Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said there's a "90% chance" West Point Thoroughbreds' Flashy Bull would compete in the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park instead of the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III) at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort. Both races at 1 1/8 miles are scheduled for Aug. 6.
McLaughlin, who spoke on an Aug. 1 National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference, said even though WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat and John Oxley's Strong Contender are expected in the Haskell, field size played a role. And so did geography: McLaughlin is based in New York, and the Haskell is run in neighboring New Jersey.
"We're not 100% sure, but we're leaning toward the Haskell," McLaughlin said. "You wouldn't think we'd beat those horses, but there may be six to eight horses in the Haskell versus eight to 12 in the West Virginia Derby. It's also a little difficult to get to (Mountaineer). We'd be happy to go to Monmouth.
"The West Virginia Derby may be a touch easier competition-wise, but it will have depth (as far as field size goes)."
Kentucky-bred Flashy Bull, by Holy Bull
, has only one win in 12 lifetime starts, but he finished second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Remsen Stakes and third in the Ohio Derby, all grade II events. An earner of $199,200, Flashy Bull has New Jersey connections in that West Point Thoroughbreds is based in New Jersey.
Elliott Walden, racing manager for WinStar, said on the teleconference Kentucky-bred Bluegrass Cat (by Storm Cat
) was given a little time off after his second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in early June and has "come back raring to go." Walden said trainer Todd Pletcher told him the colt "came back like new money."
"We look for good things on Sunday (in the Haskell)," Walden said of Bluegrass Cat, second in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and winner of last year's Remsen Stakes (gr. II) and Nashua Stakes (gr. III).
Others expected for the Haskell are Ohio Derby winner Deputy Glitters, Awfully Smart, Praying for Cash, and Seaside Retreat.
The West Virginia Derby field is expected to include Bright One, a winner of his last two starts, including a stakes, at Churchill Downs; Cielo Gold; and Wanna Runner, winner of the WinStar Derby and the Lone Star Derby (gr. III). At least 10 are expected for the race, the draw for which is scheduled for Aug. 3.