May 26, 2024

Mage faces Arabian Knight, Geaux Rocket Ride in eight-horse Haskell

Mage with Javier Castellano riding wins the 2023 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage, last seen finishing third in the Preakness (G1), highlights an exciting cast of eight three-year-olds in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park. Javier Castellano retains the mount aboard the late-running chestnut for Gustavo Delgado.

A favorable set-up appears possible given the abundance of speed entered in the 1 1/8-mile race, and Mage has been installed as the 3-1 co-second choice on the morning line.

Arabian Knight is pegged as the 5-2 early favorite in his first start since winning the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park in late January. A convincing winner of both starts, the flashy bay colt has never trailed, and Arabian Knight promises to be hustling from the far outside with John Velazquez. He’s trained by Bob Baffert, a nine-time winner of the Haskell.

Geaux Rocket Ride also invades from California, and the gray colt has been on or near the lead in all three starts for Richard Mandella. After recording a dominant maiden tally and a runner-up in the San Felipe (G2), Geaux Rocket Ride was forced off the Kentucky Derby trail due to a minor physical issue. He returned three months later with a comfortable victory in the Affirmed S. at Santa Anita in June, and three-time Haskell winner Mike Smith takes over on the intriguing 9-2 fourth choice.

Grade 1 winner Tapit Trice is 3-1 on the morning line following a rallying third in the Belmont (G1). Always well-regarded for Todd Pletcher, the late-running son of Tapit counts a disappointing seventh in the Kentucky Derby as his only unplaced performance from seven starts. The gray colt will look to start picking up rivals on the far turn and try to carry his momentum into the stretch with Luis Saez.

Extra Anejo, who was favored among individuals in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager last November following a 9 1/2-length debut win at Keeneland, will seek to join the divisional picture in his first stakes attempt. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Extra Anejo didn’t get back to the races until early May, finishing a close second in a salty allowance on the Kentucky Derby undercard, and the speedy Into Mischief colt will try nine furlongs after romping over allowance rivals at Ellis Park last month. Tyler Gaffalione rides the 5-1 fifth choice.

Salute the Stars will be tested for class following an encouraging win in his stakes debut, the June 17 Pegasus at Monmouth Park. The Brad Cox-trained colt overcame a troubled trip and ran down loose-on-the-lead Kingsbarns to prevail by a neck, and Salute the Stars will bring a three-race win streak to the Haskell. Joel Rosario guides the 8-1 stalker.

Long Branch S. winner Howgreatisnate, third in the Pegasus, is also entered. Paco Lopez rides for Elizabeth Dobles. Multiple Florida-bred juvenile stakes winner Awesome Strong, who appears likely to show speed at long odds for Jorge Delgado, completes the field.