for a run at August 27th's Travers Stakes. A race that could well decide the championship.
In the Jim Dandy, Stay Thirsty continued his great form in the state of New York. Looking very much like the easy Gotham winner, and Belmont runner-up, and nothing like the Florida and Kentucky Derby also ran, the son of Bernardini looked physically imposing as he sat comfortably just a few lengths off the pace set by Will Wildcat. By the time the Jim Dandy seven hit the Saratoga stretch, race favorite, Dominus had taken the lead, but Stay Thirsty was right with him and poised to strike. Strike he did, as he quickly took command and rolled home an easy winner in sharp time. It was the kind of win that displays a young horse is putting it all together this time of year. It was also the type of performance that demonstrates a horse's fondness for a racetrack. Clearly Stay Thirsty has never been better, and he likes things up at the Spa. He may be the horse to beat on the same track in the Travers.
Meanwhile in New Jersey … Breaking slightly slowly from the inside, Coil and rider Martin Garcia were content to ride the rail from last during the early stages of Monmouth Park's signature race. As race favorite and Preakness hero, Shackleford contested the early lead set by Joe Vann, Coil began to drive into contention. By the time the horses hit the far turn, the powerful chestnut was uncoiling a rally that would carry him around the field on the far outside. It looked for a second like Coil might roll on by everyone in mid-stretch, but Shackleford proved his class by giving the lightly raced Californian everything he wanted, before succumbing in the late stages of the Haskell. Out of the hodgepodge of sophomore males within shouting distance of division leadership, Coil might have the most upside. He has only run six times, and is obviously improving. He is a big strong son of champion Point Given, who now has demonstrated the ability to win races with different running styles. Coil is a threat not only in the Travers, but also in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Where do this division stand as of right now? Animal Kingdom is still the leader, but several are breathing down his neck. Since we know the Kentucky Derby winner will not race anymore this year, someone is almost certain to overtake him, considering how narrow his lead is. A Travers win by Stay Thirsty or Coil, or perhaps Shackleford or Ruler On Ice, would certainly create a new leader in the three-year-old championship race.
Having said all this … we all know who the best sophomore is, right? His name is Frankel.
[How high will these weekend wins propel Coil and Stay Thirsty up HRN's 3yo Power Rankings?]
Haskell photo by Matt Shifman