Six 3-year-olds, including three stakes winners, have been entered to face dual classic winner Big Brown in the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) Aug. 3 at Monmouth Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Haskell marks the first start for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner since the colt was pulled up in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). The IEAH runner trained by Rick Dutrow was installed the 1-2 morning-line favorite for the Haskell. Big Brown will break from the 4 post position under regular jockey Kent Desormeaux.
IEAH managing partner Michael Iavarone said the Boundary colt has been turning in solid works leading up to the Haskell. “He could be better than the Big Brown leading up to the Kentucky Derby,” Iavarone said during the post position draw press conference July 31. “We are very excited to see him come into the race the right way. We could not be happier with the way he is doing. I think he is a horse that has captured the imagination of racing and to see him perform so poorly in the Belmont was so disappointing to the horse.”
The only other graded stakes winner entered was Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man, the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) victor who has won half of his 10 career starts for trainer Nick Zito. The son of Mineshaft , who also won Monmouth’s Spend a Buck Stakes, will be ridden by Eddie Castro.
“He is a very nice horse coming into his own,” said Zito, who has also entered Coal Play, another son of Mineshaft for owner LaPenta. Coal Play finished second in the What a Pleasure Stakes at Calder. He has won two of eight starts. “Big Brown is the story and rightfully so, and we hope our horses come to play and see what happens."
The Haskell starter with the most stakes experience is Dogwood Stable’s Atoned, whose only stakes win to date in 12 career starts came in the Continental Mile Stakes at Monmouth last year. The Florida-bred son of Repent has six stakes placings, including runner-up efforts in the grade II Remsen and the grade III Tampa Bay Derby, to his credit. He will break from the outside post and be ridden by Edgar Prado for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the last two Haskells, with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday.
The Haskell will air on ESPN Classic live Sunday from 6-6:30 p.m., ET. The race will also be available on ESPN360.com. Host Joe Tessitore, analyst Randy Moss and reporter Jeannine Edwards will cover the $1 million Haskell from Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
“We are trying to figure out whether he is unlucky, is underachieving, or overachieving,” Pletcher said of the seven runner-up efforts by Atoned. “We have decided to put blinkers on to get him little more focused. We’re confident our horse is doing very well and he is going to go over there and give us his very best.”
The fourth stakes winner in the Haskell is Magical Forest, a son of Forest Camp trained by Joseph DeMola for Paraneck Stable who drew the inside 1 post. The winner of four of 13 starts, Magical Forest won the Spicy Award Stakes at Aqueduct and the Barbaro (gr. III) and Floor Show Stakes, both at Delaware Park.
“The colt has just been getting better and better every day and proved to us we should take a shot,’ DeMola said.
Allen Farm’s Nistle’s Crunch, who has placed in three stakes, will be ridden by Elvis Trujillo for trainer Ken McPeek. A New Jersey-bred son of Van Nistlerooy finished second in the Colonial Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs and third in the grade III Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs. He was also stakes-placed at Santa Anita as a 2-year-old.
McPeek said he passed on other opportunities for Nistle’s Crunch in favor of the Haskell primarily because his owners are locally based. “He is rock solid and delivers a good race every time we bring him over. If Big Brown is not on his ‘A’ game we want to be there to pick up the pieces. Other than Big Brown, the race is relatively wide open."
The Haskell field is completed by Zayat Stables’ Alaazo, a son of A.P. Indy who has won half of his four career starts for trainer Bill Mott and has no stakes experience to date.
The field for the $1-million Haskell Invitational is:
1—Magical Forest, Jorge Chavez, 10-1
2—Cool Coal Man, Eddie Castro, 4-1
3—Alaazo, Jose Lezcano, 30-1
4—Big Brown, Kent Desormeaux, 1-2
5—Nistle’s Crunch, Elvis Trujillo, 15-1
6—Coal Play, Joe Bravo, 8-1
7—Atoned, Edgar Prado, 6-1