The road to this year’s 3-year-old championship runs through
Monmouth Park on Sunday when a field of six lines up for the 45th
running of the $1 million Haskell Invitational (Grade 1), the signature event
of Monmouth’s summer season.
The Haskell, which has produced seven divisional champions
in the last 11 years, plus a Horse of the Year in 2009 winner Rachel Alexandra,
has drawn the leading 3-year-olds still in training, topped by Paynter, beaten
just a neck in the Belmont Stakes; Dullahan, third behind I’ll Have Another in
the Kentucky Derby, and Gemologist, winner of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in
Post time for the Haskell, which goes as the 13th
race, is set at 6:17 p.m. The race will be aired as part of the full-card
television coverage by the TVG network.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who scored a record fifth Haskell
victory last year with Coil, goes for his sixth Haskell win, and an
unprecedented three in a row, with Paynter, who has been made the solid 3-2
favorite on the morning line.
The mile and an eighth Haskell heads a card of 14 races on
Sunday, and is the richest of six stakes events to be run during the afternoon.
Other graded events on the card are the $200,000 Molly Pitcher (Grade 2) for
fillies and mares, which goes as the 11th race; the $150,000 Taylor
Made Matchmaker (Grade 3) for fillies and mares on turf, set as the 10th
race, and the $150,000 Oceanport (Grade 3), for older horses on turf, which
will be the 12th race.
Monmouth’s parking areas will open at 9 a.m., with admission
gates opening at 10 a.m. The first race will go off at 12 noon. Admission to
Monmouth on Haskell Day will be $5 for the grandstand and $8 for the clubhouse,
with seniors (55 and older) admitted to the grandstand for $3 and the clubhouse
for $5. Children 12 and under are free.
All paid admissions will receive a free 2012 Haskell cap
while supplies last.
In addition, all military personnel, in uniform or with
military ID, will be admitted free and will receive a free cap.
The day’s wagering program will include two special wagers
with guaranteed pools. There will be a 50-cent Pick 4 on races 10-13 (all
stakes) with a guaranteed pool of $250,000, and there will be a 50-cent Pick 5
on races 6-10 with a guaranteed pool of $100,000.
The first stakes event on the card is the $100,000 Majestic
Light, which goes as the seventh race. The other stakes event to be decided is
the $100,000 Teddy Drone (ninth race).
The Molly Pitcher, one of the most famous events on the
Monmouth schedule, will have its 67th running on Sunday. The mile
and a sixteenth event drew a field of nine, including Absinthe Minded, who ran
third in last year’s Molly Pitcher.
The Taylor Made Matchmaker, a unique event which offers
stallion seasons to the first three finishers in addition to the purse, will be
having its 46th running. The nine-furlong turf test drew eight
fillies and mares.
The Oceanport, being run for the 66th time,
attracted a field of eight, including Get Serious, winner of the 2010 edition.
Zayat Stables’ Paynter, a lightly raced colt by Awesome
Again, gets a new rider for the Haskell in Rafael Bejarano as he goes from Post
3 in the Haskell field of six. The Belmont Stakes was just his fifth career
start and he nearly stole the mile and a half test, losing by a neck to Union
Rags in the shadow of the wire.
Trainer Baffert has won the last two runnings of the Haskell
(Coil last year and Lookin At Lucky in 2010), and now has a total of five, more
than any other trainer. He had his first Haskell score with Point Given in
2001, and followed with War Emblem in 2002. He saddled Roman Ruler to win the
Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, trained by Dale Romans, who had
Shackleford finish second to Coil in last year’s Haskell, is coming off a
losing effort in the Belmont, where he went off the 5-2 favorite.
Prior to that race, he won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes and
then was third in the Kentucky Derby.
Dullahan gets regular rider Kent Desormeaux back aboard for
the Haskell as he goes from Post 2.
Gemologist is owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd
Pletcher, a combo that won back-to-back runnings of the Haskell in 2006 with
Bluegrass Cat and 2007 with Any Given Saturday. The colt by Tiznow was unbeaten
in five starts heading into the Kentucky Derby, but injured a foot during the
running of that race and finished far back.
Javier Castellano, who won the Wood Memorial on Gemologist
will be back aboard Sunday from Post 4.
Green B. Smith Jr.’s Nonios, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer,
won the Affirmed Handicap at Betfair
in June and last out was second in the Swaps. Corey Nakatani rides for the
first time. Hollendorfer will try for his second Haskell win. The Northern California trainer took the 1989 running with
John C. Oxley’s Stealcase, trained by Mark Casse, will be
looking for his first stakes win in the Haskell. Shaun Bridgmohan rides.
Handsome Mike has the same connections as Derby-Preakness
winner I’ll Have Another. He’s owned by Paul Reddam and trained by Doug
O’Neill, and his rider will be Mario Gutierrez. The son of Scat Daddy had his
best day when third behind Daddy Nose Best in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate, and has been sidelined since March.