Strong Haskell Field on Sunday

The Haskell (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
MTH- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
July 29, 2018

The Haskell is one of those races we look forward to every year. After watching the excitement of the TC chase, it is often the race that many of the top contenders find themselves in afterwards, and this year has proven to be no exception. Pretty Ferro and Centerpiece will go head to head against the likes of Mist Maker, Blindfold, and other three year old stars. Other leading contenders chose the other top option this weekend, the Dandy at SAR. With these two races getting a good split of the division, some interesting storylines have developed for both of them, and here we are going to focus on the Haskell itself. This has been a race that has commonly seen KYD winners, as last year Shootfromthehip took home the win. Several years prior, a horse that Pretty Ferro was compared to after the KYD, Five Fives, would win the Haskell. In 2016, Carneyman, who was not able to pick up enough points to race in the KYD, though ended up winning the BEL, won this race, topping the likes of Black Mojo and Atomic Twister. Like Atomic Twister, in 2013 another great of the game went down when Commanding could only finish fourth, falling to winner Il Matt Kemp.

On the trainer side of things, the race has been a good opportunity for stables who are not some of the biggest names around to experience success. Broken Spoke Stables, Sharis Stables, and Avalos Racing have won this race, though the biggest names have not been entirely shut out. The Haskell is probably on the Top 10 list for Mb Stables of the biggest races that he has never won yet. Other then Commanding, though, at a quick glance it looks like the Dandy is more the race of the trainer for his biggest names, which could explain why both Indistinguishable and Dream Controlled are racing there, instead of here. K J Desormeaux has been a good jockey to have riding your Haskell horse, as he has won two of the last three editions of this race, but he will not have an opportunity to add to that here. The weather for the race should be fine, and that should be the case for the Dandy on Saturday as well. You may have noticed tracks in the northeast have been getting soaked all week, but the weekend is supposed to be good. There are ten going to the gate for this race, let’s have a look at them now!

#1- Charleys Agent (Mb Stables, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- Needs to recover from a pretty dismal showing last month at the Grade 3 OH Derby, where he ran flat and uninspired. It’s not too often that you see a horse out of this stable suffer from bouts of inconsistency, but it’s been the case with Charleys Agent. Go back a little further in his past performances, and you will see a pretty disappointing run in the TAM Derby, and if you still wanted to keep looking, it’s there in the RP Springboard Mile as well. When the good Charleys Agent shows up, he is formidable, as shown in victories in both the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington and the Grade 3 PIM Special. That side of him could be a challenger here, but will that side show up?

#2- Mist Maker (Crocker Ggs, ridden by F Pennington)- With Pretty Ferro in the field, it might be a little surprising to see F Pennington aboard Mist Maker, though sources have reached out to Estero Farms and confirmed that they opted for J R Velazquez, leaving Pennington searching for a ride. Of course, someone with his amazing resume will not have to search too long, and he hopes to be the difference maker in getting Mist Maker back to the winners circle. This has been a successful horse, and it can be hard to believe that he is lacking a win this year, still. Being an ON-bred allowed him to run in the Queens Plate last month, where he was second in a dead heat with Blindfold, who he will have close by again.

#3- Blindfold (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)– He will be as close to Mist Maker in the starting gate as he was at the finish line in the Queens Plate. Blindfold was successful during the prep race season, winning both the Grade 2 Holy Bull and the Grade 2 LA Derby. That would have seemed to set him up well for the KYD, but that race was a considerable disappointment for him. He may have simply not liked the mud that day, as he appeared to rebound quite well in the BEL, placing fourth. That led to the Queens Plate run where he was inseparable with Mist Maker. Most likely, he will be looking to come from off the pace in this one, and that could suit him well here.

#4- Regal Decision (Nakamura Stables, ridden by Alan Garcia)- Not everyone in this field has the glowing resume. While others were racing this spring in preps, if not the KYD itself, Regal Decision was running in allowances. He has one win from back in April where he won a maiden PA-bred by a whopping seven lengths, something which is always noteworthy, regardless of the level. That send him to CD in early May, but for an allowance. Now, with two wins in three starts, he is the horse of choice for the trainer as he tries to earn his second consecutive Haskell. Looking at his winning times, he shows the capability of being just as strong as anyone in here, and it always intriguing to watch one make this kind of leap forward. If it works out, the sky becomes the limit.

#5- Fox News (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by C J Lanerie)- Burst onto the airwaves this season after a modest two year old season by running fourth in the Grade 2 Holy Bull. At the time, the race represented a big jump forward in class for him, and he demonstrated he would be up to the task. His career shifted the right way after that, winning Grade 2 San Felipe at SA, creating further optimism about where his career headed. Then a month later, and at the same race track, Fox News was flat in the SA Derby. Which race would be the aberration then, the San Felipe or SA Derby, or is this simply an inconsistent racehorse? In the KYD, he was in the middle of the field. Instead of staying on the TC trail, D J C ran him on the BEL undercard in the Grade 2 Stephens, a seven furlong race, and he would get the win. While we would like for his past performances to be fair and balanced with consistent race lines, in actuality, he is a little tough to get a handle on. Works are excellent, but we can we trust him?

#6- Pretty Ferro (Estero Farms, ridden by J R Velazquez)- The road now points to the BC Classic for our KYD Champion. What a fantastic first half of the year it was for Pretty Ferro and his trainer, as he put together wins in the SA Derby, the Gotham, and others to mark him as the horse to beat in the KYD itself. When the posts were drawn for the race, he had an additional obstacle to overcome, as he drew post 20. It had been done once before, by Fusion, but coming at a time where no one was winning from the outside, and it was a tremendous obstacle. Pretty Ferro was up to the challenge, and scored an impressive two length win. That got many thinking TC with him, but in the PRK, he lost out in a close photo to Indistinguishable. In the BEL, his fifth place finish was the first time that he finished off the board as a gelding. Estero Farms is changing things up, taking F Pennington off of Pretty Ferro, and giving the ride to J R Velazquez, who was Indistinguishable’s rider. Velazquez has one ride on Pretty Ferro, that being his four length win in the SA Derby. It seems time for Pretty Ferro to return to the winners circle, and I believe that at this distance, we will see the best from him. He’ll need to be at his best, though, because of the formidable opposition he faces. Still my pick.

#7- The Spaniard (Big Jd Racing, ridden by T McCarthy)- About a week before Pretty Ferro won the KYD, The Spaniard was running in a seven furlong optional claimer at SA. It was his first race off of being claimed from Smokey Stover for $10.500, and he would run a very close second. With a little more distance in his next start, The Spaniard won a race with similar conditions. Adding even more distance saw him rout a starter allowance field right here at MTH earlier in the month. Based on this form, you can certainly see why this jump is being made. He was at SAR this past Saturday where he turned in a highly impressive mile work. Big Jd has done a lot with him since acquiring him, taking him off the grass, and removing the adds, and the results are stunning. If you want an outsider, pick him. For me, I’ll take my usual approach of wanting to see a race from him at this level first. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in him, though.

#8- Centerpiece (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- This is the time of year for a lot of excitement regarding early two year old graded stakes. Well, Centerpiece was the center of attention in two of them, winning both the Grade 1 Hopeful to close out the SAR meet, then the Grade 1 Champagne at BEL. Following those races, it was off to the BC Juvenile, and he would finish second. However, as a three year old, Centerpiece is still looking for a stake win. He did get an optional claiming win in February to prevent us from calling him winless. He has still been strong, running second in the Grade 2 San Felipe and then of course, was the runner up to Pretty Ferro in the KYD. You have the feeling he’s going to win a big race at some point before this year is over. Is this the one?

#9- Ride Or Die (Delta Farms, ridden by R J Albarado)- On a early April Saturday, it all came together for Ride Or Die. He had always shown plenty of potential, but as the trainer mentioned back then, there were some things that held him back. Delta Farms was confident in his ability to step up from running in (though not winning) allowances, and into the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. On that day, it was all riding and no dying for this colt, jumping out to the lead and going wire to wire for the win. That would earn him a spot in the KYD, but he would not be at his best that day. Some could have wondered then if the Wood Memorial was a fluke, but those doubts were erased in the PRK, with a sharp bounce back finish, being the third place finisher behind that classic Indistinguishable and Pretty Ferro photo. Ride Or Die has been resting since then, but the works have remained sharp. He won’t be a longshot in here, but he could be overlooked somewhat in this field, so certainly take a shot with him.

#10- Splash Mountain (John Henry, ridden by P Lopez)- This will be his debut for John Henry, who acquired him from Smokey Stover nine days after he ran third in the BEL as a part of that stable’s downsizing. Splash Mountain took a little longer then some of the others in here to develop, although he did make appearances in races such as the Grade 1 FrontRunner as a two year old, as well as the Smarty Jones this year. It was not until he was gelded did the results start getting better, and Smokey Stover make a late bid to get him into the KYD and it almost worked out, but his third place AR Derby was not quite enough. That did not matter a month later, as he would finish third in the BEL. He’s also a Jersey bred, so perhaps he can be a bit of a fan favorite here for this race. This is a pivotal race for him with his new trainer.

Prediction: 6-2-8-9

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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