Trainer Doug O’Neill said on Sunday that Handsome Mike is
headed to the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational and Mario Gutierrez will
ride the colt, who is owned by J. Paul Reddam. Handsome Mike and the jockey
will partner for the first time.
O’Neill, Gutierrez, and Reddam are the same connections for
the recently retired I’ll Have Another, who won this year’s Kentucky Derby and
“Both Mario and Handsome Mike are ready and raring to go. We
are really looking forward to this race at Monmouth,” said O’Neill by phone
from his base in Southern California.
Handsome Mike, a son of the hot young sire Scat Daddy, last
raced at Turfway Park on March 24, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Spiral
Stakes on Polytrack. On Saturday (July 21) O’Neill worked him six furlongs over
the Cushion Track at Hollywood
under his regular exercise rider and the colt fired a bullet of 1:11.80 for the
fastest move of 11 horses at the same distance.
“It was a great, great work. He’s fantastic,” said O’Neill. “Handsome
Mike is a very versatile colt. He’s got
speed and he’s also got the ability to track if need be. I expect him to run
In other Haskell news, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry
Hollendorfer confirmed that Nonios will also be in the starting gate when the
45th edition of the race is run on Sunday, July 29.
The son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect
had been competing in graded stakes at Hollywood and comes into the Haskell
with a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap and a solid second in the Grade 2
Swaps Stakes in his last two starts. In the Swaps, he earned a triple digit
Beyer Speed Figure while losing by less than a length to the Bob
Baffert-trained Blueskiesnrainbows. Baffert will send Belmont Stakes runner-up
Paynter to the Haskell.
Post positions will be drawn on Thursday at noon. While the
field is still taking shape, the connections of Kentucky Derby third place
finisher Dullahan and Pegasus Stakes winner Le Bernardin have also confirmed
their participation. Possible runners include Wood Memorial Stakes winner
Gemologist, 2011 Juvenile champion and Iowa Derby victor Hansen, Long Branch winner My
Adonis, Matt Winn Stakes runner-up Stealcase, and several other top three-year-olds.