The Million Dollar Haskell

The 2021 running of the $1 Million dollar, Grade 1 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park is Saturday July17th.

Conspicuous by his absence from the Haskell is the old mad scientist himself- Bob Baffert.

Baffert has Won the Jersey Shore’s signature race nine times. But Baffert is (for the time being) persona non grata at racetracks on this side of the country.

The 1 1/8-mile Haskell, in addition to the purse, also provides a Win-And-You’re-In spot to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This years contest drew a field of seven 3-year-olds.

The Haskell Stakes is race 12 on a card of 14. Here then is a closer look at the field.

1. FOLLOWING SEA [ML 3-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Joel Rosario. This guy was moved from the Baffert barn to that of Todd Pletcher before his most recent 6 1/2-length Victory in an Allowance at Belmont Park. Pletcher considered running him in the Dwyer (G3) but opted for the Haskell, a race that he Won in 2006, 2007 and with VERRAZANO in 2013. This is the Stakes debut of FOLLOWING SEA, and his first run around two turns. He is very talented, but can he rise to this challenge on Saturday?  

2. ANTIGRAVITY [ML 30-1] Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer. Jockey: David Cohen. His connections have gone back and forth about entering him in the Haskell. The ownership group decided to take a shot at getting 3rd- or 4th-place money in this $1 million dollar race. He was unable to break his Maiden in his first 10 starts while racing in Kentucky and at Oaklawn Park. But since coming to the Jersey Shore he is unbeaten. Hollendorfer Won the Haskell in 1989 with KING GLORIOUS.  

3. MANDALOUN [ML 2-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. He has four official Wins from his seven career starts, along with his 2nd-place finish in the controversial Kentucky Derby. He skipped the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes to prep for the Haskell. He won the Pegasus in June at Monmouth. Regular rider Florent Geroux was on board that day and got valuable experience riding in a very competitive race where he had to follow the New Jersey Racing Commission rule that has banned the use of the crop for encouragement purposes. That experience might be significant in what could be a close finish in this year’s Haskell

4. HOT ROD CHARLIE [ML 6-5] Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Flavien Prat. The 2nd-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes (G1) was impressive to watch. He set a fast pace and then battled down the stretch with ESSENTIAL QUALITY. The speed figures assigned to the top two in the Belmont confirm that their performances were outstanding. The 109 and 108 Beyer Speed Figures are the highest run by any 3-year-olds this year. He is a fast horse and the nine-furlong distance will not be a problem for the son of OXBOW. His speed figures have NOT digressed even once in his nine-race career since his debut a year ago at Del Mar. 

5. PICKIN’ TIME [ML 20-1] Trainer: Kelly Breen. Jockey: Nik Juarez. This New Jersey-bred will try to become the second state-bred to Win the Haskell since 1980. That drought probably continues here. He ran at Monmouth at the end of May, finishing last in a field of seven. Since then he has recorded four fast workouts. A pair of two-turn races did not produce good results. 

6. MIDNIGHT BOURBON [ML 9-2] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Paco Lopez. Has been off since his 2nd place finish in the Preakness. His connections wanted to have a fresher horse heading into the Haskell. His last Victory was in the Lecomte (G3) in January, but it is hard to fault his record since then, with excellent finishes in every race, including his 6th in the Kentucky Derby. He did finish behind MANDALOUN and HOT ROD CHARLIE in the Derby, and he has not earned at triple-digit Beyer. Asmussen Won the 2009 Haskell with RACHEL ALEXANDRA.  

7. BASSO [ML 30-1] Trainer: Gregg Sacco. Jockey: Isaac Castillo. This will be the first Haskell starter for the Monmouth Park-based trainer Gregg Sacco. This horse flashed his talent when he Won his debut at Monmouth last summer by eight lengths. His subsequent races as a 2-year-old were filled with troubled trips and immaturity. After taking the winter off, BASSO needed to get back to the track because Sacco prefers to race his horses into shape. This is a huge step up in class and he will be a significant long shot. 

SUMMARY: Although over-bet in the Preakness StakesMIDNIGHT BOURBON is likely the best Value in the Haskell Stakes. HOT ROD CHARLIE, MANDALOUN, and FOLLOWING SEA will take the majority of the money wagered.

There is no reason to think MIDNIGHT BOURBON is any worse than those other three names. At 9-2 he is a Value price considering his proven quality.

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