Contenders for the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) were out on the track either at Monmouth Park or Saratoga Race Course the morning of July 27, as fine-tuning continued two days before the $1 million race on the Jersey Shore.
Nonios, Dullahan, Paynter , and Handsome Mike were active at Monmouth, while Gemologist and Stealcase went out at Saratoga. Trainers Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse said Gemologist and Stealcase, their respective runners, will ship to New Jersey the morning of the race.
Nonios, who arrived in perfect order on a flight from Southern California with fellow participant Paynter July 26, stretched his legs during an easy gallop before the break under trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's regular East Coast exercise rider Abel Flores. Nonios was scheduled to school in the paddock prior to the third race July 27.
"Everything went perfectly this morning," said Christina Jelm, racing manager for owner G.B. Smith Jr. "He just went out and looked around and jogged to the paddock. He also stood in the gate and jogged home. What we did today was to set up tomorrow, when he will gallop a mile and a half."
Dullahan, trained by Dale Romans, went out after the break for a gallop of two miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar and was set for paddock schooling before the second race on the afternoon card.
Dullahan was named for a headless harbinger of death in Irish folklore and since he made his first start as a 2-year-old last June, his name has been pronounced (and mispronounced) in a variety of ways.
"The correct way to say it is 'DUH-la-hahn," said Jerry Crawford, managing partner for owner Donegal Racing, who will arrive in New Jersey with a contingent of supporters July 28. "I mispronounced it as "DOOL-a-han" for a year. Then, before he ran in the (Kentucky) Derby, I started getting phone calls and e-mails from Ireland. They said, 'Hey, pal, if you want to be Irish, you've got to learn how to say it right.' We're all very excited about this race."
Paynter went out before the break for what Jimmy Barnes, assistant to five-time Haskell-winning trainer Bob Baffert, termed an "easy gallop" under exercise rider Juan Pisaro. Barnes said that the 3-2 morning line favorite would school in the paddock before the first race later in the day. Paynter, the runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), is being housed in trainer Kelly Breen's barn and Barnes will saddle him on Sunday.
Handsome Mike, who arrived July 24 from Southern California and is also staying in Breen's barn, galloped around the Monmouth oval. Jesus Gomez, one of Breen's regular exercise riders, said, "He went good. He is feeling really good and is a happy horse. He won't school today." Trainer Doug O'Neill will travel to Monmouth to saddle the colt for owner J. Paul Reddam.
Up-to-the-minute Haskell Invitational information is available via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Fans can follow track announcer Larry Collmus on Twitter at @larrycollmus and Monmouth handicapper Brad Thomas will tweet through his account, @bradshadesoff. The track's facebook page is Monmouth Park.