John Ward, trainer of Sky Mesa, having already stated he's not crazy about the weight spread for the Jim Dandy Stakes, said Thursday that his colt's next start will be determined by the weights for the Haskell Invitational, to be released tomorrow. Both races will be run on Sunday, Aug. 3.
Under the allowance conditions of the grade II Jim Dandy, Sky Mesa would carry 119 pounds, only four pounds less than Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. Ward said if the weights are more favorable for the Haskell, he would lean toward running at Monmouth.
"Everything is pretty dependent on what the Haskell weights look like," Ward said. Under the handicap conditions of the Haskell, it is almost assured that Sky Mesa, with a third in the Dwyer Stakes his only race of the year, will receive more than four pounds from Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.
Kenny McPeek, trainer of Ohio Derby winner Wild and Wicked, said he too will make his decision after seeing the weights for the Haskell. "It's not the competition, it's the weights that will be the determining factor," said McPeek, who has been singing the undefeated colt's praises for some time. McPeek also said that Sir Barton winner Best Minister didn't appreciate the one-turn of the Dwyer Stakes and will be pointed for the Round Table at Arlington Park.
The main problem facing racing secretary Mike Dempsey and vice-president/general manager Bob Kulina will be the spread between Funny Cide and Peace Rules. The latter has been tearing up the track in the morning at Belmont over the past three weeks. Funny Cide has had only two works so far since the Belmont, but turned in a sensational 5-furlong breeze in :58 3/5 earlier this week.
In addition to Funny Cide, Peace Rules, Sky Mesa, and Wild and Wicked, the $1 million, grade I Haskell could attract last weekend's Swaps winner During; Colita, who was recently turned over to Todd Pletcher; and recent Belmont allowance winner Congrats, trained by Shug McGaughey. Kulina said McGaughey is very high on the son of A.P. Indy, who won his last start by 5 1/4 lengths, and is anxious to run him in the Haskell.