With Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another and Belmont winner Union Rags out of the picture, the three-year-old division is up for grabs as we head into the second half of the year, and Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park could produce the new leader in the clubhouse.
A field of six three-year-olds will line up in the Haskell, the 13th race of a marathon 14-race card that includes six stakes.
Trainer Bob Baffert is looking for the hat trick, having won the last two runnings of the Haskell with Lookin At Lucky and Coil, and will send out the 3-2 morning line favorite Paynter this year.
The colt looked like he was home free in the third jewel of the Triple Crown, but Union Rags caught him late to win by a neck.
Gemologist (3-1) was undefeated in five starts, but he was not at his best on the first Saturday of May, checking in 16th while finishing 20 lengths back of I’ll Have Another.
Another looking to rebound is Dullahan (3-1), who as a solid third in the Kentucky Derby, but regressed and finished a disappointing seventh in the Belmont as the 5-2 favorite.
Completing the field is Swaps (G2) runner up Nonios (7-2), Spiral (G3) fourth place finisher Handsome Mike (15-1)(not named after me), and Matt Winn (G3) runner up Stealcase (8-1).
My Best Plays Report includes five of the stakes from Monmouth Park along with my strongest plays from Saratoga.
The feature at the Spa this afternoon is the $200,000 Amsterdam (G2), which drew an evenly matched field of seven three-year-olds who will go 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Woody Stephens (G2) runner up Currency Swap is the 5-2 morning line favorite, with the biggest threat likely to come from Carry Back (G2) winner Fort Loudon, Western Larla victor Doctor Chit, and the Baffert shipper Gun Boat, who popped a big speed figure beating first level allowance foes at Hollywood Park in his last start.
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Let’s head out to Monmouth Park for Sunday’s featured race of the day:
Monmouth Park Race 13 The Haskell Invitational G1 (6:17 ET)
4 Gemologist 3-1
3 Paynter 3-2
2 Dullahan 3-1
1 Nonios 7-2
Analysis: Gemologist is looking to bounce back from a 12th place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) which was the colt’s first loss after starting his career winning his first five starts including the Wood Memorial (G1). The colt did not have the best of trips on Derby Day and came out of the race with a bruised foot. The colt has been freshened and sports a couple of bullet works, the last over the Spa main track. The colt owns old early and mid pace numbers and should get a perfect trip sitting just off the early pace. The Todd Pletcher barn is 30% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. The barn got off to a slow start at the Spa but is hitting here at a 30% clip for the meeting.
Paynter ships in for hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Haskell five times including the last two runnings with Coil and Lookin At Lucky. Paynter set the pace in the Belmont (G1) and looked clear but was run down late by Union Rags. He is now 0 for 3 in graded stakes but the cut back in distance here should suit him and he should be up front early chased by our top pick. There is nothing but bullet drills on the morning tab from this guy since his Belmont effort.
Dullahan was a disappointment in the Belmont, checking in seventh in a rather dull effort (no pun intended) as the 5-2 betting favorite. This guy is a two time Grade 1 winner, but both of those wins came on polytrack. He is 0 for 3 on turf and now 0 for 5 on conventional dirt. His running style is not exactly perfect for the main track at Monmouth Park.
Nonios ships in from the west coast for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and will be making his first career start on dirt. He is coming off a solid second in the Swaps (G2) behind a loose on the lead Blueskiesnrainbows. He was beaten 3/4 of a length while finishing a neck in from of Liaison, who ran third in the Jim Dandy (G2) yesterday at the Spa. The colt comes in here owning the top last out speed fig and if he takes to dirt he will be in the mix. Hollendorfer said most of his prep work as a juvenile was over dirt and he handled it well.
WIN: #4 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 3,4 / 2,3,4
TRI: no play