Classic Contenders' Puck, winner of the Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) in his last start, had his final serious drill for the Aug. 4 Haskell Invitational (gr. I) Thursday morning at Monmouth Park when he worked six furlongs in 1:13 with Juan Arias aboard.
"That's exactly what we were looking for," said trainer Bill White from his base at Calder Race Course. "Before he shipped to Monmouth for the Long Branch, he had a similar work in 1:15. So I told Juan with Monmouth being a faster track, to expect something like 1:13 and change.
"He's right where he needs to be," White said. "We'll give him an easy half, like :50 and change, three or four days before the race to open his lungs up. But he's had his stiff six furlongs and he's ready."
Clockers caught Puck in even splits as the colt worked from the five-eighths pole to the seven-eighths pole. He went along in :36, :48, and 1:01 before finishing in 1:13.
Puck, a gray colt by Mr. Greeley, punched his ticket for the $1-million Haskell with an impressive score in the Long Branch, his fourth win in nine lifetime starts. The colt has been off the board just once in his racing career, when he ran ninth in the Florida Derby (gr. I), a performance White still can't explain.
White said that regular rider Cornelio Velasquez will regain the mount on Puck in the Haskell. Manny Aguilar had the mount in the Long Branch because Velazquez had several stakes commitments at Calder that day (July 13).
The others expected to contest the 1 1/8-mile Haskell are Came Home, Magic Weisner, Easyfromthegitgo and Nothing Flat, with Like a Hero and Running Tide considered possible.
Nancy Alberts, who owns and trains Magic Weisner, said her horse came out of his victory in last Saturday's Ohio Derby (gr. II) in good shape.
"I thought he'd be a lot more tired after shipping to Cleveland, but he came out of the race just fine," Alberts reported from her Maryland base. "We'll ship in next Thursday, the same plan as I did when he won in Ohio. He'll gallop over the Monmouth track. That seems to work best. When he went to Belmont (for the Belmont Stakes) we got there the day before and he just couldn't relax. There were about 100 people at his barn day and night and he just couldn't settle down. We'll find a nice quiet barn at Monmouth for him."