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Haskell Stakes Invitational is here

In my last article, I mentioned that despite the fact that the Triple Crown races had been completed, there were still plenty of important races left on the calendar. One of those races, the Grade One Haskell, goes post-ward at 5:47 p.m. today at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Like the Triple Crown races, the Haskell is restricted to 3-year-old thoroughbreds and is a significant race for potential stallions after their racing days are over. NBC will telecast the race with coverage beginning at 5 p.m. The winner also receives an all-expenses paid invitation to the Breeders Cup Classic, which is one of the biggest races of the year and scheduled for early November.

At that time this year’s 3 year olds will also be taking on older horses in most of those Breeders Cup races.

Three of the seven entries in this year’s Haskell ran in at least one of the Triple Crown races. Mandaloun, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby, will exit post No. 3.

He may end up as this year’s Derby winner as Medina Spirit — who crossed the finish line first — has a post-race positive for a legal, but not on race day, medication that may cost him the win. Mandaloun recently won the the non-graded Pegasus Stakes on June 13 at Monmouth Park in his first start since the Derby.

The Pegasus typically serves as a prep race for horses that want to get a race over the Monmouth Park racing surface. He should sit in behind the front runners in a good stalking position, and try to over take the leaders down the 990-foot Monmouth Park stretch, which is shorter than all three of the tracks that hold the Triple Crown races. In contrast, Belmont Park’s stretch is 1,097 feet; Pimlico, where the Preakness is held, is 1,152 feet; and Churchill Downs, home of the Derby, is 1,234.

This short stretch run will certainly favor the horses at or near the lead when they enter the top of the stretch in this 1-1/8 mile contest.

Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in the Derby and then second in the Belmont, may be the favorite from his gate No. 4 spot. Although he only has two wins from nine career starts, he has finished no worse than third in his last six races. He has looked especially impressive lately, posting extremely fast early fractions — times after the one-fourth, one-half and three-fourths mile marks — in the Belmont Stakes, his third-place finish in the Derby and his win just prior in the Louisiana Derby in March. He certainly is a serious contender.

Midnight Bourbon was last seen finishing a game second in the Preakness in mid-May. He also only has two wins in nine career starts, but has finished in the top 3 eight times.

He will likely be close to the lead early on, but has not been able to close the deal in his last four races.

He does have the advantage of post No. 6, so he should be able to establish a good position going into the first turn.

Of the remaining four entries, Following Sea has the best chance to win if none of the Triple Crown runners do.

He has two wins in only three career starts, but all have been around one turn, with the longest race being 6-1/2 furlongs.

He has looked dominant in those shorter distance races, but his pedigree suggests that longer distances may not be his forte

The other three entries include Antigravity from gate No. 2, and who has won his last two starts after starting his career 0 for 10. He has three second-place finishes and three third-place finishes in those first 10 starts.

Pickin’Time ran well as a 2-year-old, but has not shown little so far this year.

He exits the No. 5 hole, and does have the advantage of Monmouth being his home track. Picikn’Time has been training well recently, but his speed figures need to greatly improve in order to compete against the top four.

A win here would be comparable to the USA hockey team defeating the Russians in the 1980 Olympics.

And down the stretch they come.

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