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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
31 Lengths

The Haskell: Calling All Closers


The Haskell may still be eleven days away but the probable field appears to have taken shape. Nine three-year-olds could be facing the starting gate on the evening of the 27th, and with a bit of a feminine twist.


The cat was let out of the bag on Monday when it was announced that Untapable would be heading to the Jersey Shore to take on the boys in the Haskell Invitational next out and is looking to become only the third filly to cross the wire first in the 46th running of race, alongside 2009 champion three-year-old filly and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and 1995 champion three-year-old filly Serena’s Song. Untapable will not only be bringing a difference of gender to New Jersey’s greatest race; she also brought more speed into what already was an absolute speed fest.


The Haskell could set up to be a race begging for a closer, if it fills out as expected. Seven of the nine probables have proved to be either frontrunners or pace stalkers in their more recent starts.


The fleet footed Wildcat Red, who only finished worse than second when off the board in the Kentucky Derby, blazed home to a 10 ¼ length triumph last out in the Quality Road Stakes at his home track of Gulfstream Park. Aside from the Kentucky Derby, a race in which he never got to the lead following a bobble and bump at the start, his largest losing margin came as a neck in the Florida Derby and has proven to be tenacious when on the front end.


Social Inclusion, best known for defeating the highly regarded Honor Code by 10 lengths in a Gulfstream allowance while setting an 8.5f track record of 1:40.97, brings a record of three straight third place finishes in graded stakes company to the shore's greatest stretch. The beaten favorite by 3 ½ lengths in the G1 Wood Memorial, beaten 8 lengths as the second choice in the G1 Preakness, and most recently the beaten favorite by 7 ½ lengths in the G2 Woody Stephens, Social Inclusion will attempt to regain his Florida form and do more than complete the trifecta when tackling the Haskell. One thing to keep in mind, since Social Inclusion began his stakes foray he’s never been able to use his most lethal weapon to its fullest potential…his speed.


Albano is fresh off a 6 ½ length score in the local graded stakes prep, the G3 Pegasus. Only off the board once, when elevated to 4th in the Louisiana Derby, the Larry Jones trainee looks to follow in the steps of Skip Trial and Verrazano and complete a Pegasus-Haskell double. The son of Istan will be making his Grade 1 debut in the Haskell.


Bob Baffert, king of the Haskell, is bringing Kaleem Shah, Inc.’s Bayern to the east coast again in hopes of extending his Haskell record to seven wins. Bayern proved his early year flash of promise actually was no fluke when lighting up the Belmont Park stretch as a blowout winner of the Woody Stephens, stopping the clock in 1:20.75. Bayern will attempt to stretch his speed out to 9f, something he failed to do when coming off a two month layoff as the beaten favorite in the Arkansas Derby, but has really appeared to come into his own last out and could only continue to improve.


Kelly Breen's Encryption is the newest addition to the list of Haskell probables and is quite familiar with Monmouth, having made all his starts at the Jersey track. Third after setting the early pace in the Long Branch and second to Albano in the Pegasus, the Stoneway Farm runner will be making quite the class jump with only one career win to his name and is throwing even more speed into the cauldron.


Donegal Racing’s Irish You Well seems to have found himself at home since moving to Monmouth Park. He was graded stakes placed before even breaking his maiden, finishing third in both the G3 Illinois Derby and G2 Peter Pan. Following his 6 ¼ length loss to eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist in the Peter Pan, Wayne Catalano moved his charge to Monmouth where Irish You Well broke his maiden next out by 7 ½ lengths before returning to win the track’s other stakes prep for the Haskell, the Long Branch Stakes.


Untapable is putting her 4-4 seasonal record on the line when facing the boys for the first time. She’s won all of her starts this year by a combined 31 lengths and looks strong in becoming Steve Asmussen’s second filly to cross the wire first in the Haskell. Untapable looks like the one to beat and could likely be the favorite by post time.


Virginia-bred Just Call Kenny is one of only two probables who has proven to be a closer in the past. The lightly raced son of Jump Start sports a record of two wins and two seconds in four starts. Following a last to first shocker at odds of 19-1 in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at the beginning of the year, Just Call Kenny was out of action for six months before returning with a strong second place finish in the Long Branch Stakes when finishing only a half length behind Irish You Well.


Medal Count, seen last out finishing third in the Belmont, is the second half of the expected closers to make the Haskell field. Many considered Medal Count a turf/synthetic horse at best before his third in the Belmont, beaten only a length by Tonalist. Trainer Dale Romans believes Medal Count is sitting on a big one and he may just get the pace scenario needed to land his first G1 victory.


With expected speed from Wildcat Red, Social Inclusion, Bayern, Albano, and Encryption, along with the pace pressing tactics from Irish You Well and Untapable, the Haskell appears it may end up being a race that’s calling for a closer, or a race calling for a potential upset from Just Call Kenny or Medal Count. Only one week away from when entries are taken, Monmouth’s premier race may hit you with a gust of wind when viewing its entrants. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride to the beginning of the major 3-year-old summer stakes…and just be sure you’re holding onto your hat, this one is going to go by fast.


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Meet Averie Levanti:


Averie Levanti has been an enthusiast for racing ever since she read Bill Nack's Secretariat in early 2011. After falling in love with the popular Shackleford, racing quickly grew to become her passion. Soon discovering she had a love for writing, she began to share some of her articles through HRN. 

In January of last year she fell in love with Princess of Sylmar, and, after following her through her rapid growing success, showed her enthusiasm for the filly through a simple poster board. Being noticed by Ed Stanco and meeting the filly lead to a whirlwind of events which eventually lead to being named as the 2013 Tim Reynolds Memorial Fan of the Year.

Now proudly a part of the King of Prussia Stable team, Averie is only beginning to embark on her dream of achieving a lifelong career in horse racing and hopes to make a name for herself through her writing and her growing interest in photography.

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