One of the best days of the New Jersey racing season, if not the best day, is the Haskell Invitational Sunday at Monmouth Park. With past winners like American Pharaoh, Bayern, Rachel Alexandra, Big Brown, Point Given, and Holy Bull, among many others, this race has always been a summertime feature for the horses exiting the Triple Crown. Even with declining class at Monmouth Park, this day ends up being when the best of the best show up, and this year is no different. Even though the Jim Dandy ended up drawing the Derby and Preakness winners, the Haskell drew a contentious field from top to bottom, featuring horses like Timeline, Irish War Cry, and Girvin. In addition to the big race, Monmouth Park has five other stakes races on the undercard, capping off a 14 race program. Large fields in many of the races and champions coming in many of the stakes races, including Miss Temple City in the WinStar Matchmaker, this is sure to be a Haskell Sunday to remember.
This year’s Haskell may not have an American Pharoah, or a Nyquist v Exaggerator rematch, but it is still a great race nonetheless. Isabelle De Tomaso, daughter of Amory Haskell, the namesake of the race, owns the ML favorite and Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry (who has two half siblings running on the undercard). Chad Brown sends in his other top 3yos, Timeline (local prep winner) and Practical Joke, who both might be better than his Preakness winner Cloud Computing after his run in the Jim Dandy on Saturday. Kentucky Derby 3rd place finisher Battle of Midway returns after a win in the Affirmed at Santa Anita while Kentucky shippers McCraken and Hence try to invade. And don’t forget about Louisiana Derby winner Girvin who comes out of a career best performance in the Ohio Derby, just being beaten by Irap. Every horse in this field has a chance to win a wide open Haskell Invitational.
Besides the Haskell, Monmouth Park plays host to five other stakes races on the day, the WinStar Matchmaker, Monmouth Stakes, Molly Pitcher, Monmouth Cup, and the state-bred John J. Reilly Handicap. See below for my analysis of each race.
|3||1) 4- Sharp Azteca 2) 5- Scuba 3) 2- Just Call Kenny|
|MONMOUTH CUP (G3) – There is little reason to go against Jorge Navarro at Monmouth Park, especially with his stable star Sharp Azteca, who is coming out of the Met Mile. No one was going to beat Mor Spirit that day, but he still battled valiantly throughout the race and finished a solid second. Will be hard to catch him on the speed favoring oval.
Scuba tried this race last year but faced Monmouth loving Bradester. He comes into this race after having a mess of a trip in the Dominion Day from Woodbine last out; gets blinkers back on today.
Just Call Kenny will be the one of the three I’ll be using out of the Salvator Mile; wasn’t going to get to runaway winner Classy Class, but rallied impressively to come up to second. Should do better here.
|7||1) 3- Kharafa 2) 4- Irish Strait 3) 2- Money Multiplier|
|MONMOUTH STAKES (G2) – A hard hitting NY bred, Kharafa has battled many battles in his career. He came to Monmouth Park last year and was a neck behind Blacktype. “Jersey” Joe Bravo hops aboard here after a good tune-up at Belmont last time out. I can see him upsetting here.
It is already going to be a huge day for Isabelle De Tomaso, with Irish War Cry in the Haskell. She has Irish Strait here, winner of the local prep Red Bank last time out. Comes in fresh and looks to be the speed of this race. Might not be the same class as the others, but if he can shake loose, might be tough to catch.
Money Multiplier is the class of the field and would win this race, if it was longer; he hasn’t had the most success at 1 1/8 mi, and off the layoff, I will look elsewhere for on top; but if he fires, look out!
|8||1) 1- Chublicious 2) 3- Credo 3) 5- Fast Friar|
|JOHN J. REILLY HANDICAP – I can’t see past Chublicious. He has been running against much better in his last four and each race ran well. He needed the last race off the layoff and now should be fresh heading into the statebred race he won last year. He is one of the best NJ breds and should show up here.
Credo is my longshot of the day who I think is much better than 12/1; a cruising home winner last time out and two straight strong efforts, he gets Jose Ferrer aboard and finds himself in a good spot. He will have to contend with Visionary Ruler early, but if he can hold on, I like his chances here.
Fast Friar had a very sharp workout a few days ago and is in good form heading into this race. Having run against much better down at Gulfstream Park in the winter, he has been running very well at Monmouth Park in his last two and is poised for a good run.
|10||1) 6- Money’soncharlotte 2) 2- Carrumba 3) 3- Eskenformoney|
|MOLLY PITCHER STAKES (G3) – This is a very evenly matched field. Money’soncharlotte was running against lesser last year, but returned to stakes company last time out in the Lady’s Secret, easily out dueling. She has been putting in career best numbers her last two and looks to be in the form she needs to be to win here. Also, Paco Lopez tries for his third straight Molly Pitcher.
Carrumba comes out of the Fleur Des Lis Handicap, where Forever Unbridled looked much the best in her return. Carrumba has been running against good company this year and has been putting in good efforts against horses in form. She gets a bit of a class break here and Monmouth seems to be a track she may come to love, especially with local Nik Juarez aboard.
The third place runner from the Lady’s Secret and last year’s runner up, Eskenformoney gets Castellano back aboard and tries to break a streak of losses. She had a rough trip in the Lady’s Secret and looks to get a clean bid here. Pletcher wins at a 24% clip in 2017 with horses getting the blinkers back on.
|11||1) 2- Miss Temple City 2) 10 Wekeela 3) 3- War Flag|
|MATCHMAKER (G3) – My personal favorite Haskell undercard race, year in and year out, this race always brings a great group of distaff turf runners. Miss Temple City comes home after an awful trip to Royal Ascot. The England bounce shouldn’t affect her too much, as after last year’s trip across the pond, she came back to put in a near miss in the G1 Diana. She finds herself in a much easier spot and drawing outside of Wekeela. She looks to be the commanding horse early in this spot and will tough down the stretch. Should win easy.
Of course, if she does bounce, Wekeela finds the best chance to beat Miss Temple City. A Group 3 winner in France, Wekeela entered the Chad Brown barn last year and finished second in two Grade 1’s before being outgunned in the Diana. She just got up against much less in an allowance race last time out off the layoff and should improve after that tune-up.
War Flag is a Group 3 winner in France and entered the Shug McGaughey barn within the past year. He debuted her to an easy win at Monmouth last month and hopes that prep will be enough. While I’d love to see another race before taking her, I can’t see anyone who drew outside of her doing much. She has a lot of back class and loves to race.
|12||1) 5- McCraken 2) 3- Timeline 3) 7- Girvin|
|HASKELL INVITATIONAL (G1) – The feature of the day and the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the betfair.com Haskell Invitational came up well, drawing the likes of Timeline, Battle of Midway, and McCraken, and of course NJ bred Irish War Cry. Going horse by horse:
Irish War Cry will be getting a lot of money and deservingly so, not only is he a NJ bred and owned by Isabelle De Tomaso, but ran a career best race for second in the Belmont Stakes. He will be up near the front throughout, either dueling with Battle of Midway or just sitting off the lead. However, He is the type of horse that loves to bounce after a big effort (i.e. Fountain of Youth, Kentucky Derby) and looks to me to be a cheap speed horse. He won a Holy Bull in which both Gunnevera and Classic Empire lost all chance at the start and a Wood Memorial that came up really soft (even with Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who didn’t show up in the Jim Dandy). His Belmont second is probably his best race but who did he beat? Not much. He will end up being even money or less, and if he wins, so be it – I’ll pass.
Battle of Midway got recognition after following up his second place effort in the Santa Anita Derby with a third place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He then put himself in the conversation with a win in the Affirmed. Flavien Prat ships across the country for this mount and with good reason; he has a great chance. If Battle of Midway can get loose on the lead, the Monmouth Park highway should taking him home. I won’t use him in my top three as I think this is a much tougher field than last time, but a good chance here nonetheless.
Timeline is the class of the field in my opinion. Undefeated for Chad Brown, Timeline won the local prep, the Pegasus, in front running ease. He steps up against some of better 3yos, but he already likes the track and has tactical speed. A must use and my second choice.
Practical Joke is another for Chad Brown who is a monster at the one turn; but around two turns… pass.
McCraken gets the top choice from me. Scratch out the Kentucky Derby as he lost all chance at the start and you have a horse with fantastic running lines. The Blue Grass, albeit a very oddly run race where he just never looked like his old self, ended up being a very live race with Irap repeating that form in Ohio and Indiana. His last race, the Matt Winn, was exactly what he needed, and ended up being a very live race. Even with early trouble, he was able to pull away to an easy win. He has been good this year, but his best is yet to come; I think his best will end up being at the Shore’s Greatest Stretch.
Hence finally cemented his Sunland Derby run with a win in the Iowa Derby, after being easily beaten in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Maybe his Iowa and Sunland Derby self will come out, but he has been beaten by a combined 45 lengths in his other three stakes starts. Pass.
Girvin had a bumpy trip and fought very hard with Irap in the Ohio Derby, who would come out to win the Indiana Derby in his next start. Girvin may be losing Mike Smith and switching to Robby Albarado, who has never rode him before, but he is coming out of a live race and has shown to be versatile and fits very well with the top of this field. Could be found at a nice price in this race.