With three different winners in the Triple Crown, Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park can assist in sorting out the 3-year-old divisional hierarchy in the second half of 2017. Some marquee names may be missing from the line-up, but there is still plenty of quality remaining in what promises to be an exciting 50th edition of the 1 1/8-mile race.
A case can be made for all seven runners in the Haskell, which is scheduled for 5:47 p.m. (EDT).
Winner of the Wood Memorial (G2) winner and Holy Bull (G2) earlier this season, Irish War Cry has been installed as a slight 5-2 favorite following a runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1). The Haskell has been a main target for the New Jersey-bred Curlin colt, with owner/breeder Isabelle Tomaso being a the daughter of Monmouth founder Amory Haskell, and the Graham Motion-trained Irish War Cry will break from the rail with Rajiv Maragh.
Unbeaten Timeline comes next on the morning line at 3-1. An easy wire-to-wire winner of the June 18 Pegasus (G3), the son of Hard Spun has compiled a 4-for-4 record for trainer Chad Brown including romping scores in the Peter Pan (G3) and an allowance race over sloppy tracks. And with an abundance of rain possible at Monmouth this weekend, Timeline could catch a wet surface he relishes. He figures to show high speed beneath Javier Castellano.
A good second in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass (G2) three starts back, Practical Joke found the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby too taxing when finishing fifth in his next outing. The multiple Grade 1-winning juvenile notched his first victory this year last time, rolling to a two-length decision in the July 8 Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park, and the Brown trainee is eligible to keep moving forward off the confidence-builder. Joel Rosario rides the early 4-1 third choice.
Similar to Practical Joke, McCraken was unplaced in the Kentucky Derby (eighth following a troubled trip) and dropped down in class to record a convincing victory in his next start, posting a 2 ¼-length decision as the 1-5 favorite in the June 17 Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs. A fast and/or contested pace could set up nicely for the late runner and Brian Hernandez Jr. retains the mount for Ian Wilkes. McCraken is 9-2 on the morning line.
Battle of Midway, who is posted at 5-1, invades from the West Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. An unraced juvenile, the colt was overlooked at 40-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby following a close second in a much-maligned Santa Anita Derby (G1) and surprised many onlookers with a respectable third-place showing. The son of Smart Strike signaled he could be a serious threat in the second half of the season when taking the June 24 Affirmed (G3) at Santa Anita by a 4 ¼-length margin and Battle of Midway will bring good tactical speed to the equation with Flavien Prat.
Multiple graded stakes winner Girvin is a hard-trying colt who could have been a little short when finishing a nose second in the June 24 Ohio Derby (G3). His training for the Kentucky Derby was interrupted by a foot issue and the Joe Sharp charge was flattered when Ohio Derby winner Irap came back to crush foes in the Indiana Derby (G3). Girvin is 6-1 with Robby Albarado.
Hence can be considered an outsider since he’s the only runner with double-digit odds on the morning line (12-1), but the chestnut colt will enter on the upswing for Steve Asmussen after displaying a dynamic late kick to win the July 7 Iowa Derby (G3) going away. We saw that same turn of foot from the chestnut earlier this year when he captured a deep edition of the Sunland Derby (G3), but it was missing in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as Hence failed to fire. He’ll try to launch another formidable stretch rally with Paco Lopez.
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