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Pedigree Power

Handicapping the Haskell


The Grade One Haskell Invitational is considered a prep-race for the Travers Stakes, yet often the fields for the Haskell are quite strong.  Previous winners include Kentucky Derby winners War Emblem, Big Brown, Preakness winners Rachael Alexandra and Lookin At Lucky, and Belmont Stakes winner Point Given.  Classic runner-ups Lion Heart, Peace Rules, Bluegrass Cat and Paynter also added the Haskell Stakes to their resume.

Since 2005, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher have taken home the most Haskell trophies. Baffert in 2005, 2010 – 2012; Pletcher in 2006 – 2007 and 2013.   From Coast to Coast’s Ashley Tamulonis and I team up to handicap the Haskell.




ENCRYPTION —Gets the home track advantage with all four of his career starts coming at Monmouth. He’s never been worse than 3rd, but he takes a huge step up in class when facing grade 1 company for the first time. In a field full of early running types, he may just be in even deeper than one would think. Pass.


ENCRYPTION - has improved his speed figures in each start.  He has speed from the rail and will likely gun to the lead along with at least three other colts. His pedigree for the distance is highly suspect and he was beaten like a read headed stepchild in his last two races by Albano and Irish You Well. Why, Mr. Breen, why? Pass.  


BAYERN —I’m going to cut to the chase here. Bayern is best at up to a mile. He completely floundered in the Preakness and I suspect the same will happen here. As a speedy sprinter, his presence will simply ensure a lively pace. Pass.


BAYERN - is California speed and could be the fastest colt in the field. He did the Baffert BBQ in the Woody Stephens, running them all off of their feet.  Baffert could have a very successful sprinter on his hands if he placed the colt where he fits.  Bayern’s perfect winning record is marred by only two races, a distant third place in the 1 1/8 mile Arkansas Derby (G-3) and a dreadful 21 length drubbing in the Preakness.   I’m with Ashley on this one. Pass.


ALBANO —Winner of the local prep, Albano obviously likes the track. The Jones trainee held his own on the Derby trail at Fair Grounds but faces a different, more difficult crew here. Also a speedy type, his run style looks to be his downfall rather than his saving grace with this crew. Pass.


ALBANO -  likes the track, but how good could his Pegasus Stakes result be? He beat Encryption, which isn’t too hard, since Irish You Well and Just Call Kenny have too. He’ll likely vie with Encryption, Bayern and Wildcat Red for the lead. However, unlike the others, I’ll tag him to hang on for a piece. Why? His late speed figures aren’t too bad, this is his second off of a lay-off, his works are the best in the field, and Larry Jones has 28% stakes winners this year. Plus, Albano’s half bro Mark Valeski won at 1 1/8 miles, as did their dam.



IRISH YOU WELL —Maybe it was the track. Maybe it was just experience. Either way, Irish You Well has been a different horse since arriving at Monmouth. Whether he continues to win remains to be seen, but Irish You Well is looking mighty dangerous these days. He has a pair of 3rd place finishes at the Haskell distance in graded stakes company and has improved since those two starts. Contender.


IRISH YOU WELL  - should have no difficulty stretching out to 1 1/8 miles. His female family is pure Claiborne breeding. Irish You Well is two-for-two at Monmouth and is shares the highest late pace speed figure in the field with Just Call Kenny. Who can beat Untapable if she stubs a hoof?  Maybe this colt. Contender.


JUST CALL KENNY—Comes in second off the layoff and did not do too shabby at all when returning from injury in the Long Branch Stakes. He finished 2nd to Irish You Well in that race and has had two nice bullet breezes in his last two recorded works. Never out of the exacta in 4 career starts, the Jump Start colt looked as though he could be a Triple Crown contender after winning the Spectacular Bid. If he sits right off the pace, he should get a nice trip. Consider for exotics.


JUST CALL KENNY  - if you like Irish Well, you have to like this guy. He gave that competitor all he could handle in the Long Branch in his first start off of the layoff and returned with a post-race bullet breeze. He should be fitter, stronger, and ready to roll.  Pay no attention to his trainer’s 0-13 second route race record.  Remember, Kenny can't die! Contender.


SOCIAL INCLUSION —I’ve never been on the Social Inclusion bandwagon despite him being by Pioneerof the Nile. Now, that’s not to say that he isn’t a nice colt, because he certainly is, but I just never saw what all the pre-Wood hype was about. Including the Wood Memorial, he’s finished 3rd three straight times in graded stakes company and is looking for a “breakout” race, so to speak. If he is part of the early pace like he was in his first three starts, he may not be around at the end. But at a nice price, he’s worth looking at. Maybe…


SOCIAL INCLUSION  - was the buzz horse entering the Wood Memorial after a huge record-setting performance at Gulfstream Park. So far, that’s been the highlight of his career, as Social Inclusion has a string of third place finishes in the Wood Memorial, Preakness and Woody Stephens. He regressed after the Gulfstream start in the Wood, and wasn’t in his customary position on the front end in the other two races.  With other speed in here, I don’t see Social Inclusion in front where he likes to be. He’ll likely maintain his place in the field – where ever you put him, he’ll stay there.  I didn’t like him in the Wood and I don’t like him now. Pass.


UNTAPABLE —Is she or isn’t she? The next Rachel Alexandra that is. We won’t know until after the race, but the fact remains that this is a special filly. She’s been beating up on her peers all year and will face a serious test, but it looks as though the boys will do all the heavy lifting for her and all she’ll have to do is sit her usual trip, stalk and pounce in the stretch. Contender.


UNTAPABLE  - has a very strong shot at joining the other two fillies who have captured the Haskell, Serena’s Song in 1995 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009.   Untapable is well on her way to joining the same league as these two Champions. While the eight colts facing her can barely string together back-to-back wins, Untapable is undefeated as a three year old and has conquered the filly division by a combined 31 lengths in four starts, including the previously mentioned Kentucky Oaks (G-1), Mother Goose (G-1), Fairgrounds Oaks (G-2) and Rachael Alexandra Stakes (G-3).  The bay daughter of Tapit owns some of the highest speed figures and she’s successful at 1 1/8 miles. Contender.


WILDCAT RED —He’s fast and he’s mighty. He’ll gun for the lead from the outside, and if he gets it, look out! Put a line through the Kentucky Derby, where he never had the chance to run his race, and you’ll see a colt that hates to lose. It will be a contentious race, but you better believe Wildcat Red will hang on for as long as he possibly can because he is all heart. Contender.


WILDCAT RED - Other than Untapable, there isn’t a more determined horse in the Haskell. He didn’t belong in the Kentucky Derby, and his pedigree really is better suited to 1 1/6 miles. This is Wildcat Red’s second foray out of Florida.  Is he purely a Gulfstream specialist, or can his speed carry him to the finish line first in New Jersey?  He’s drawn outside of the rest of the speed and he’ll last as long as he can. I think his outside post will be his undoing at this distance. Pass.


MEDAL COUNT —Ran a damn good race in the Belmont and I honestly thought he had no chance. Prior to his last outing, I considered him to be more of a turf or synthetics runner, but he proved me, and a lot of others I’m sure, wrong. So what do I do with him here? I have to give him a shot, especially since the son of Dynaformer is not a speed type. With so much speed in the race, things are looking to set up for a stalker or closer and he fits that bill. I’m not entirely sure I like him for the win, but you have to consider him for the exotics.


MEDAL COUNT – I’m still not convinced that he’s a true dirt horse. His pedigree and conformation say turf.  Yes, he finished third in the Belmont, but we didn’t see the race the same way Ashley.  Other than Tonalist, practically everyone else was staggering at the end. Medal Count has the lungs to handle the distance, but in his last four starts he’s been far back in the early stages and that doesn’t work with the speed favoring track bias at Monmouth. I see Medal Count passing tired horses at the end. Maybe he can grab a piece, but I’m not counting on it. Pass.



This is how I see the race setting up - ENCRYPTION, BAYERN, ALBANO, WILDCAT RED and maybe SOCIAL INCLUSION will all lunge for the lead. Bayern and Wildcat Red are the two fastest colts in the field. I see them hooking up on the front end with Encryption being pushed to join them. Albano and Social Inclusion will have their own duel going right behind the top two.  UNTAPABLE will be placed in a good spot behind the speed, but close enough to keep an eye on things. IRISH YOU WELL might sit to her inside, either a little ahead or behind, while JUST CALL KENNY and MEDAL COUNT follow.  Coming around the far turn, Untapable will unleash her powerful kick while the front runners are calling for oxygen tanks. Just Call Kenny and Irish You Well will be trying to keep up and Medal Count will be passing the tiring speed.  Depending on how fast they went early, one of the speedsters might get brave and try to hang on. In the end it is…


















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Meet Laurie Ross


I've been around horses for most of my life, working in racing stables as a hot walker and exercise rider in my teenage years, and later as a volunteer with rescued and retired racehorses. I became interested in pedigree when the sons and daughters of my favorite horses started their racing careers.   


For more than a decade, I've passionately studied pedigree, how it applies to handicapping and breeding theories. In 2010, I joined Horse Racing Nation as their Pedigree Analyst, focusing on juvenile stakes winners, Triple Crown contenders and first crop sires from a handicapping perspective.   


In 2011, I accepted the role of South Florida Coordinator and Advisory Board Member for the national non-profit Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association (ThoroFan). Working closely with Gulfstream Park management and other race fans, we created a ThoroFan Chapter at Gulfstream Race Track. Our main project is assisting Thoroughbred rescue and re-training groups.


I continue to maintain my website Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds and blog of the same name. As a pedigree consultant, I specialize in assisting small to mid-size breeding/training operations with broodmare breeding reports, sales catalog analysis and recommendations on claims and private sales. 10 - 20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue and retraining groups.
I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic please contact me at

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