The Haskell (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
MTH- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
July 30, 2017
The Haskell is truly one of the great races of the summer. It’s history in the real world is impressive, and in our virtual world we have also had our share of great moments. Last year’s winner, Carneyman, was a great example of that, as many people were still not convinced by his win in the BEL the month prior, at 55/1 odds, that he still went off at 47/1 for the Haskell. While we all rightfully make fun of the odds in this game, there was likely a pick ‘em that day, so we could have bet him down if we had the confidence in him. Carneyman has remained very competitive and still is, but that win the Haskell is still the last race that he has won. In 2010, the great Five Fives made his way to MTH off a scintillating nine length win in the BEL, and took home the Haskell, and even followed it up by winning the Travers after that. The list of past winners for this race can take many of us down memory lane, for sure. In 2017, we will have a field of ten going to the starting gate, and it’s a group that should provide us a very entertaining race. We’ve seen these names before, but let’s take a look at how they are going right now!
#1- Shen Valley (Keikowin Racing, ridden by J Bravo)- This colt should get some extra love from the crowd, being the lone New Jersey-bred in the race, and I venture to say without looking it up that the race has not had a lot of NJ-breds in it. He’s been a recognizable name in many of the top races, but he is still has not won anything other then his maiden. The journey after that still has been impressive seven finishes in the money in 12 starts, and to his credit, the trainer has not backed down with his placement, as far a keeping him at the graded level. Early this year was not kind to him, but he did rebound with a third in the Grade 3, $100.000 Winn at CD. This is a horse to root for, and you’d be happy if he won. But to put money on him here, may be more difficult.
#2- Hidden Slew Laff (Gdp Inc., ridden by I Ortiz Jr.)- You have the feeling that Ortiz had a few options for this race, so his decision to ride Hidden Slew Laff shows a high level of confidence in the young gelding. Hidden Slew Laff is still getting started, you could say, with just six starts to his credit, but four of them have ended up with him in the winners circle. The most recent race was a victory in the Grade 3 OH Derby last month. Ortiz made the trip to TDN to ride him for the first time last month, and it resulted in a one length victory over solid opposition, which included Slither. They join forces here again at MTH, and while the OH Derby is a nice win, it doesn’t carry the prestige that the Haskell does. He may be a new rival to some of these top horses in the division, but they’ll be seeing him a lot more, regardless of the outcome here.
#3- Lord High Admiral (John Henry, ridden by R J Albarado)- This colt will be best remembered so far for this spring performance down at OP, which punched his ticket to the KYD. In March, he defeated a solid field at the $900.000 Grade 2 Rebel, and followed that up a month later win a win in the AR Derby, over the likes of Jolly Be Native and The Force Awakens. He did this with an impressive closing style, including a rally from six lengths out at the top of the stretch to win the Rebel. This got a lot of people excited that he was going to love the longer distance of the KYD, and he would be made the post-time favorite for the race. That race did not pan out for the trainer the way he would have liked, though he was not horrible at the same time. That also holds true for his effort in the PRK. I would be happy to look past those race, but the run at the IA Derby early this month was a disappointment. He should have been better there. This will be a great spot to rebound.
#4- Shootfromthehip (Nakamura Stables, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- The winner of the 2017 KYD looks to continue to add to his trophy case this summer, and the first stop will be here at the Haskell. What a great season it has been for this Knowledge Geek gelding, and it started well before the KYD. Success was also had in the prep races, winning the Grade 3 Southwest down at OP, before taking what always seems to be the strongest prep of them all, the FL Derby in April. If that’s all he had done this year, we are still talking about a great horse, but on the first Saturday of May, he was able to accomplish what we all dream of, and won the KYD. Two weeks later, perhaps he didn’t like the short turnaround, or maybe it was just because he was drawn to post 14, but the PRK simply did not work out for him. Never fear, he bounced back nicely in the BEL, finishing second (in a dead heat, of course). Since then, he’s been allowed to rest for these great summertime races. As a Saratoga fan, hopefully we see him in the Travers as well, but he certainly looks good here in the Haskell.
#5- Level Charge (Wolfs Den, ridden by J Rosario)- Next to the KYD champion, we are going to have a pair of up and comers. While many in this field were running in TC prep races, Level Charge was just beginning to show the world his talent at the allowance level. In mid-April, going long for the first time, he won an open allowance at WO against older competition, and that got the trainer thinking big. He would be off to the Peter Pan, a Grade 3 race at BEL the week between the KYD and PRK which always seems to be a good feeder race for late bloomers into bigger races. He was not intimidated by his opponents, and would win that race as well, earning a 99 SRF. Level Charge did run in the BEL after that, but would be a non-factor. If you believe that you have to lose one before win a big one, then maybe that was the race. Level Charge has the ability, but is he a tough bet in a field of more well known names? High risk and potentially high reward type.
#6- City Ball Drop (Pan Farms, ridden by J R Velazquez)- A very lightly raced City of Angels colt, with just four races thus far. He made his debut on the free scene in January, and disposed of the opposition without much difficulty. The trainer was so impressed by that, that he was immediately entered into the Wood Memorial at AQU. Sure, in April, if you think the horse has a chance at the KYD you got to make that attempt, but it was still a gutsy move by Pan Farms. City Ball Drop ran in the middle of the field, finishing 6th, so despite being off the board, Pan knew he had a good one. He would win the Queenston Stakes at WO for ON-breds, against three rivals, and would try the prestigious Queens Plate at that same race track earlier this month. The track came up on sloppy, and City Ball Drop’s performance was dismal. How much of a pass do we give him for the slop? That’s your decision at the betting window.
#7- Ginger Haggis (The Sidley Stud, ridden by J R Leparoux)- This is a very well known colt that had a two year old season that was truly special. In it, he won six of eight races, which included a victory in the BC Juvenile. It is part of his already $3,200.000 in career earnings, a figure that will keep on growing. Last year, the Haskell was won by Carneyman, who was also a defending BC Juvenile champion, so The Sidley Stud will be hoping for more of the same, and there is no reason not to believe in him. 2017 has continued to be a success, which was highlighted by his victory in the PRK. While the KYD did not go as envisioned, the PRK represented a tremendous rebound, and he followed it up well by finishing in a dead heat with the KYD winner for second at the BEL. Like Shootfromthehip, Ginger Haggis has also been resting since that race as he prepares for his summer season of racing. As great as this horse is, there a small inconsistency red flag that must be put on him. Just a small one, but it should be noted that from time to time, he’s had a couple head scratcher runs as well. Let’s hope that does not happen here and that we see him at his best!
#8- Dust In The Wind (Mm Racing, ridden by R Bejarano)- There might not be another place to mention it here in the SRF, so we want to take this time to congratulate the trainer on the fantastic run that he had with Attraction, one of the greatest mares in the game, who was retired after running in the Diana at SAR last week. Mm Racing now looks for his next great horse, and a Dust In The Wind victory here can give him that honor. He’s an experienced gelding, with 16 starts thus far, and three ending up as wins, but he has not raced at the graded level yet. There have been a few tries at the ungraded ranks, included his last start which was a win in the Long Branch BC right here at MTH, doing so by four lengths. It was a great run that will cause some attraction to it. Let’s see how he follows it up here.
#9- Nick (Gdp Inc, ridden by P Lopez)- This Mordred gelding is also rather inexperienced at this level, with just one graded stake run in to this point, running second in the Grade 3 Affirmed against three rivals. It was not the strongest race, and honestly seems unworthy of the name Affirmed attached to it. He has won one of six career races thus far, with the lone win his maiden race at FL where he annihilated the field. Since then, he has shown a good ability to finish in the money, but he’s never run against this type of opposition before. He’s a good horse, but this is a tough one.
#10- Positive Thinking (Mb Stables, ridden by J L Ortiz)- The Haskell is a race that Mb Stables has not won yet, so we know he’d love to erase that statistic with a win here, and he brings a great horse to do it with. Positive Thinking had a strong prep race season, taking the Grade 3 Lewis at SA in February before winning the SA Derby there a couple months later. This sent him to the KYD, and the slop was not to his liking. A month later though, he won the biggest race of his career, becoming a BEL champion. He accomplished this victory with a perfectly run race coming from behind to get the win, beating the two other TC winners in the process. Thrillingly, this gives us all three TC winners here in the Haskell. Unlike the other two, who have been resting since the BEL, Positive Thinking has raced since, taking his shot at the Queens Plate earlier this month. How’d he do? Well, remember what we said about him and the slop. Weather forecast calls for 40% chance of rain on Sunday, with 90% on Saturday. Time for Mb Stables to do a little positive thinking in regards to rain!