Seven Set for Haskell; DQd Derby Winner Maximum Security Heavily Favored
With Heat Safety Protocols In Place, Monmouth Park Determined To Run
By Margaret Ransom
A field of seven talented 3-year-olds will go postward in the 52nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
The 1 1/8- mile Haskell guarantees the winner a spot in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 2 as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” series.
With the oppressive heat bearing down all down the Eastern Seaboard and into the mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley causing multiple tracks to cancel at least Saturday cards over concerns for safety of the horses, riders and patrons, Monmouth Park has decided to trudge forward with their marquee card and has instilled extra safety protocols.
Some of the measures include extra medical personnel, stationing ice containers throughout the track, extra hoses for horses to be cooled down before and after races and a misting system in the paddock. Post parades will likely be shortened to keep horses and jockeys out of the sun and if the heat and humidity get too oppressive, delays in post times may be implemented.
“Our priority will be the safety of the horses, jockeys and our fans,” Dennis Drazin, Chairman and CEO of Darby Developments (the operators of Monmouth Park) said. “We will be in contact with the state veterinarians, and if we feel it’s unsafe for horses there are things we can do.”
Saturday’s high temperature in Oceanport is expected to reach 97 with a humidity percentage of near 60. The only sure thing on the day is that it will be overbearingly hot.
Gary and Mary West’s disqualified Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Maximum Security was installed the 8-5 favorite despite losing the Pegasus Stakes by a length last month in what was his first start since the Derby. To be fair, though, the Florida Derby (GI) winner had a bad break in the Pegasus and stumbled pretty badly from the gate and was rushed up soon after to make the lead. He was also defeated by a nice, improving colt in King for a Day, who is his chief rival again here. Without discussing or disputing how he finished in the Derby and the subsequent hoopla surrounding it, Maximum Security is a talented horse. It can be easily argued, using the Derby as an example, that he can overcome trouble and still win, so his best certainly makes him a good bet to win, even if it won’t be at a decent price.
And while his owners’ lawsuit to reinstate his Derby win meanders through the court system, trainer Jason Servis will just continue to train and race Maximum Security in pursuit of an Eclipse Award trophy to validate the Kentucky Derby one he has yet – and may never — collect. The son of New Year’s Day drew the outside spot in the starting gate and will have regular jockey Luis Saez aboard.
“This race is really important in the campaign for the 3-year-old champion,” Servis said. “The Haskell could be critical.”
Red Oak Stable’s homebred King for a Day will ship back in to New Jersey from trainer Todd Pletcher’s summer base of Saratoga and will attempt to defeat the favorite for a second time. The Uncle Mo colt returned after a seven-month break over the winter to win the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness Stakes (GI) undercard before taking the Pegasus and defeating Maximum Security. He’s improving and makes his graded stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is looking for a fourth Haskell winner. He was made the second choice on the morning line at odds of 5-2.
“This is a big step up from the Pegasus but he’s an enthusiastically training colt, he’s had three solid works and I couldn’t be more delighted with the way he’s coming into the race,” Pletcher said.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be aboard and the pair will lead the field to the post.
Hall of famer Bob Baffert, who has won the Haskell a record eight times, sends out Michael Lund Petersen’s three-time grade 3 winner Mucho Gusto in search of a ninth winner. The son of Mucho Macho Man, who will be ridden by regular rider Joe Talamo, is looking for his third straight after annexing the Laz Barerra Stakes (GIII) and Affirmed Stakes (GIII) in his last two.
The colt drew post position five and morning line odds of 2-1.
“It’s a great draw for Mucho Gusto,” Baffert said. “Maximum Security is definitely the best horse in the race but I like where we drew. From there Joe can play the break and keep him in the clear. My horse has speed.
“He shipped really well and he couldn’t be doing any better. After he won last out (in the Affirmed) I thought he was ready for this. He deserves his chance to take on Grade 1 company.”
Calumet Farm’s Everfast, second in the Preakness Stakes before a somewhat troubled seventh in the Belmont, seeks an initial Haskell win for his trainer, Dale Romans. He will have jockey Julien Leparoux from post position 6 and is 10-1 on the morning line.
Michael and Jeff Fazio’s Joevia, who was third last out in the Belmont Stakes (GI), has a black-type victory already in the Long Branch Stakes over this track and is back home seeking another. Greg Sacco trains this son of Shanghai Bobby, who also has a pair of stakes placing to his credit, and again retains the services of Jose Lezcano for a second time. They drew post position two and are 10-1 on the morning line.
“My horse will run all day,” Sacco said. “We’re really excited to be in the Haskell. With Maximum Security, King for a Day, Mucho Gusto, Everfast, and the horses from Parx who are improving, this should be a great race.”
Bethlehem Road and Spun to Run both ship in from Parx in Pennsylvania and both tackle grade 1 company for the first time. Dee Curry trains Bethlehem Road and is just the fourth woman to saddle a Haskell starter. He drew post position four and will have his regular jockey Luis Rodriguez up.
Spun to Run, who makes his stakes debut after his nice 7 ½-length victory in a first-level allowance event, drew post three and will have Paco Lopez aboard for the first time.
“Paco Lopez came in to work my horse and said he can really run,” Guerrero said of the colt’s new rider.
The Haskell field from the rail out with riders and odds is:
1. King for a Day, John Velazquez, 5-2
2. Joevia, Jose Lezcano, 10-1
3. Spun to Run, Paco Lopez, 15-1
4. Bethlehem Road, Luis A. Rodriguez Castro, 20-1
5. Mucho Gusto, Joe Talamo, 2-1
6. Everfast, Julien Leparoux, 10-1
7. Maximum Security, Luis Saez, 8-5.
Post time for the Haskell, which will be televised by NBC Sports from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET, has been set for 5:47 p.m. and is the 12th on a 14-race cared. First post is noon.