By Alan Porter
The Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) is almost always a key post-classic test for 3-year-olds. This year, the race took on a potentially added significance, offering Preakness Stakes (gr. I) victor Shackleford or the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) captor Ruler On Ice—both of whom had the sidelined Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hero Animal Kingdom behind them in their classic wins—the opportunity to secure a place at the head of the sophomore class. Both Shackleford and Ruler On Ice emerged from the event with credit, Shackleford delivering his usual brave on-the-pace effort and Ruler On Ice, an upset winner of the Belmont, finishing strongly to prove he genuinely belongs at this level. However, neither Shackleford nor Ruler On Ice were victorious, as West Coast invader Coil came from last to first to deny Shackleford by a neck, with Ruler On Ice 2¼ lengths back in third (VIDEO).
Comparatively lightly-raced, Coil was making only his sixth start and tackling his first grade I. He had made two outings at 2, taking a six-furlong maiden special weight at Hollywood Park at second asking. This year, he began the campaign in a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event at Hollywood Park, leading throughout for the win, and he was again at the head of affairs most of the way when taking the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) for his first stakes score. The winning streak was snapped in Coil’s only other start prior to the Haskell, the Swaps Stakes (gr. II), where he pulled hard early—as he had in the Affirmed—and was caught close to home, posting a runner-up effort.
Coil’s sire, Point Given, also won the Haskell Invitational (at the time run as a handicap), but by then he was already well on his way to Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year, having captured the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and the Preakness and Belmont (both gr. I). On his only subsequent start, Point Given would add the Travers Stakes (gr. I) for his sixth win in seven 3-year-old outings. His sole defeat came in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), where he started favorite but faded after too closely pursuing a hot early pace. Point Given had also been a near champion at 2, winning the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), and finishing second in the Champagne Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (both gr. I), the latter in which he went down by a nose to that year’s juvenile champion, Macho Uno .
By the diminutive Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch, out of a mare by Turkoman, Point Given takes far more after his broodmare sire in physique, standing 17 hands. Retired to stud at a fee of $125,000, Point Given hasn’t proved to be as successful as his supporters might have hoped, and for the 2011 breeding season he was advertised at just $7,500 live foal. That said, he has proved his ability to sire a top-class runner. Coil is his 17th stakes winner, and is joined as grade I winner for his sire by Go Between, who took the Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I), and the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) victress Point Ashley. Point Given is also sire of Sealy Hill, who was the first filly to claim Canada’s Filly TripleCrown, and earned honors as Canadian Horse of the Year; Canadian champion turf mare Points of Grace; and other graded scorers Air Commander and Point Determined.
Coil is out of the winning Theatrical mare Eversmile, a half sister to the champion turf mare Possibly Perfect (subsequently dam of graded winner Promontory Gold), and to English group-winning 2-year-old Makhlab. The second dam, Avasand, a daughter of Avatar, is a half sister to Window Seat, who earned a graded triumph in the Landaluce Stakes (gr. III) and produced a Stakes winner in the shape of C. C.’s Return (herself granddam of 2011 stakes scorer C C’s Pal). Avasand’s Sir Ivor half sister, Miss Ivor, won three times, but proved a better broodmare than runner, producing Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr. I) winner Miserden; stakes winner and producer Ten Thousand Stars; and the Chief’s Crown daughter Fashion Star, who was three times graded stakes placed and is also the dam of the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I) winner Eddington. Third dam Sandy Blue was a talented runner on the West Coast, where she captured the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II), Las Flores Handicap (gr. III), Del Mar Oaks (gr. IIIT), and Railbird Stakes (gr. III).
There are some interesting and rather paradoxical relationships between Coil, his past-performances, and his most recent triumph. Firstly, up until the Haskell score, all of his races had been on Hollywood Park’s all-weather surface—not surprising given Point Given offsprings’ thriving on the all-weather—and with Point Given having Thunder Gulch, Turkoman, and Relaunch close up in the pedigree, and Coil’s dam being by champion turf horse Theatrical, out of the dam of a champion turf mare, it would have been no surprise if turf, rather than dirt, had proved his surface preference. Then, with Belmont Stakes winners Point Given and Thunder Gulch in his immediate male line, and with Theatrical and Avatar (another Belmont winner), as sire of his first and second dams, Coil might have been expected to be an out-and-out distance runner. However, he’s actually been a hard-pulling front runner whose career-high 106 Beyer Speed figure was earned over six furlongs. The Haskell, where he bobbled at the start, marked the first time in his life that Coil was not first or second at the second call.
Coil is TrueNicks-rated A++ on the basis of the cross of Thunder Gulch and his sons with mares by Theatrical. Point Given has only three starters on the cross, all of which are winners. However, the cross has been firmly established as a good one for Point Given’s sire, Thunder Gulch, who has three stakes winners from 28 starters out of Theatrical mares.