Brad Cox's Mandaloun March to Del Mar's BC: Preview of Saturday's Haskell Invitational (G1) @Monmouth Park

Trainer Brad Cox's Mandaloun faces off against the likes of Hot Rod Charlie in Saturday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Check out J.N. Campbell's Preview of the big event!
Trainer Brad Cox's Mandaloun faces off against the likes of Hot Rod Charlie in Saturday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Check out J.N. Campbell's Preview of the big event!

1 1/8th (Dirt), TVG Haskell Invitational (G1), Purse $1 Million, 3

The 54th running of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational represents the opportunity for 3-yr-old colts to strut their stuff, and vie for the opportunity to earn an “all-expense paid” ticket to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in early November. A sort of “3.5” Leg of the Triple Crown Series, the Haskell fits nicely between the Belmont and Travers Stakes (to be run in late August). Last year, the race served as the “coming out” party for Bob Baffert’s Authentic, as he won by a whisker over challenger, NY Traffic. That victory ended up being a springboard to the rescheduled Kentucky Derby in September, which led to a dominating performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. Another colt will take his place on the launching pad, if he can get to the wire first. If he can, he will join winners that not only include Authentic, but names like Maximum Security, Good Magic, Exaggerator, and the legend, American Pharoah.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Following Sea (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Spendthrift Farm made the decision to take their homebred away from Bob Baffert, and send him to Todd Pletcher for safe keeping. That actually happened before the KYD147, so it did not have anything to do with Baffert’s troubles in the courts and in the media. Pletcher sent this Runhappy sprinter into a high-level ALLW Co. contest, and Joel Rosario guided him to a 6+ length score. The class jump is going to be heady, and it will take a monumental effort to upset this lot. Rosario isn’t beyond pulling a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. I am still not convinced that these offspring of Runhappy can get longer routes. Tough spot to point into …

Grade: C+


#2 Antigravity (Jky: D. Cohen/Trn: J. Hollendorfer):

Here is a Jerry Hollendorfer entrant who is way out of his league, despite being a colt out of First Samurai. It is hard to imagine that an OC16k at Monmouth would be a sufficient prep for the Grade 1 Haskell S. Long odds do not make this impossible, but he is going to have to run the race of his life. Some of his back class at Oaklawn speaks to some interesting efforts. Even though there were no “wins,” he still acquitted himself well. David Cohen had the mount for nearly all of those contests. That is about all that can be said at this point.

Grade: C


#3 Mandaloun (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

At 27/1 in the Kentucky Derby, Brad Cox’s Juddmonte homebred outran his expectations, coming in 2nd to the questionable Medina Spirit. Since then, there continue to be presumptions that the colt will eventually be the “Winner.” While we wait, the Thoroughbred calendar continues to turn, and many are thinking that this one has the ability to get to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was certainly sturdy along the Derby Trail, and Cox was always a believer that this one had legs to go far. Last year, in this very race, another Into Mischief colt solidified his place among 3-yr-old males, enroute to a BC Classic victory. Is Cox’s charge, ridden by Florent Geroux, on the same trajectory? Stay tuned because this one is definitely one to watch … I am looking forward to seeing him go hoof-to-hoof with O’Neill’s Hot Rod Charlie #4.

Grade: A-

#4 Hot Rod Charlie (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: D. O’Neill):

The M/L favorite is this Doug O’Neill runner who garnered major attention after his win in the Louisiana Derby (G1). I will never forget Joel Rosario’s bullish riding in that contest. It was impressive. Now, the Boat Racing boys who partially own this one, are hoping for more glory after a 3rd place in KYD147, and a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes. Pundits were majorly impressed with his moves at Big Sandy, and that gave hope to the masses that he would return for a run in this spot. Flavien Prat is aboard once again, and he is as hot as ever—just named the Jockey of the Week. It is “Hot Rod” Time, so here we go … Only Mandaloun #3 stands in his way!

Grade: A-


#5 Pickin’ Time (Jky: N. Juarez/Trn: K. Breen):

Trainer Kelly Breen is up against it, like many in this race, and he is hoping that this Stay Thirsty colt is up for “big things.” It is going to take a major step forward for this Nik Juarez ridden runner to get into the money. He made some early waves at Aqueduct back in November with a win in the Nashua (G3). Since then, there has not been much to cheer about. Hard to think that this good-looking 3-yr-old can game with this group. Haskell dreams of glory are as thick as flies …

Grade: C-


#6 Midnight Bourbon (Jky: P. Lopez/Trn: S. Asmussen):

On this depth chart of favorites, here is the 3rd on the list. Steve Asmussen worked hard with this runner through the spring, and the Tiznow colt was impressive at times in the Louisiana Series. After all, he won the Lecomte (G3) out on the frontend. He always seemed to be running behind the pair of favorites that are drawn in here. Possibly his best race of all, was that 2nd place in the Preakness (G1). Rombauer was extremely tough that day, and no one had his late gait. Still, one has to think that the Winchell colt has a legitimate shot at Monmouth, and he could end up a square price. Maybe he can beat the other 2 at their own game. The wily Paco Lopez gets the call, and he might serve as a catalyst in a tough one like this. He is going to need a speed figure that is fairly solid, think 101. Will see …

Grade: B+


#7 Basso (Jky: I. Castillo/Trn: G. Sacco):

The last of the long shots is this Greg Sacco runner who is woefully suited to a Grade I race. How this Cairo Prince colt is going to compete with the others in here, is beyond me. I cannot see that an OC16k that he didn’t even win is a proper prep for the Haskell. This grade is on a curve, and it, like his chances, are extremely steep.

Grade: C-


Join us Saturday for all of our Haskell Day selections! Should be a great set of races from Monmouth Park!