Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide drew the number five post position and was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite when seven horses were entered for Sunday's $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park.
Trainer Barclay Tagg said the 3-year-old gelding has grown some since finishing third in the Belmont Stakes and has been working forwardly for his return to competition. "I'm pleased with the way our horse is going," he said. Tagg noted that, depending on the weather, Funny Cide will ship to Monmouth Park from Saratoga on the day of the race.
During the post position draw teleconference, Tagg was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of rain on the East Coast this weekend and a possible off-track for the Haskell. Funny Cide's Triple Crown quest came to an end when he finished third on an off track in the Belmont Stakes. "I'm not positive the slop had anything to do with the way he ran in the Belmont," Tagg said. "I don't know the answer and he hasn't told me. Maybe he just got beat by two better horses that day."
Jack Knowlton, managing partner of the Sackatoga Stable that owns Funny Cide, said there will be an entourage of about 100 people who will travel to Monmouth Park in two or three yellow busses.
None of the other trainers or representatives of horses in the race complained about the post positions.
"Actually, I think it was a good draw for us," said John Ward, who trains Sky Mesa, breaking from the 2 post position, "with Peace Rules on our inside. I didn't want to be right on the rail. He (Sky Mesa) is a very talented horse, better than (Ward's 2001 Haskell runner) Hero's Tribute. He should be ready for this and he should like the Monmouth surface."
"I'll take the three," said Ken McPeek, who trains Wild and Wicked, who will be making his fourth career start in the Haskell. "Anything but the one hole is my preference...He's classy and professional and he'll do anything you need him to do. He has speed, but he doesn't need to be on the lead. The biggest question is 'Is he good enough?' It's time to test him against the big boys and see how good he is. He may very well be the best horse I've ever put my hands on, but he'll need to prove it."
Haskell Invitational $1-million, 1 1/8 milesPost position, horse, trainer, jockey, odds, weight:
1 -- Peace Rules, Bobby Frankel, Edgar Prado, 2-1, 121
2 -- Sky Mesa, John Ward Jr., Robby Albarado, 7-2, 118
3 -- Wild and Wicked, Ken McPeek, Shane Sellers, 5-1, 118
4 -- Max Forever, Ben Perkins Jr., Jose Ferrer, 15-1, 115
5 -- Funny Cide, Barclay Tagg, Jose Santos, 8-5, 123
6 -- Kool Humor, Jack Bruner, Eddie Martin Jr., 20-1 115
7 -- Excessivepleasure, Doug O'Neill, Jon Court, 12-1, 117