As expected, the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) picture changed dramatically with the announcement Thursday that Afleet Alex would not run due to a condylar fracture.
Within 24 hours, horses began coming out of the woodwork, all but assuring a large, competitive field.
Although only three are definite –- Dwyer (gr. II) winner Roman Ruler, the likely favorite, Park Avenue Ball, runaway winner of the Long Branch Stakes (gr. III), and Long Branch runner-up Chekhov -- a number of others are now seriously under consideration for the Aug. 7 race.
Nick Zito, who has entered Andromeda's Hero and Noble Causeway in Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), has three Haskell possibilities to choose from –- Indy Storm, who was his original selection, Pinpoint, and Sun King, recent winner of the Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) who has had the West Viginia Derby (gr. II) on his schedule since the Leonard Richards. At the moment, Indy Storm seems to be the most likely of the three to run.
Also being considered is Golden Man, who made his presence felt in a big way two weeks ago by finishing third in the Long Branch and second in the Leonard Richards on consecutive days -- in sweltering heat and humidity. He is trained by Rick Dutrow, whose 60-day suspension will be over by Haskell day.
From Southern California, Swaps (gr. II) winner Surf Cat would add a great deal of luster to the race if he ran. He had originally been pointing for the Pacific Classic (gr. I) against older horses, but trainer Bruce Headley may now change his mind and head east. Another now under consideration is recent Prince of Wales winner Ablo, who upset Wild Desert in the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Swaps runner-up Dover Dere, recent maiden winner Papi Chullo, and Devilment are three others considered possibilities for the nine-furlong Haskell, as are a pair of Monmouth-based horses, Joey P. and Smokescreen.