Sunday’s Haskell Preview


Grade I Haskell Invitational Sunday At Monmouth
Dynamic Filly Untapable Tabbed As 2-1 Favorite To Beat Boys

As I mentioned in yesterday’s p[review of the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes to be run later today at Saratoga this weekend “unofficially” marks the start to the second half of the 2014 three-year old Championship Season.

At Monmouth Park officials have put together quite a terrific Grade I Stakes as the Haskell Invitational has drawn 9 accomplished 3-year olds for one of the Top Sophomore Stakes of the year on Sunday. 

In the Haskell, run at 1 1/8 miles as Race 12 on a multi-stakes showcase day at Monmouth the anticipated run-against-the-boys entry of 3-year old fill Untapable brings plenty of juice to the race. The filly is a perfect 4-for-4 in 2014, all Graded Stakes including a pair of Grade I tallies in her last pair the Kentucky Oaks at CD and the Mother Goose at Belmont Park.

It is quite a statement of respect for the Steve Asmussen trainee, who has won the four races by an average margin of 7 ¾ lengths and has been installed as the 2-1 ML favorite in a field that features  the likes of Grade III Derby Trial and Grade II Woody Stephens winner Bayern, local Grade II Pegasus winner and Grade II Risen Star runner up Albano, Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Grade I Wood, Grade I Preakness and Grade II Woody Stephens, Grade III Hutcheson and Grade II Fountain of Youth winner and Grade I Florida Derby runner up Wildcat Red and Grade I Blue Grass runner up and Grade I Belmont Stakes third place finisher Medal Count.

Let’s take a look at the field from the rail out.

ENCRYPTION (20-1) – It is a testament to the depth of this field that this lightly raced Graded Stakes placed colt who is trained by top notch conditioner Kelly Breen and ridden by Monmouth’s top jockey Paco Lopez (33% winners…62% on the board at the meet) who comes off a 6 win days on Friday would be this kind of price. The son of Exchange Rate will be making a step up but in his four career starts has never failed to fire and with Lopez in the irons and speed runners Bayern and Albano directly to his outside will be part of what has to be projected as an honest pace. The colt comes out of a second in the Grade III Pegasus and a third in the Long Branch Stakes over the surface in his last pair and his BRIS speed figures have improved with each lifetime start. Whether he improves enough to factor with the better in here remains to be seen, but the connections speak to the depth of this field.

BAYERN (5-2) After breaking his maiden in career start number one and following up with an amazing 15 length triumph in an entry level allowance at Santa Anita in career start number two this past February this Oflee Wild colt was just below Shared Belief at the top of the west coast 3-year old pecking order. But he and Shared Belief ran into minor problems at about the same time and were forgotten for a while as some under-the-radar colt by the name of California Chrome began to shine. Trainer Bob Baffert was patient and career start number three was in the Grade I Arkansas Derby and he ran a decent but disappointing third. He returned two weeks later to win the one mile Derby Trial and then ran into all sorts of trouble in the Preakness Stakes and never factored. Baffert wheeled him back 3 weeks later in the 7 furlong Woody Stephens Stakes on Belmont Day and the colt stalked the pace and blew by to a dominant victory over a group that included Social Inclusion. He shipped back to the west coast and has worked brilliantly at SA and Del Mar and is back on the East Coast. There is no question to his speed but there is still a question as to his ability to sustain his speed beyond a mile. There is plenty of speed to battle in here and if he is good enough he is quick enough. He has to be considered a player, but keep in mind you’ll be taking a relatively short price given his inability to produce at the distance. Martin Garcia takes the reins for the first time as recent riders Rosie Napravnik gets back up on Untapable and Gary Stevens is unavailable.

ALBANO (6-1) – After showing plenty of promise with good tactical speed in the three designated local preps (Sugar Bowl, Lecomte and Risen Star) for the Grade II Louisiana Derby the son of Istan was bumped at the start and ran into trouble in that race and was off the board. The Larry Jones (24% Stakes Races) trainee was off the Triple Crown trail and off the track following the Fair Grounds failure and did not return until he came back in fine fettle to destroy his rivals over this surface in the Grade III Pegasus in mid-June. He has worked well since at his now home base in Delaware and has always shown an ability to mix it up early and stay with the pace. He is another who should contribute to liveliness on the front end under regular pilot Kerwin Clark and it is just a matter of whether he is good enough to mix it up with the top ones in here.

IRISH YOU WELL (12-1) – If you want to at least “root” for a horse in this race this would be the one as his conditioner the well-liked Wayne Catalano remains in an induced coma after contracting a devastation viral infection recently. Word is his medical team is cautiously optimistic as he shows some improvement but if anyone is due a little “luck of the IRISH” it is Catalano. As to the colt, he is a “light bulb on” runner if there ever was one. It took 9 starts for him to break his maiden two back but along the way he finished third in both the Grade III Illinois Derby and Grade II Peter Pan (behind Belmont Stakes 1-2 finishers Tonalist and Commissioner) and in his last went from the maiden win to an stakes triumph in the 100K Long Branch with a 103 BRIS speed number and a 114 late pace number over this surface just three weeks ago.  What might also be worth considering is that top level jockey Jose Lezcano (who left Saratoga for the day to ride a number of key horses on this multi-stakes day) will be aboard. If you are looking for a price in the exotics you could do worse…and from there, who knows.

JUST CALL KENNY (10-1) – Another lightly raced colt (4 career starts) who steps up in class after running second in the Long Branch behind Irish You Well in his last. The Pat McBurney trained son of Jump Start has won twice and placed twice in 4 starts and in the Long Branch rallied smartly from off the pace in what was his first career two-turn race. Local veteran jock Joe Bravo returns after missing the last but riding in the first three of the colt’s career and he is another developing three-year old who would need to improve but wouldn’t have to move too far forward to stalk in mid-pack, get a first run at the speed and claim a supporting role. Yes he is second tier behind some of the top ones but close enough to be another example of why this year’s is such a good betting edition of the Haskell.

SOCIAL INCLUSION (8-1) – It appears as though the line-maker has finally given up on this speedy but erratic son of Pioneerof The Nile so now the question is, will the public. Two races back the many Azpurua trainee was 5-1 in the Preakness Stakes and ran a credible but distanced third as he tried to rate, made a brief move and gave up ground in the lane. That followed his weakening third in the Grade I Wood Memorial so the connections shortened him up to 7 furlongs in Bayern’s Woody Stephens Stakes on Belmont day only to see the colt rate off the pace, attempt to move when Bayern did but watched that one move into another “zip” code as Social Inclusion gave up ground and was beaten 7 lengths as the even money favorite. Will he continue to rate and fade or will he show the speed he had early in his career? And in either case, it also remains to be seen if he can handle 9 furlongs. The works at Gulfstream in preparation for this seem to indicate he will go back to gunning early and Azpurua changes to Edgar Prado for the first time. Of all the runners in here he is toughest to gauge.

UNTAPABLE (2-1) – Following her races leading up to the Kentucky Oaks on Derby eve the connections were overly cautious about her prospects. After the daughter of Tapit destroyed the top 3-year old fillies in training in that race there was plenty of clamor for her to possibly run in the Preakness Stakes. But trainer Steve Asmussen remained cautious, gave her some time off and 8 weeks after the Oaks ran her in the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont Park 4 weeks ago. She of course duplicated the Oaks performance and with only a few spots left before she is likely to go in the BC Distaff…or who knows…the Classic…she has been entered in what can only be described as a perfect test spot. Although the Oaks is at a mile and an eight and the Kentucky Derby a mile and a quarter, her BRIS speed number that day was comparable to the top three in the Kentucky Derby the next day. And in the Haskell her versatile running style that allows jockey Rosie Napravnik (who was aboard for the first three wins in the 4 win cycle this year) has the options to lay as close to or as tactically off the pace as she deems prudent before unleashing the filly’s devastating later stages run. 2-1 is a short price for a filly vs the boys…but few would argue she isn’t this good.

WILDCAT RED (10-1) – You want speed, you have speed. It is hard to argue that with all the speed signed on that this son of D’Wildcat isn’t the fastest of them all. The Jose Garaffalo trainee took the Florida circuit by storm this winter, winning the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth as he continually stretched out in distance and outran what was supposed to be sprint breeding. But it was his courageous neck defeat to Constitutional in the Grade I Florida Derby that made believers out of tough to please horsemen. Then in the Kentucky Derby he lost all chance when he stumbled at the start, was bumped by more than one rival and then once he attempted to get back in stride was steadied. Off since e that debacle the connections returned him 4 weeks ago in an overnight stakes at GP and he made short work of the field with a 10 ½ lengths win as he pressed and made the pace before drawing clear. He has a 9-5-3-0 career record with the only loss the toss in the Derby and if he answers the only charge against him…that he is a horse-for-the-course at GP you should not be surprised to see him digging in to battle for it all inside the sixteenth pole.

MEDAL COUNT (8-1) – Arguably either Tonalist and/or Commissioner (who ran 1-2 in the Belmont Stakes would be 1-2 on the board when they sprung the gates if indeed they had chosen to run here. So company lines sure has to play in favor of this gutsy son of Dynaformer who couldn’t have run a better race in his one length defeated third in the Belmont Stakes. The Dale Roman trained colt arrived late on the Triple Crown scene and after winning the Transylvania Stakes on opening day at Keeneland and rallying for a sharp second in the Blue Grass Stakes 8 days later, a race that got him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, made the run for the roses his third race in 29 days. He was shuffled early in the Derby, had to negotiate a trio of lane switches and was still coming late and beaten just 7 lengths. Romans was finally able to give the colt a breather and he responded with an unbelievable try in the Belmont Stakes. The colt bobbled at the start, remained along the inside down the back stretch, angled off the rail entering the stretch and was then moved a bit further out to engage pace setter Commissioner and finally found an opening at the eighth pole. He began to split Commissioner on the inside and the stalking Tonalist on the outside and unfortunately shied away when Tonalist was angled in by Rosario to intimidate him (a great move by a great rider) and settled for the show. The last 4 works have been in hand solid 5 furlong breezes at CD and Robbie Albarado, who suits him well remains aboard. With the freshening and a bit of racing luck this colt could finally open the door he has been knocking on since early April. He is a serious player at a terrific price. 

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