Big Brown arrived quietly on the Monmouth Park backstretch at 8 a.m. Aug. 2 and settled into trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.’s barn as he gets ready for a major test in the $1-million Haskell Invitational Presented by Vonage (gr. I).
Winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), but pulled up in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Big Brown makes his first start since that disappointing effort at Belmont Park in the 1 1/8 mile Haskell on Aug. 3. The Boundary colt starts from Post 4 and will be an odds-on favorite against six rivals with regular rider Kent Desormeaux aboard.
The bay colt, owned by IEAH Stables in partnership with Paul Pompa Jr., Gary Tolchin and Andrew Cohen, arrived at Monmouth by van from Aqueduct on the morning of Aug. 2. Big Brown walked once around the shedrow in Dutrow’s barn, and then settled into his stall, calmly munching his haynet before coming out for a bath. He was scheduled to school in the paddock with the field for Saturday’s first race.
The two other Haskell starters already on the grounds, Dogwood Stable’s Atoned and Alien Farm’s Nistle’s Crunch, both galloped a 1 1/4 miles Saturday morning. Robert LaPenta’s duo of Coal Play and Cool Coal Man, and Zayat Stable’s Alaazo, will be shipped down from Saratoga early Sunday morning. Paraneck Stable’s Magical Forest also arrives early Sunday after vanning from Aqueduct.
The Haskell, centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer meeting, will top a 14-race card Sunday, going as the 13th event on the program. Post time for the Haskell is 6:14 p.m., EST. The race will be televised live on ESPN Classic (6 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)
Gates will open at 10 a.m., with the first race slated to go off at noon. The program includes seven stakes races in addition to the Haskell, topped by two grade III turf events -- the Taylor Made Matchmaker for fillies and mares (10th race) and the Oceanport Stakes (12th race) for older runners.
The betting program will include an all-stakes Pick 4 starting on the 10th race with a guaranteed pool of $250,000, and a 50-cent Pick 5 starting on the 5th race with a guaranteed pool of $50,000.
Big Brown’s main rivals in the Haskell will be Atoned, who has two wins and three seconds in five Monmouth starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, and the Nick Zito-trained paid of Coal Play and Cool Coal Man, both of whom have won over the Monmouth strip. The Zito horses will run as separate betting interests.
Nistle’s Crunch is a New Jersey-bred who will be making his first start in the state. The son of Van Nistelrooy, trained by Ken McPeek, comes off three straight turf starts. Alaazo, the least-raced of all the Haskell horses with just four starts, broke his maiden at Monmouth last year, and his dam, Atelier, won the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G2) here in 2002. Magical Forest, trained by Joe DeMola, comes into the Haskell off two stakes victories at Delaware Park.