Is There Life After The Haskell? I Say, YES!

Early in the summer I remember several of the Monmouth Park writers having a discussion about the quality of racing after The Haskell.  Which hearkens the question:  Is there life after The Haskell?
There is still a lot of very good horse racing this summer in some of the historic Jersey Shore stakes.
Will Blind Luck run in the Molly Pitcher Stakes?
On Saturday there are two great stakes races highlighted by the $250,000 grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes for three year-olds and up going a mile and an eighth. On the undercard is the Continental Mile for two year olds going one mile on the turf.
The Iselin is another one of the Monmouth stakes with a lot of tradition.  Beginning in 1884, the race was known as the Monmouth Handicap.  Later it became the Amory L. Haskell, briefly went back to being called the Monmouth, and in 1986, the final change to honor Philip H. Iselin, a past president of the track.  The Iselin has been won by major stars of racing: Nashua, Bold Ruler, Sword Dancer, Carry Back, Majestic Light, Spectacular BidSpend A Buck, Alysheba, Skip Away, and Ghostzapper.  In 1985, Spend A Buck set the stake record time of 1:46.20. Ghostzapper won the 2004 edition by 10 and ¾ lengths as he prepped for his victory that year in the Breeders Cup Classic.  Eddie Arcaro and Bill Shoemaker each won the race four times and Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons of Calumet fame had 3 victories.
Here is a quick rundown of the major players in the field of the 2011 Iselin.
Alma d’Oro is a Pletcher trainee coming off a win in the RRM Carpenter Stakes at Del. The prior race was a third place after going wide in both turns in the mile and a half grade II Brooklyn at Bel. All his races were in small fields.
Chirac won the Iselin in 2009, but he has only one win since in a $50,000 Prx claimer on a muddy track that was intended for the turf on June 12 of this year. That was followed by a last place in the Goodwood Cup at the same track.
The Wesley Ward trained Pleasant Prince comes out of a strong Mth win in a third level allowance optional claimer. Last year he won the Ohio and Oklahoma Derbies and had a bad trip 9th place finish in the Breeders Cup Classic at 63-1.
Ponzi Scheme had three wins in a row before finishing fourth in the mile and a half Goodwood at Prx. Two of those wins were in stakes at Mth and Del.
On Sunday, August 28, the $250,000 grade II Molly Pitcher Stakes for fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth will be run. Another race with a rich tradition, past winners include: Politely (twice), Jameela, Lady’s SecretPersonal Ensign, and Hystericalady (twice).  Pat Day and Shug McGaughey have each won the race five times.  This year the race runs the same day as the grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga. 
The big news is that the connections of Blind Luck are still considering the Molly Pitcher as they prepare for the Breeders Cup. It would be a less strenuous start then tackling the boys in the grade I Pacific Classic or possibly facing Havre de Grace in the grade I Personal Ensign. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer won this race in 2007 and 2008, with Hystericalady.
Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer, features six stakes races. On Saturday there is The Twin Lights Stakes for three year old fillies on the turf and the grade III $150,000 Sapling Stakes for two year-olds. The Sapling has a distinguished list of winners: Needles, Hail to Reason, Sir Gaylord, Buckpasser, Foolish Pleasure, Alydar, Bet Twice, and Smoke Glacken. D. Wayne Lukas has taken the race eight times.
On that Sunday Monmouth offers the $150,000 grade III Cliff Hanger Stakes and The Gilded Time.  Both are to be run on the turf with the Cliff Hanger going a distance of ground and the Gilded Time for sprinters.
The formerly graded $100,000 Sorority Stakes for two year-old fillies goes on Monday, September 5thRuffian won the 1974 running of the Sorority.  The preliminary stake on that day is the six furlong Icecapade Stakes for three year olds and up.
The summer at Monmouth closes with a great combination of turf and dirt races, contests for the juveniles and the older horses, and historic stakes races.  It doesn’t end there because racing continues at the Jersey Shore on weekends through November.
So is there life after The Haskell? You bet there is!
ABC’s of the Monmouth Hall of Champions -Today Open Mind – Open Mind was inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame last week. She ran 19 times winning 12 of them with earnings of $1,844,372. Open Mind was the Champion Two-Year Old Filly in 1988, and Three Year-Old Filly in 1989.  Open Mind won the 1989 Triple Tiara on the New York circuit. She won her first two races, which were restricted to New Jersey-breds, at Monmouth Park. Open Mind ranks 99 in the Horse Racing Nation 250 Top Fillies and Mares of All-Time with a 7.87/10 rating. 
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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