Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky drew Post 1, Kentucky Derby
winner Super Saver drew Post 6, and the late-developing “now” horse Trappe Shot
drew the outside as eight 3-year-olds were entered today for Sunday’s $1
million IZOD Haskell Invitational (G1), traditional centerpiece of Monmouth
Park’s Elite Summer Meeting and a race that will produce the leading candidate
for championship honors.
In what is widely regarded as one of the most competitive renewals in the
Haskell’s 43-year history, Lookin at Lucky, with three Grade 1 victories, is
the favorite, but only at a lukewarm 5-2 on the morning line. To illustrate the
depth of the field, which also includes the horses who were second in the
Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Monmouth oddsmaker Brad Thomas made Super Saver,
a Grade 1 winner, and Trappe Shot, who will be competing in his first graded
event, co-second choices at 3-1.
In fact, there are no long longshots in the field, with every horse accorded a
decent chance to win the mile and an eighth test. Last year, Rachel Alexandra
was 4-5 on the morning line and won the Haskell in a romp as the 1-2 choice.
The complete field for the 43rd running of the Haskell, as drawn Thursday,
consists of Lookin at Lucky, Post 1, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Afleet Again, Post 2,
Joe Bravo, 12-1; Ice Box, Post 3, Jose Lezcano, 9-2; First Dude, Post 4, Ramon
Dominguez, 6-1; Our Dark Knight, Post 5, Elvis Trujillo, 15-1; Super Saver,
Post 6, Calvin Borel, 3-1; Uptowncharlybrown, Post 7, Rajiv Maragh, 15-1, and
Trappe Shot, Post 8, Alan Garcia, 3-1.
Lookin at Lucky, who has overcome adversity several times in a 10-race career
and famously couldn’t when he drew Post 1 in the Derby, once again drew the rail, which had
trainer Bob Baffert shaking his head.
“His name has jinxed him all his life with the draw,” said Baffert from his Southern California headquarters. “I can’t believe how
poorly this horse draws. He’s the most poorly drawn horse I’ve ever had.”
Baffert, who will be looking for a record fourth victory in the Haskell
Invitational, has borne sad witness to Lookin at Lucky’s total lack of luck at
entry time. The Smart Strike colt drew the far outside Post 13 in the Breeders’
Cup Juvenile last year * a winless spot at Santa Anita * and finished second.
Then, in this year’s Derby,
he drew Post 1 in a field of 20, again an impossible task, and ran sixth.
Baffert changed riders to Garcia for the Preakness, and this time “Lucky” drew
lucky Post 7 and scored by three-quarters of a length over First Dude for
owners Karl Wilson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman.
“Garcia had been working the horse (prior to the Preakness),” Baffert said of
the switch from Garrett Gomez. “He knew the horse really well. You can’t fire
the trainer, so we decided to switch riders.”
Baffert said Lookin at Lucky was coming into the Haskell in
top form, but knows his horse will have to work hard if he’s to become the
trainer’s fourth winner (following Point Given, War Emblem and Roman Ruler).
“I think it’s the toughest Haskell I’ve seen in all these years,” he said.
Todd Pletcher, who has won the Haskell for WinStar Farm with Bluegrass Cat and
Any Given Saturday, scored his first Kentucky Derby victory with Super Saver,
and then watched that Maria’s Mon colt finish 8th in the Preakness.
The trainer feels the Haskell will be Super Saver’s chance to move forward in
the race for 3-year-old honors.
“He’s training exceptionally well,” Pletcher said. “During the freshening, he’s
put on weight and gained strength. His mental outlook is excellent.”
Mill House’s Trappe Shot is the wild card in this running of the Haskell. The
son of Tapit did not break his maiden until Feb. 21 this year, but has won four
in a row now, including the Long Branch Stakes here on July 10 in his first try
going two turns. The Haskell will be his first start in a graded race.
“He is the ‘now’ horse,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, “and he’s won four in
a row. But he’s never run against Grade 1 horses.”
In Trappe Shot’s favor, McLaughlin said, is the fact that the colt has won over
the Monmouth track.
“We know he likes the track,” the trainer said, “and he should handle the
distance. But the competition is different. There are a few proven horses in
“Whoever wins this race will move to the head of the 3-year-old class,” he
Trainer Nick Zito has one of those proven horses in Robert LaPenta’s Ice Box,
who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby in March, and then overcame a world of
trouble to finish second to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby. The colt failed
to fire in the Belmont Stakes, however, and finished ninth.
“The Haskell’s a great race,” said Zito, “and this is the toughest Haskell I’ve
seen. But I’m hoping for an honest pace, so my colt can come with his run like
he always does.”
Zito will also saddle LaPenta’s Our Dark Knight, a Medaglia d’Oro colt who
loves running on or near the lead and will help insure that honest pace.
“He’s an up-and-coming 3-year-old and he’s at the best I can get him right
now,” Zito said. “He impressed me in his last race (a win at Monmouth on June
19). That was against older horses and he was very professional.”
Donald R. Dizney’s First Dude broke his maiden at Gulfstream
in February, and has not won a race since, but trainer Dale Romans has watched
the Stephen Got Even colt flash his speed to finish third in both the Blue
Grass Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), sandwiched around a spirited second
in the Preakness, less than a length behind Lookin at Lucky.
“He’s training very well,” Romans said. “He seems to have come out of the
Triple Crown as good or better than he went in. He doesn’t have to be on the
lead, but if he breaks sharply, he’ll be there. If someone wants to go, then he
can sit off.
“It’s a very tough race,” the trainer said. “The winner of the Haskell is going
to put themselves at the top of the 3-year-old class.”
Kiaran McLaughlin will also saddle Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, who
will be a sentimental favorite for some Monmouth fans in the Haskell.
The son of Limehouse, who won an ungraded stakes at Tampa Bay in January and
most recently finished a decent fifth (just 3 lengths back) in the Belmont
Stakes, became a McLaughlin trainee in May, shortly after the sudden death of
Monmouth regular Alan Seewald.
The only Haskell horse currently training at Monmouth is Cash Is King LLC’s
Afleet Again, who has finished third in the Spend a Buck and second in the
Grade 3 Pegasus for trainer Robert E. (Butch) Reid Jr. The trainer thinks the
home field will be to his advantage.
“He’s proven he likes this track,” Reid said, “and all he has to do on race day
is walk out of his stall and over to the paddock. No shipping at all. It’s a
big advantage to train here.”
Reid said another major asset for Afleet Again is the presence of Monmouth’s
leading rider Joe Bravo in the irons.
“Joe knows his way around this oval,” Reid said by way of understatement in
describing Bravo, 13 times Monmouth’s champion jockey. “He breezed this horse a
couple of times before his last race (the second in the Pegasus), and he
learned some things about him.”
Post Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1) Lookin At Lucky Bob Baffert Martin Garcia 5/2
2) Afleet Again Robert E. Reid, Jr. Joe Bravo 12/1
3) Ice Box Nick Zito Jose Lezcano 9/2
4) First Dude Dale Romans Ramon Dominguez 6/1
5) Our Dark Knight Nick Zito Elvis Trujillo 15/1
6) Super Saver Todd Pletcher Calvin Borel 3/1
7) UptowncharlybrownKiaran McLaughlin Rajiv Maragh 15/1
8) Trappe Shot Kiaran McLaughlin Alan Garcia 3/1