Good Magic returns as the one to beat in Sunday’s 51st running of the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park. Installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite among seven entrants, the classy chestnut colt performed admirably finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and a close fourth in the Preakness and he will try to take advantage of the void left by Justify’s early retirement during the second half of the season.
The Chad Brown-trained son of Curlin will meet a pair of Triple Crown veterans in Bravazo and Lone Sailor, and the up-and-coming sophomore Core Beliefs. Contested at 1 1/8 miles, the Haskell serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Supporters will be hoping for a little more consistency in the win column from Good Magic, who has captured two of seven career starts. He came up a little short making his first two outings last year, including a runner-up in the Champagne (G1), before stylishly breaking his maiden in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), a romping victory that catapulted him to champion 2-year-old male honors.
Good Magic entered 2018 as a leading Kentucky Derby contender but came back with a clunker, recording a non-threatening third at 3-5 odds in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Good Magic did rebound against suspect competition in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland but netted a 98 BRIS Speed rating seven points lower than the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The Kentucky Derby represented the third start off the layoff (similar to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) and Good Magic moved forward with a commendable effort at Churchill Downs, offering a serious run at Justify nearing the completion of the far turn and digging in gamely to repel third-placer Audible in deep stretch.
Good Magic made Justify earn it in the Preakness, dueling with the heavy favorite from the start on a sloppy oval at Pimilco, and held well to be a close fourth, beaten only a length. And he gained a measure of respect from observers who watched Justify come back three weeks later and dominate the Belmont Stakes unopposed on a soft pace.
“He definitely had those two tough races back-to-back and we gave him a little time off,” Brown said. “He needed that to recharge his batteries. We had the Haskell in mind for him right after the Preakness and he’s been training very well for it. Running off a layoff doesn’t bother him. The horse responded well from his time off and is doing great now. He’s ready to go back in the ring.”
Jose Ortiz will retain the mount.
Preakness runner-up Bravazo is listed as the 3-1 second choice for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who won the 1995 Haskell with the Hall of Fame filly Serena’s Song. A son of Awesome Again, Bravazo won his first two starts of the year, including the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, and offered a decent rally through traffic to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
“This is the next logical spot, a major Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds, so if you’ve got a horse who is healthy and ready to run this is the spot,” Lukas said. “Not every horse makes it through the whole Triple Crown unscathed. He made all three races. He’s a very tough, nice horse. He’s actually getting better with maturity and I expect a very good effort from him.”
Sixth most recently in the Belmont Stakes, Bravazo will retain the services of Luis Saez.
Lone Sailor stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket with a neck second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and made up ground belatedly for eighth in the first leg of the Triple Crown. He was beaten only two lengths recording a close fifth in the Preakness and exits a nose second to Core Beliefs as the Ohio Derby favorite. Joe Bravo takes over the reins for Tom Amoss on the 5-1 fourth choice.
“Lone Sailor was always a physically-imposing animal but he was mentally immature,” Amoss said. “Lately it’s all been sinking in and I feel we’ve turned the corner with him. There is legitimate speed in the race and we know he will come from off the pace. I hope we’ll be able to make that finish a good one this time.”
Core Beliefs, who is pegged at 4-1 on the morning line, jumped straight from a March maiden win to finish third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Quality Road colt showed speed from the start and grudgingly gave way late when following with a second in the Peter Pan (G2) and Core Beliefs showed a new dimension when shipping to Thistledown last time, rallying from near the back of the pack to narrowly post his first stakes tally. Based in California with Peter Eurton, the bay will receive a rider switch to Flavien Prat.
Completing the Haskell field are Navy Commander, who exits a win in the July 7 Long Branch at Monmouth; Roaming Union, runner-up in the June 17 Pegasus at Monmouth; and Golden Brown, who moves turf-to-dirt after recording a 15-1 upset in the July 14 Kent (G3) at Delaware Park.