Del Mar racing is cancelled this weekend because of a rash of jockey COVID 19-positives and a spectator-less Saratoga season is underway. So, what else is new? It’s just another crazy weekend in a pandemic world. No worries. There are numerous opportunities nationwide for players to cash Saturday and Monmouth’s Haskell-day card looms as most attractive.
The $1 million Haskell Stakes has with a field of seven, including one or two runners that could make some noise in Louisville in September. Topping the roster is once-beaten Authentic from the Bob Baffert barn. He was second-best to Honor A. P. in the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Derby last out. Dr. Post, trained by future Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, also finished second in his last race–the truncated, mile and one-eighth Gr. 1 Belmont Stakes. Leading 3-year-old Tiz the Law snapped Dr. Post’s streak of two consecutive wins.
The Haskell will be the 12th race on a bulging 14-race card. It’s something of a gambling cornerstone as it serves as the final leg of a $400,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 (Races 9-12); as the third stanza of an all-stakes Pick 5 and as the second step in both an all-stakes Pick 4 and in the $1 123Racing Pick 6. Additionally, Xpressbet is offering a 1 million points split to all account holders who hit the Pick 4 on Races 9-12. Register for that promo at Xpressbet.
Here’s one man’s horse-by-horse look at the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Stakes and assorted opinions on races 9 through 12 to hopefully enhance your Saturday afternoon entertainment.
Race 12–Haskell Stakes—Grade 1–$1 Million
For Three Year Olds–One Mile And One-Eighth
Trainer Bob Baffert has annually used the Haskell Stakes as his personal ATM. He’s won the race a record 8 times and usually not with a first-string 3-year-old in his barn. This year, with the Kentucky Derby delayed until September, Baffert is down to just a few potential Louisville starters. Authentic, favored in this race, is one of them. Dr. Post, from the Todd Pletcher barn, is the one with the best chance to upset and garner the 40-point lion’s share of Kentucky Derby starting gate points on the line. Second is worth 20 and third 10.
1. Dr. Post Pletcher/Bravo
Here’s one horse that could benefit from a COVID-delayed Kentucky Derby. As late as April 25, he had merely won a maiden race second time out and the Unbridled Stakes, both at Gulfstream. A start in the Kentucky Derby would have been out of the question. Now, after a wide trip throughout to be second in the Belmont Stakes, Dr. Post is on the verge of developing into a bit of a Derby contender. To take that next step he’ll need to win the Haskell. He’s got a mid-pack, stalking style and the rail draw ought to allow him to save some ground, unlike what happened to him in the Belmont when posted 9 out of 10. ‘Jersey’ Joe Bravo takes over for Saratoga-restricted Irad Ortiz, Jr.
2. Authentic Baffert/M. Smith
A hot horse since he broke maiden in November at Del Mar, Authentic has won the Gr. 3 Sham and Gr. 2 San Felipe Stakes, both at Santa Anita. He ran into a buzz saw last out in the form of Honor A. P. finishing second in the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Derby for his only defeat. Authentic broke a bit slowly in that race but that wasn’t why he lost. Honor A. P. just ran better. Authentic has developed well and his Beyer Speed Figures haven’t taken a backward step in four starts. Look for trainer Baffert to request speed from this son of Into Mischief Saturday. Regular rider Drayden Van Dyke is on the COVID 19-recovery list in California, so Hall-of-Fame resident Mike Smith is scheduled to substitute, as of this writing. Authentic’s clearly the one to beat.
3. Jesus’ Team D’Angelo/Juarez
This colt doesn’t have a prayer! On the other hand, miracles happen. Just kidding. Sort of. Seriously, he’s up against it. He’s improved a great deal since a turf start at Gulfstream in late January, but one wonders how much more advancement he’ll make immediately. He’s had two wins in seven starts—one for maiden $32k and another for $25k non-winners of two. Both scores came at Gulfstream Park. He finished second last out in a $100k/optional claimer. These are tougher.
4. Ancient Warrior Hollendorfer/McCarthy
This son of Constitution showed promise when he romped first out in a Del Mar maiden race in November. Unfortunately, he’s been unable to win since. He finished a close-up fourth at Oaklawn Park in February and has been third twice. He hasn’t been further than six and one-half furlongs, so this step up to a mile and one-eighth is uncharted territory. He’s got some speed, so he may give Authentic something to consider early but, when the real running starts, he ought to find things challenging.
5. Fame to Famous Mc Allen/Ferrer
With just one win in nine starts, this son of Tapit seems up against it in here. He’s tried a couple of stakes races with no success. He’d be a huge surprise arriving in the winner’s circle.
6. Lebda C. Gonzalez/A. Cintron
The Gr. 3 Ohio Derby proved too much for this guy last out. He showed speed early and faded to sixth of 13. His best work came at Laurel in February and March when he posted back-to-back stakes wins in the Miracle Wood and Private Terms. Those wins combined with 2-year-old tallies at Laurel and Delaware give Lebda the most wins in this field at four. This son of Raison d’Etat has speed but not much fight when challenged early. He’ll need to improve to threaten in here.
7. Ny Traffic S. Joseph/P. Lopez
This New York-bred son of Cross Traffic has been competitive in his last four races, since being shifted into the barn of Saffie Joseph. He romped by nearly seven in a Gulfstream mile and one-sixteenth $75k optional claiming race and then finished third, second and second in a trio of graded stakes races—Gr. 2 Risen Star, Gr. 2 Louisiana Derby and Gr. 3 Matt Winn—all within two lengths of the winners. His Beyer Speed Figures have improved in each of those outings. Look for Ny Traffic to race close to the early pace. He may not be quite as effective at a mile and one-eighth, but he’s proven as an in-the-money player in graded stakes.
Bottom Line: #2 Authentic is the one to beat in here. #1 Dr. Post and #7 Ny Traffic are the most likely upsetters, with a slight preference to the former. Since those horses probably will be ranked 1-2-3 in the wagering there’s not much to be gained by betting this race straight or in exotics. In multi-leg wagers we’d suggest using #2 Authentic strongest and #1 Dr. Post and #7 Ny Traffic slightly on small saver tickets only.
Race 9—Winstar Matchmaker—Grade 3–$150,000
Fillies and Mares—One Mile And One-Eighth Turf
This race features three runners from the powerful Chad Brown stable. Brown often finishes first, second and third in graded stakes races. It could happen again. There’s really no standout in here, so using all three Brown runners and a few others, hopefully, will get the job done and keep tickets alive.
#1 Valedictorian deserves mention because she’s 4 for 5 over the Monmouth turf course and 1 for 1 at the distance. Her last out was not poor, but she had some trouble at the start. She breaks from the rail and could have a pace advantage over this field. Still, she’s 6 and her best racing came last year.
#4 Varenka is worth a look. She often races wide and that doesn’t help, but she’s a Gr. 2 winner with three of 10 wins and two seconds and two thirds. If she and jockey Trevor McCarthy should work out a dream trip while saving ground, she’d have a chance.
#5 Beautiful Lover seems the best of the Chad Brown trio. She was a reasonable fourth in the Gr. 1 Gamely at Santa Anita last out. Before that she was second in the Gr. 2 Hillsborough at Tampa. She hasn’t won since May ’19 when she took the Boiling Springs right here at Monmouth. That win was the third of a trio of turf tallies. Gotta have her on multi-race tickets.
#6 Nay Lady Nay is a Chad Brown runner with three wins in six starts, including a maiden victory over the Monmouth turf. She won the Gr. 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill in November and has one start this year—a two-length loss in the Gr. 3 Mint Julep at Churchill Downs. She’s one for one over the Monmouth turf and could be ready to step forward in this race. Must use.
#7 Tapit Today also hails from the Chad Brown stable and has been away since a well-beaten third in the Gr. 3 Suwannee River at Gulfstream. She’s a 5-year-old mare with two wins in two tries at Monmouth. She’s the least attractive of the Brown trio and the one most likely to be left out of multi-race tickets, but she could get a nice trip just behind probable pacesetter #1 Valedictorian
Use: #1, #4, #5, #6, #7
Race 10—Monmouth Cup—Grade 3–$300,000
For Three-Year-Olds and Upward—One Mile And One-Eighth
No free bingo square here. This is an interesting collection of second-level older stakes runners that mostly haven’t quite lived up to expectations. There are some fighters in here that like to win races, but they’ve done most of that winning at lower levels. Others have tried Gr. 1 company with some success but haven’t maintained that level of performance.
#1 Global Campaign has won 4 of 7 starts and always takes money. He won his first two races, weakened in the Fountain of Youth and then won the Peter Pan. He also was third to Tax and Tacitus in the Jim Dandy. Off since then, he scored a powerful victory in a Gulfstream allowance race in April but couldn’t follow through as favorite in the Blame. He’s always had some talent and fans keep waiting for him to step forward in a big way. Maybe this will be the time?
#4 Harper’s First Ride has no stakes experience. He’s made his reputation at Laurel while winning his last 2 races and 6 of 10 starts overall. He’s got some speed and his trainer hits at 23%. He’s probably overmatched in here, but we like to have winners on our side.
#5 Math Wizard is an example of a successful horse that’s just a smidge below the upper level. If the pace is right, he’ll be along in time to have something to say about the outcome. That’s what happened in the Gr. 1 Pennsylvania Derby when he upset the applecart at 31-1. He also was second in the Gr. 3 Ohio Derby and third in the Gr. 3 Indiana Derby. Those were at 3 and his two starts at 4 haven’t been as good.
#7 Joevia is a speed horse and should have company up front. He’s 2 for 2 at Monmouth and exploded in the slop to win the Long Branch here last year. He set the pace in the Belmont Stakes before just missing to Sir Winston and Tacitus. He’s made four starts this year with an Aqueduct win and three poor efforts.
#9 Bal Harbour moves from trainer Todd Pletcher to Gregory Sacco for this. The 5-year-old gelding hasn’t won since November 2018 when he took the one-mile Gio Ponti at Aqueduct. He was second by a head to War Story in this race last year and then was beaten a half-length by Preservationist in the Gr. 1 Woodward. He’s 0 for 5 at the distance, though, with 2 seconds and 2 thirds.
#10 Bodexpress always shows speed and sometimes has gate issues. You may remember when he reared at the start of the Preakness and unseated his rider. The good news is that he’s drawn the far outside in here and will load last. Maybe he won’t have much time to think about things out there. Last out, favored in the March Gr. 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream he stalked the pace, took the lead and then drifted out and weakened late in the mile and one-eighth test. This may not be his best distance. He’s 0 for 3 at the trip.
Use: #1, #4, #5, #7, #9, #10
11th Race—United Nations—Grade 1–$300,000
For Three-Year-Olds and Upward—One Mile and Three-Eighths Turf
#1 Arklow is wheeled back rather quickly by trainer Brad Cox after a wide trip in the Gr. 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland July 12. The 6-year-old veteran warrior has 6 wins in 27 starts and has earned over $1.8 million in earnings. He won the mile and one-half Gr. 1 Turf Classic in October at Belmont but has been winless since to make him just 1 for his last 10. He comes from far back and that always leaves a horse at the mercy of the pace. Still, he’s difficult to ignore in here.
#2 Standard Deviation is a 4-year-old colt from the Graham Motion stable that is 2 for 2 at Monmouth—including a win in the Jersey Derby. He previously was trained by Chad Brown and finished third in both the Gr. 2 Hill Prince and the Gr. 1 Hollywood Derby last year. He also comes from well off the pace and is making his second start for Motion following a wide trip in the Tiller Stakes.
#6 Current is a 4-year-old colt trained by Todd Pletcher that might have some improvement in him. He’s always been well-regarded and competed in Gr. 1 races at both 2 and 3. He finished second to #2 Standard Deviation in the Jersey Derby and was runner-up in the mile and one-half Gr. 2 Pan American one race back. A repeat of that pace-pressing performance fits in here.
#9 Paret appears as the only real speed in this race. He upset the Tiller field last out in wire-to-wire fashion at a monumental 38-1 odds, hanging on by just a head. Can history repeat? Maybe. It should be noted that Paret also was second at 22-1 going a mile and one-half in the Point of Entry at Belmont in his previous start in October. He’s 1 for his last 10 and a minor threat in this paceless group.
Use: #1, #2, #6, #9
$.50 Pick 4 ($60)
9th Race: #1, #4, #5, #6, #7
10th Race: #1, #4, #5, #7, #9, #10
11th Race: #1, #2, #6, #9
12th Race: #2
Take care of each other. Race On!