Happy Haskell day! The $1 Million William Hill Haskell Invitational (G1) highlights a huge day of racing at Monmouth Park. Seven talented three-year-olds will try for the million-dollar prize, with a post time of approximately 6:18pm EST. Behind the Triple Crown races and the Travers at Saratoga in August, the Haskell is the biggest race of the year for three-year-old males. It is also the biggest race of the year in New Jersey, as well as one of the state’s premier sporting events.
Wood Memorial winner Verrazano has been made the morning line favorite at odds of 9-5, but my guess is he will go off at an even shorter price. The second choice is Preakness winner Oxbow with Gary Stevens on board. I see these two setting a brisk early pace, most likely with Verrazano on the lead. I think Power Broker and Micromanage will try and keep up early on as well, but do not think either of these will have enough in the tank around the stretch.
I also don’t give Pick of the Litter much of a shot, although I really have not seen enough of this colt to make a fair judgement. I will be surprised if he is there late.
Vyjack and Golden Soul are two to look out for late. I think they will stalk early and be positioned to both make a valiant effort towards the end. I believe the speed of Verrazano and Oxbow will hold, but if not, Vyjack or Golden Soul will sneak in there.
In the end, it is difficult for me to give Golden Soul the advantage, because he really has not won a race other than his maiden. He gave us a surprising second-place effort in the Kentucky Derby, but it doesn’t seem he has the ability to close and win.
Vyjack on the other hand made it through his first four starts undefeated, until finishing third behind Verrazano and Normandy Invasion in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial back in April. Since then he has performed less-than-fair in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont. A lot of people want to give this horse a chance, but in the end, I am saying speed prevails and maybe Vyjack jumps in for third.
It certainly gives Verrazano an advantage being on the outside, and as I said, I think he and Oxbow will both be there, but I’m giving Oxbow the advantage today. While Verrazano toyed with foes in the Grade 3 Pegasus last time out here at Monmouth, he really wasn’t facing a tough field at all, besides Itsmyluckyday, who suffered an injury early on. I think Oxbow is the better horse and it will be a gritty stretch duel between the two.
Here’s a look at the other graded races at Monmouth today:
- 1:50pm (Race 5): $150,000 Matchmaker S (G3) – 3&up, f/m, 9f (turf).
- 2:20pm (Race 6): $200,000 Molly Pitcher S (G2) – 3&up, f/m, 8.5f.
- 4:28pm (Race 10): $200,000 Monmouth Cup (G2) – 3&up, 8.5f.
- 5:36pm (Race 12): Oceanport S (G3) – 3&up, 8.5f (turf).
Race 10 at Saratoga today is the Grade 2 Amsterdam:
We conclude the day after the Haskell with the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar: