The $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park serves as important event on calendar for 3-year-olds and Sunday’s race has added importance due to the wide-open state of the division. Always Dreaming, who is entered in Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, remains a slight leader by virtue of wins in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Florida Derby (G1), but championship honors figure to be decided in the second half of the season.
Six of the seven runners competed in the Kentucky Derby but the Haskell lacks the star power of the Jim Dandy, with Preakness winner (G1) Cloud Computing also opting for the race at Saratoga, and Belmont Stakes (G1) victor Tapwrit is training up to the August 26 Travers (G1) along with 2-year-old champ Classic Empire. It still shapes up to be a good betting race with an accomplished cast, including four who are exiting graded stakes victories.
Irish War Cry dropped his last appearance, recording a commendable runner-up in the Belmont Stakes. He didn’t fire when 10th in the Kentucky Derby, but the Curlin colt posted convincing wins in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Holy Bull (G2) earlier this year and is eligible to come on in the late summer/fall for Graham Motion. The Haskell serves as an important goal for the New Jersey-bred colt, who is owned and bred by Isabelle Tomaso, the daughter of Monmouth founder Amory Haskell and Irish War Cry has been installed as the 5-2 favorite with Rajiv Maragh.
Chad Brown will send out a pair in Timeline and Practical Joke, the respective 3-1 and 4-1 second and third choices on the morning line.
Timeline missed the Triple Crown but brings a 4-for-4 record into his first Grade 1 appearance, easily winning the Pegasus (G3) at Monmouth on June 18. Rain appears likely over the weekend and the front-running colt has shown an affinity for a wet track, posting convincing wins in the Peter Pan (G3) and an allowance race. The son of Hard Spun retains the services of Javier Castellano.
Fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Practical Joke rebounded with a sharp two-length score in the July 8 Dwyer (G3) at Belmont. The multiple Grade 1-winning juvenile still hasn’t won at two turns, but the Into Mischief colt recorded a good second in the 9-furlong Blue Grass (G2) this spring. Joel Rosario rides.
McCraken was eliminated at the start of the Kentucky Derby, eventually checking in a troubled eighth, but the Ian Wilkes-trained son of Ghostzapper exits a confidence-building victory in the June 17 Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs. Listed as the 9-2 fourth choice, the late-running colt will try to make an impact from off the pace with Brian Hernandez.
Kentucky Derby third-placer Battle of Midway comes next at 5-1. Runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), the unraced juvenile was overlooked at 40-1 at Churchill Downs and followed the commendable performance with a 4 ¼-length romp in the June 24 Affirmed (G3) at Santa Anita. Flavien Prat will be in to ride the Smart Strike colt for Jerry Hollendorfer.
Girvin and Hence were both unplaced in the Kentucky Derby, but the sophomores will enter the Haskell off encouraging performances. Girvin missed by a nose in the June 24 Ohio Derby (G3) to Irap, who came back to romp in the Indiana Derby (G3) and is headed to the Travers, and Hence closed last-to-first to win the July 7 Iowa Derby (G3) going away.