(from Monmouth Park)
A total of 33 horses have been invited to the 41st running of Monmouth Park’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I), with Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown expected to head the field in the 1 1/8-mile event Aug. 3.
“This is shaping up to be one of the greatest runnings of the Haskell in the long history of Monmouth Park,” said Dennis Dowd, senior executive vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “The presence of Big Brown in the field guarantees a race to remember.”
The connections of Big Brown -- owners IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. -- announced their intention to run in the Haskell soon after the son of Boundary lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7.
The colt has been working for his return at Aqueduct under trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. In his latest breeze at the Big A July 7, Big Brown went five furlongs in 1:01 1/5, which was the best of the morning.
In addition to Big Brown, others considering a start in the Haskell include Atoned, Cool Coal Man, Nistle’s Crunch, Tale of Ekati, and Truth Rules.
Truth Rules, trained by Nick Zito, and Atoned, conditioned by Todd Pletcher, finished one-two while just a head apart in the Long Branch Stakes July 12, Monmouth’s primary Haskell prep. It was the third straight win at Monmouth for Truth Rules.
Zito may have a pair of Robert LaPenta-owned colts in the race while in search of his first Haskell win. He also trains Cool Coal Man, who won the Spend a Buck Stakes over the track in rebounding from a 15th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher would be looking for an unprecedented third straight win in the Haskell with Dogwood Stable’s Atoned. He saddled Bluegrass Cat to win in 2006 and Any Given Saturday last year.
Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati, who won the Wood Memorial (gr. I) before running fourth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont, is trained by Barclay Tagg. The colt was fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) over a very sloppy Monmouth track.
Ken McPeek could send out Nistle’s Crunch, a New Jersey-bred who has raced on turf his last three starts, most recently running second in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT). He has won at nine furlongs on the main track, however, and trains on the dirt at Churchill Downs.