Head to Head: Handicapping the Haskell Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the Haskell Stakes
Photo: Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO

The Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Stakes drew a field of seven, highlighted by the trio of Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Mandaloun, Belmont (G1) runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, and Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon. With all the controversy surrounding Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit, a victory in the Haskell would be a good start in determining a leader in the 3-year old division as we continue through the summer and into the fall.

 Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast take a look at the field and determine which of the Triple Crown runners-up have the best shot at taking down the Haskell.

 

LAURIE

ASHLEY

1. FOLLOWING SEA (3-1)

Following Sea is a talented sprinter. His pedigree (by Runhappy out of a stakes-winning sprinter by Speightstown) suggests 1 1/8-furlongs is too far. I predict that he’ll take them as far as he can, then fade.

 

Following Sea gets the coveted rail, which is producing winners at a 22% clip. Trainer Todd Pletcher wins at a 26% rate when stretching his charges out to a route race. This colt looks to be talented, but he faces some salty and accomplished foes here.

2. ANTIGRAVITY (30-1)

After playing the bridesmaid since March, Antigravity found Monmouth to his liking, floating to back-to-back victories. Unfortunately, he’s taking a huge step up, and there’s not much family class to indicate he belongs. Pass.

 

Monmouth sure seemed to agree with this son of First Samurai. Prior to arriving on the Jersey Shore, Antigravity made eight unsuccessful attempts at getting his picture taken. Since making his first start at Monmouth last month, the colt has won two straight. Apparently that was good enough for Jerry Hollendorfer to take a shot here, but I believe Antigravity is in over his head.

3. MANDALOUN (2-1)

Mandaloun has taken turns in the winner’s circle with Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon. He has tactical speed and can sit anywhere. Stating the obvious, but not much more to say.

 

The sole blemish on the Kentucky Derby runner-up’s record is an uncharacteristic 6th in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He followed up his superb effort in Kentucky with a win in the Pegasus here at Monmouth, giving him a bit of an edge on some of the competition. Look for the Brad Cox charge to make his presence known.

4. HOT ROD CHARLIE (6-5)

Here’s the chink in Hot Rod Charlie’s armor. So far, he only wins when he is on the lead. He’s finished behind Essential Quality, Medina Spirit, and Mandaloun. I think he’ll be stronger at 1 1/8-miles, though, and he sure is a pretty horse. 

 

Doug O’Neill is taking the blinkers off Hot Rod Charlie for the Haskell. The son of Oxbow won the Louisiana Derby (G2) en route to a third place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and a second place finish in the Belmont (G1). The cutback in distance should help, but Following Sea will have some say in regards to who gets the lead. Hot Rod Charlie has the class to prevail, however, and boasts the highest speed figure in the field.

5. PICKIN' TIME (20-1)

Pickin' Time is one of the Haskell’s “Why?” horses. I’d like to see what he can do on turf, ‘cause since turning three, we’re still waiting for him to pick a time to win.

 

Pickin’ Time had an up and down juvenile year, winning the Nashua (G3) but losing the Saratoga Special (G2) in spectacular fashion. He has only raced twice this year, finishing fourth in the Mucho Macho Man in January and seventh in the Jersey Derby in May. He lost those two races by a combined 33-lengths. His speed figures do not compare favorably with the rest of the field. Pass.

6. MIDNIGHT BOURBON (9-2)

Midnight Bourbon is game and almost always hits the board. However, despite this and his pedigree to handle classic distances, his only wins are at 1 1/6-miles and shorter. Would love to see what he could do as a miler. Vote him most likely to fill out the exotics.

 

Like Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon comes into the Haskell fresh off the Triple Crown. Unlike those two, however, Midnight Bourbon has not raced since his runner-up effort in the Preakness (G1), giving him a two month breather. The cutback in distance will likely play in his favor. However, like with Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon only wins when he has the lead. It will be interesting to see who ultimately sets the pace, but look for Midnight Bourbon to hit the board regardless.

7. BASSO (30-1)

Basso has been beaten by Antigravity and Pickin' Time. Enough said.

 

Basso won on debut but has not had his picture taken since, notching losses to Antigravity and Pickin’ Time. His speed figures are the worst in the field. Pass.

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: The Haskell sets up as a match between Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie. I’m tossing Mandaloun’s Louisiana bomb. The Kentucky Derby was a more accurate test, and Mandaloun out gamed Hot Rod Charlie. Hopefully, both will run their race, and we’ll see an exciting finish. I expect a chalky finish.

Ashley: It is always exciting when this much talent shows up in the same race since the big names tend to avoid each other. Following Sea has speed from the rail but should expect the experienced and accomplished Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon to contest the pace. Mandaloun will be right in behind that trio ready to pounce in the far turn and into the stretch. There is a huge class gap between those four and the three “fillers.” Like Laurie, I anticipate a chalky finish, making this a fun race to watch but not bet.

SELECTIONS

Ashley

 

Laurie

 

#3 MANDALOUN (2-1)

#3 MANDALOUN (2-1)

#4 HOT ROD CHARLIE (6-5)

#4 HOT ROD CHARLIE (6-5)

#6 MIDNIGHT BOURBON (9-2)

#6 MIDNIGHT BOURBON (9-2)

#1 FOLLOWING SEA (3-1)

#1 FOLLOWING SEA (3-1)

 

 



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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