Race of the Week 2017
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Racing At The Jersey Shore

Haskell 2014 - the Winning Running Style

The 2014 Haskell Invitational shapes up as a classic handicapping conundrum: is it a race for the horses that run on the front end or does it favor the stalkers, pace pressers, and closers? The race is filled with horses that have run the majority of their races on the front end, yet most of their trainers insist that they can sit behind the early speed.

Trainer Bob Baffert, the six-time winner of the Haskell, knows his horse is one-dimensional. Baffert said of Bayern, “He’s a speed horse wherever he is … his only chance is to be up front.”

Wildcat Red has run big races up on the lead including his most recent 10-length win on June 28th. However, his trainer Jose Garoffalo insists his horse can rate, “It was tough to rate him when he was young, but now he is more mature and can go behind the pace.”

Encryption has wanted the lead in all three of his 2104 starts. Trainer Kelly Breen insisted that he did not want jockey Paco Lopez to rush his horse to the lead. His plan for the Haskell is that, “We hope Paco will not chase Bayern.”

Kerwin Clark, the rider of Albano, said about his horse, “He’s very versatile. I have the utmost confidence in him.”

Social Inclusion had his best races when he ran on the lead in the first three races of his career. What will his connections do? Will they let him run free and easy up front or will they try and put a strong hold on this son of Pioneerof the Nile.

The rest of the field, the stalkers and closers, will be laying in wait, hoping to run down the tiring frontrunners. What does history say about the Haskell?

I did an analysis of every running of the Haskell since the year 2000. I looked at the running style of each of the winners and also what happened to the pace setters.

No horse has won the Haskell in gate to wire fashion since Lion Heart in 2004. His victory happened to be the third front-running win a row following Peace Rules in 2003 and War Emblem in 2002.  The Haskell has clearly been a race for stalkers with eight wins and the closers with three. Most of the time the early speed has collapsed after three quarters of a mile, finishing up the track. A few times it has hung on to finish in the money.

The Haskell has not been a race that has had close finishes because the early speed has been vulnerable and, thus, unable to sustain a competitive stretch drive. Since 2000, there has been no need for a photo finish with the shortest margin of victory being three-quarters of a length.

I think Wildcat Red is the only one of the pace pressers that will be around at the end of this year’s Haskell. Social Inclusion has a better chance of getting the distance than does Bayern. Baffert’s Jersey Shore magic will not be able to help Bayern this year. Untapable and Albano will be chasing down the front runners from a stalking position with Medal Count and Irish You Well closing from farther back.

My prediction is that this year there will be a close finish in the Haskell with maybe even three horses hitting the wire within a length of each other.

The $1,000,000 Haskell will go to the post at 5:45pm, race 12 on the 14-race card. If you don’t come out to Monmouth Park to get this year’s red Haskell hat, you can watch the race live on NBC. The Haskell is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Series, with the victor getting an automatic berth to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. 


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Meet Matt Shifman

In the 70’s I was another one of those kids that went to the track with their fathers, and I immediately became enthralled with the excitement and challenges of handicapping.  And then the charisma and dominance of Secretariat gave me a hero to follow. To this day, I still get emotional when I hear Chic Anderson’s call of the 1973 Belmont, “Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine”.

There have been many great horses run at the shore. In 1976 I watched Majestic Light win the Monmouth Invitational, now the Haskell, in track record time, defeating Honest Pleasure, the big favorite who was in from New York.  This was one of my first big wins at the track.
In the 80’s, as a disciple of Andy Beyer, I made my own speed figures because they were not available to the public. Needless to say I visited Monmouth frequently to test out the “figs”.
The 90’s allowed me to learn about the backstretch as a part owner of a few claimers that were stabled at Philadelphia Park.  Not a typical owner, I mucked stalls, cooled out the horses, and watched morning works.  Also, I met my wife and discovered that her grandfather bred, owned, and raced thoroughbreds on the West Virginia, Maryland circuit.  Today our office is decorated with winner’s circle pictures and a vast collection of Kentucky Derby glasses.
Today’s electronic age makes it so easy to gather information about racing.  I hope you use this blog to learn about Racing at the Jersey Shore.


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