Canadian-based Palladio, winner of the Ohio Derby (gr. II), is scheduled to arrive at Monmouth Park Thursday evening for Sunday's $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I), which could draw as many as nine starters.
Palladio, a son of Lycius
and owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, has won his last two starts – the Ohio Derby and the Victoria Park Stakes at Woodbine June 12. He will be ridden by regular jockey Richard Dos Ramos.
On Tuesday, Palladio had his final tuneup for the Haskell, working a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 over the Woodbine training track.
"He was very sharp in his work, so we decided to give it a go," trainer Roger Attfield said. "He got a little viral infection after the Ohio Derby, but the last two weeks he has been doing very well."
Roman Ruler, the 119-pound highweight and likely favorite, is scheduled to ship to Monmouth from Del Mar on Thursday, according to trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert, who won back-to-back Haskells with Point Given in 2001 and War Emblem in 2002, is convinced Roman Ruler's foot problems are behind him.
"My confidence is high," Baffert said. "Roman Ruler was a very good horse, and showed so much potential as a 2-year-old. I had setbacks with his feet, he was misbehaving, and then there was such a rush to get to the Breeders' Cup. But now his feet are great."
Roman Ruler is owned by Fog City Stable and is from the first crop of Fusaichi Pegasus
. After beginning his career with a pair of brilliant victories, he was beaten a neck by Declan's Moon in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II). After a victory in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II), he finished fifth as the favorite in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
Baffert's efforts to get him ready for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) were hindered by a nagging quarter crack and a wet winter in Southern California. He brought him back as a 3-year-old in the San Felipe (gr. II) March 19, a move which the trainer seems to regret now. Roman Ruler finished last and Baffert decided to give him time off and let his entire foot grow back.
Training in bar shoes, Roman Ruler turned in a series of fast works before returning to the races with a game victory over subsequent Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner Flower Alley in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
Baffert said he's very excited to return to Monmouth. "The Haskell gets true racehorse fans," he said. "It's a big race; it's an event for the area there. They love watching good horses run, and when you bring a good horse in there like Point Given or War Emblem, it's exciting."
Also scheduled to run in the Haskell are Park Avenue Ball and Chekhov, the one-two finishers in the Long Branch Stakes (gr. III), in which Park Avenue Ball proved a decisive winner. Char-Mari Stable's New Jersey-bred colt just walked the shedrow Wednesday morning on his day off after drilling a handy five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 flat on Tuesday.
"He took it easy today," trainer Jim Ryerson said. "He'll go back to the track tomorrow (Thursday) to jog and then he'll gallop up to the race."
Chekhov has the same connections as last year's Haskell winner Lion Heart – trainer Patrick Biancone and owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
Joey P. and Papi Chullo are the other definite starters, with High Limit, Golden Man, and Smokescreen considered possibles
"I'm on the fence," High Limit's trainer Bobby Frankel said. "We'll see how the field shapes up. I might enter Thursday."
High Limit, owned by Gary and Mary West, easily won the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in March.
Golden Man, who finished third in the Long Branch and second in the Leonard Richards (gr. III) on consecutive days, also may be entered by trainer Rick Dutrow.
"I don't know yet if he'll run," Dutrow said. "He's doing great, and I breezed him at Aqueduct just in case we go in the race. If the race comes up soft, we'll probably enter, but if there are three or four in there that have us overmatched, we probably won't."
The son of Suave Prospect breezed five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 Tuesday at Aqueduct.
The Monmouth-based and New Jersey-bred Joey P. breezed a half-mile in :50 flat Wednesday for trainer Frank Costa.
"I'll blow him out a quarter-mile on Saturday morning to sharpen him up for the race," Costa said. "I wanted to give him something to run at this morning, and he finished very well." Aaron Gryder has the mount.
Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said Smokescreen is 50-50. He'll either run in the Haskell or the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III) Aug. 14.