Peace Rules, ridden by Edgar Prado, was an easy front-running winner of Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park, giving owner Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel a sweep of the nation's weekend grade I stakes.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, fifth heading into the stretch, rallied to be third in the seven-horse field but was nine lengths behind the winner.
With 53,638 on hand, the largest crowd in New Jersey racing history turned out to see Funny Cide, who was the even-money favorite while making his first start since finishing third in the Belmont.
But Peace Rules, running off the rail on the lead throughout, was in complete command, completing the 1 1/8-mile distance on a fast track in 1:49 1/5 and defeating Sky Mesa by 1 3/4 lengths.
The son of Jules got the jump out of the gate when expected pacesetter Excessivepleasure stumbled a bit. Funny Cide and regular rider Jose Santos were squeezed a bit coming away from the start and Santos took hold early.
As Peace Rules carved moderate fractions of :23 1/5 and :47 into the backstretch, Funny Cide had problems getting untracked. He was sixth between horses into the first turn and moved up a bit to fifth on the outside on the backstretch. But as they hit the final turn and Peace Rules widened his advantage to more than three lengths at the quarter pole, Funny Cide was eight lengths behind and showing little response to urging from Santos.
Sky Mesa and jockey Robbie Albarado launched a bid at the top of the stretch and cut into the lead in the final yards but presented no challenge to Peace Rules, who won driving.
Prado, who won four races at Monmouth Sunday, said he didn't expect to have the lead coming away from the gate.
"We wanted to lay second or third behind the speed, but with no one willing to take the lead, we took it," he said.
Santos said Funny Cide was never comfortable.
"He broke good but I took hold because of a lot of speed in the race and I thought that was the thing to do," he said. "He didn't handle the track that well and that had a lot to do with it (falling so far back). He was a completely different horse before. He was dragging me around the track before and here I had to work.
"With Empire Maker getting beat, we have to worry about everyone now. He needed the race. The rivalry is still on."
Frankel, who was at Saratoga, is planning to take Peace Rules to Del Mar for the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. 1) on Aug. 24, Prado said.
The win capped a great weekend for Gann and Frankel, who won the $750,000 Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga with Medaglia d'Oro Saturday. It also took the sting out of Empire Maker's narrow loss in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at The Spa prior to the Haskell. Frankel now has 17 grade I victories in 2003.
Peace Rules, who was third behind Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness in his last start May 17, picked up his fifth win in eight starts since switching to Frankel's care in October. He previously won a grade I in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). With the $600,000 winner's share Sunday, he has career earnings of $1,859,990. He defeated Funny Cide for the second time. The first came in th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last spring.
Sent off as the second choice at 2-1, the winner paid $6.60, $3.80 and $2.10. Sky Mesa returned $4.40 and $2.10. Funny Cide showed for $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $28.20.
Wild and Wicked was fourth, followed by Max Forever, Kool Humor and Excessivepleasure.