The original Haskell headliners of Bodemeister and Union Rags are out, but the
$1,000,000 purse has quickly attracted a new cast of characters.
Bob Baffert has simply switched which Zayat Stable
star will show up on New Jersey racing’s biggest stage. Baffert will be
expecting a great performance from Paynter as he goes for his sixth Haskell victory and his third in a row. Paynter has been brilliant in his
California rehearsals. He has fired off three straight bullet works with the
most recent coming on July 19th at Del Mar when he went six furlongs
handily in 1:13.20. On Sunday
Paynter was seen schooling between races in the Del Mar paddock. Paynter last
raced in the Belmont Stakes when he was caught at the wire by Union Rags.
Dale Romans has had Dullahan on the path to the
Haskell for the past two months. Dullahan has been training extremely
well with his most recent bullet work of :59.80 happening on the dirt at
Churchill Downs. Romans feels his
horse is ready, “He’s going to be very live in there (the Haskell).” Regular rider Kent Desormeaux will be returning to the saddle.
The recent addition of Handsome Mike to the Haskell field will
bring the I'll Have Another team
back to the East. Handsome Mike is owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O'Neill. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Mario Gutierrez will be the rider. Handsome
Mike has not raced since March 24, when he finished fourth in the Grade 3
Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
On the heels of a Hollywood Park bullet
work of 1:11.80, O’Neill commented, “It was a great, great work. He’s
fantastic. 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 very
well. Both Mario and Handsome Mike
are ready and raring to go. We are really looking forward to this race at
Also coming in from the west coast is
the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee,
Nonios. Nonios has run only four times with three wins including the grade
three Affirmed Stakes at Hollywood Park in June, where he defeated Liaison and
Holy Candy. On July 4th, he finished second in the grade two Swaps
behind Bob Baffert’s Blueskiesnrainbows.
Trainer Mark Casse has made a commitment to the Haskell for his owner John
Oxley, but those connections have to decide whether they will send Prespective
or Stealcase to the Jersey Shore. “We still haven’t decided,” said trainer Mark
Casse. “Mr. Oxley is here and we will talk it over to decide which one will
Prospective has won his last two starts in the Victoria Park Stakes at Woodbine and the
Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Stealcase was a troubled second in the grade three Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has confirmed the
entry of Darley’s Le Bernardin in
the Haskell. The horse’s name
comes from his sire Bernardini and honors the famous New York City restaurant
of celebrity chef Eric Ripert. Le Bernardin won his most recent race at
Monmouth Park in the grade three Pegasus.
The connections of Wood Memorial winner Gemologist have yet to make their decision between the Haskell and
the Jim Dandy. Pletcher has been
dominating stakes races at Monmouth. “We haven’t decided yet,”
trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It’s the same thing that goes into every racing
decision; where you think you have the best chance to win. We are considering
entering both spots.”
Gemologist, who won
his first five races, has not run since a foot bruise was discovered after his
disappointing finish in the Kentucky Derby. This son of Tiznow has been
training brilliantly in Saratoga. After two recent bullet works Pletcher said, “I
thought he breezed as well this morning as he’s ever breezed. He’s always been
a good work horse, but he was exceptionally good this morning.”
the Haskell are Kelly Breen’s My Adonis and Michael Maker’s Hansen. At this point both of those Triple
Crown participants seem to be unlikely entrants.
Final entries and
the post position draw for the July 29th Haskell will take place at
noon on Thursday. I will be on
Twitter to report the field, so be sure to follow me @AndyScoggin. Let’s end by watching Bob Baffert’s 2011 Haskell
victory with Coil.