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The Grade 1, $1,000,000 Haskell Stakes will run this Sunday at Monmouth Park, and it is perhaps the race’s toughest running in recent history. Belmont Stakes runner-up Irish War Cry headlines a compact field of seven, but don’t let the field size fool you: this race is about as competitive as it gets.
Five of the seven horses are entering this race off of wins, and the other two entries are coming off of runner-up efforts. Battle of Midway, McCraken, Hence, Practical Joke, and Timeline all won stakes races last time out. Irish War Cry was close in the Belmont, while Girvin lost by just a nose in the Ohio Derby to the up-and-coming Irap, who went on to win the Indiana Derby.
There aren’t too many times when you can say “Every horse in the race has a chance to win” and actually mean it, but this race is one of those times. As always, the Haskell is the feature race of the meet at Monmouth Park, headlining a Sunday card filled with completive stakes races.
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#3 Timeline – Right after Timeline won the Peter Pan, I proclaimed that he would be my Belmont pick, but he didn’t run in the race! Instead, he was pointed for this race, and in the process, won the Grade 3 Pegasus last time out. He’s beaten nothing so far in his career, which I’m very aware of, but I’ve thought for a while that this horse could be one of the best 3-year-olds in the Chad Brown barn. I love how Brown has had a very clear plan for both Timeline and Cloud Computing, and that is a plan that I think will pay off in a big way this weekend. I’m hoping we can get that 3-1 morning line price on him, as I do think there will be a lot of hype surrounding him going into the race. In Chad Brown We Trust.
#2 Battle Of Midway – Seemingly the “now” horse off of a nice win at Santa Anita last time out, his previous effort was a gutty third-place effort in the Kentucky Derby. He has improved with each race, and if he does indeed go off at 5-1 as his morning line suggests, then a win wager is necessary in this spot. Hollendorfer has been very high on him from the beginning, so you have to consider him very dangerous here. To add to the intrigue, the horse just looks like an absolute monster. On looks alone, he is something special to see.
#1 Irish War Cry – When you pick a horse to win the Kentucky Derby and he flops, it can really sour you on picking him again. That’s what happened with me and Irish War Cry and is honestly a big reason why I didn’t make him my top choice in this race. I also don’t like how he can sometimes show up with head-scratching efforts that are very frustrating and unexplicable. Horses like this are ones that you have to play defensively, though, so he has to be on most of your tickets, but I’m not playing any win wagers on him.
#4 Practical Joke – Back to two turns again? I just don’t get it. This horse is extremely classy, and I’ve said more than once that he might be the most talented 3-year-old in the crop. His turn of foot is lethal, but he’s never been able to make that type of move when going longer than 1 mile. I have little doubt that he can win this race, but he’s more likely to just hit the board. Perhaps he’s a horse to key in all three spots because he’s going to come with his run and grind it out to the wire.
#5 McCracken – I don’t know what it is about him, but I’ve never trusted him when running against top-notch competition. I’m skeptical that he might be just a very small cut below the best horses in this crop, but at the same time, I’m not going to be totally surprised if he wins this race. He looked like his old self last time out in the Grade 3 Matt Winn, so he could be sitting on a big-time effort, but play him underneath for now.
#6 Hence – After winning the Grade 3 Iowa Derby last time out, it looks as though Hence is back in good form, but can he actually run that type of race against tougher competition? He’s failed to do so several times, but if he’s close to his 12-1 morning line, I wouldn’t talk anyone off of taking a shot with him. He’s going to be the longest price in the field, so the value will be there. I wish he had Mike Smith riding again today, but Paco Lopez is still great at Monmouth, so he’s in with a shot.
#7 Girvin – Don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually grown to like Girvin, but you have to throw somebody out. His resume is solid enough, but I still think that he might be a small cut below the top horses in the crop. His Ohio Derby runner-up effort was strong, though, so it’s not like he has zero shot at winning.
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