A solid field of seven three-year-olds will line up in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) led by three that competed in at least one Triple Crown race this season.
The Doug O’Neill trained Hot Rod Charlie is the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt was third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the runner up in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in his last outing. Flavien Prat has the return call on the sox of Oxbow.
The Brad Cox trained Mandaloun is the second choice on the morning line at 2-1. The colt won the Pegasus over the Monmouth Park main track in his last outing. He ran second in the Kentucky Derby at 26-1 and could be elevated to first if Medina Spirit is eventually disqualified.
“To win the Haskell would be huge. Just huge,” Cox said. ““He’s a good horse and he’s been training extremely well. This is where we belong. I love this horse.”
Mandaloun Wins Pegasus Stakes
Midnight Bourbon (9-2) was sixth in the Kentucky Derby and bounced back with a solid second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his last outing. Trainer Steve Asmussen will give jockey Paco Lopez a leg up.
“I expect Midnight Bourbon to break well, and I think a sharp break for him is essential,” said Asmussen, who won the 2009 Haskell with the filly Rachel Alexandra. “There’s speed in the race and I think that will make it very interesting to the first turn.”
The Todd Pletcher trained Following Sea (3-1) makes his stakes debut after earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure beating first level allowance company at 6 ½ furlongs at Belmont Park in his last outing. Joel Rosario has the mount.
The Haskell is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race. The winner earns a fees-expenses paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
The Haskell is one of six stakes on the Saturday card at Monmouth Park. Among the supporting stakes is the $500,000 United Nations (G1) which drew a competitive field of 10 that will travel 1 3/8-miles on turf.
Let’s head out to Monmouth Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Monmouth Park Race 12 The Haskell Invitational G1 5:47 ET
3 Mandaloun 2-1
4 Hot Rod Charlie 6-5
6 Midnight Bourbon 9-2
1 Following Sea 3-1
There was no doubt this guy was better than his sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and he bounced back in a big way in the Kentucky Derby (G1) where he was a game second, beaten a half length by Median Spirit and may end up the winner. The Cox trainee won the Risen Star (G2) back in February. Last out over the main track here he was bumped coming out of the gate and had to steady, tracked the early pace while three wide, came with a four wide bid and took over the lead in the stretch, holding on to win by a neck to win the Pegasus at 1 1/16 miles. The stretch back out to nine furlongs suits him and while he regressed numbers wise in his last, his last effort should set him up for a top effort here.
Hot Rod Charlie
The O’Neill trainee beat our top pick when winning the Louisiana Derby, then was a solid third in the Kentucky Derby. He earned a career top last out in a runner up finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) going 1 ½ miles. The colt set the early fractions while down along a deep inside and battled on gamely, unable to stick with Essential Quality late, beaten 1 ¼ lengths while 11 ¼ lengths clear of the rest of the field. The blinkers come off here and he figures to be chasing Following Sea early as that foe tries two turns for the first time. The colt is going to be tough in this spot but his price is going to be on the short side.
This colt was beaten by our top pick when third in the Risen Star, then beaten by our second choice when third in the Louisiana Derby. He was bumped around early in the Kentucky Derby and finished evenly in a sixth-place finish. He improved in the Preakness Stakes (G1) where he prompted the early pace, got clear heading for home and got run down by Rombauer. He has landed in the money in eight of his nine career start but is going to need a career top to land in the exacta here.