Exactly one week ahead of next Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1), the field is gradually assembling for Monmouth Park’s signature event, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Topping the list are runners-up from the first two jewels of the Triple Crown. Good Magic, last year’s champion two-year-old colt, chased Justify home in the Kentucky Derby (G1) before trying to duel him early in the Preakness (G1). The eventual Triple Crown winner survived the pace war, but Good Magic wound up fourth. Taking advantage late was Bravazo, the Derby sixth who flashed home at Pimlico to come up just a half-length short of Justify.
Good Magic skipped the Belmont, with trainer Chad Brown questioning his aptitude for the 1 1/2-mile distance. The Haskell’s been the plan ever since, and the son of Curlin is entitled to improve on his sire’s third-place effort on the Jersey Shore.
Bravazo advanced to the “Test of the Champion,” but didn’t get the trip that Hall of Fame horseman D. Wayne Lukas wanted. Instead of taking it to Justify early, the Awesome Again colt was pocketed in the opening stages and unable to land a blow in sixth.
Core Beliefs, confirmed for the Haskell by trainer Peter Eurton on Sunday, is a late-developing type who did not compete in the classics. Third to Justify and Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and second to Blended Citizen in the Peter Pan (G3), the Southern California shipper broke through in a photo over Lone Sailor in the June 23 Ohio Derby (G3).
“My owner (Gary Broad) wants to come. He says it’s the chance of a lifetime,” Eurton told Monmouth publicity. “He wants to take on Good Magic and the rest.
“When he broke his maiden it was his first experience going two turns. Then his first start against winners he gets Justify. He stumbled badly in the Peter Pan and was in an elongated sprint for a mile and an eighth and got nailed. That was a really good effort. So was the Ohio Derby. He seems to be coming into his own.”
The other three probables likewise were not seen in any Triple Crown races. Mine That Bird Derby winner Reride, a remote third to Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby (G2), returned stateside with a fifth in the grassy Mystic Lake Derby. Navy Commander captured the last local prep, the July 7 Long Branch, while Roaming Union missed by a neck in the prior one, the June 17 Pegasus.
Of the four listed as “possible” by Monmouth Park, three are classic veterans – Lone Sailor, eighth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness; Flameaway, 13th in the Derby and likely in need of the race when only sixth to Core Beliefs and Lone Sailor in Ohio; and Kentucky Derby pacesetter Promises Fulfilled, who retreated to 15th in the Churchill slop and most recently placed third on the cutback to seven furlongs in the Woody Stephens (G2). The other possible, Mr Freeze, comes off a second in the Iowa Derby in his stakes debut.
Flameaway is reportedly likelier for Saturday’s Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, which is also the alternative mulled by Lone Sailor in lieu of a rematch with Core Beliefs at Monmouth.
The Haskell field will be finalized on Thursday.