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OCEANPORT, NJ – Gregg Sacco knows exactly what Basso is up against in the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) on July 17: three, maybe four, of the top 3-year-olds in training, all of them sharp, while he sends out a horse that tired in the slop in an allowance/optional claimer on June 26 in his first start of the year.
But the veteran trainer, whose family traces its roots to the earliest days of the modern Monmouth Park, isn’t deterred about taking a big swing in the Haskell with Basso, who quite possibly will be the longest shot in the field.
In fact, Sacco seems genuinely enthused about the opportunity, especially since this will mark his first Haskell starter in a training career that began in 1989.
“We know he is going to have to step up,” said Sacco, whose father William was Monmouth Park’s leading trainer in 1962. “We’re anticipating he will in his second start as a 3-year-old. We’re in our backyard. We’re confident he will run a respectable race.
“We’ll be walking out of our barn onto the track and we’ll see what happens.”
A son of Cairo Prince, Basso has just 1 win from 5 career starts, 4 of them at Monmouth. He broke his maiden first asking by 8 lengths last August 23 but has yet to produce a signature moment.
That’s something many of the other expected contenders for the Haskell have had already. Mandaloun was the Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up; Midnight Bourbon was the Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up; and Hot Rod Charlie was the Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up. Preakness winner Rombauer was on the fence about the Haskell but has since defected.
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“All of them popped up at some point to be where they are now,” said Sacco. “They can pop up any time as a 3-year-old. We’re looking for a big improvement off his first race back. He was only 70% that day (when he finished sixth). We knew that going in.
“He made a bold move up to the lead at the 1/4 pole and he just got tired. It was nasty that day with the rain and the heat, he was in post 9, and we knew going in he was in desperate need of a race. So we’re taking a shot. We’ll see how it goes. But we feel he will run a respectable race.”
Owned by Michael Fazio and Monmouth Stud (which is Sacco), Basso’s appearance in the starting gate will make up for some of the disappointment for both men from 2019, when Joevia was scratched the day of the Haskell due to a foot injury.
Sacco said Basso will work 5/8 of a mile either Saturday or Sunday at Monmouth Park, depending on the condition of the track following heavy rain Thursday.
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